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Review Revisited: Terry Pratchett – The Light Fantastic

May 18, 2015

Re-read. The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett (1986)
Discworld, Book 2

Length: 241 pages
Genre: Fantasy; Humor

Originally Read: 13 May 2006
Re-read Started: 24 January 2015
Re-read Finished: 27 January 2015

Where did it come from? This time, downloaded from Amazon. Originally, lent to me by a friend.
Why do I have it? Trying to read more of Pratchett’s work, plus I read The Color of Magic not too long ago.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 17 September 2013.

Magic spells can be
useful, but only if you
can say them aloud.

Summary: The inept wizard Rincewind (who has one of the eight great Spells lodged in his mind, a Spell too dangerous to be spoken, but which also prevents him from learning or performing other lesser spells) and the bumbling tourist Twoflower continue to make their way around the Disc, always only one step ahead – and sometimes not even that – of those that wish to catch them for one reason or another. And all the time, the red star is looming ever closer to the disc, foretelling a terrible doom…

Original Review: Read this one in under three hours. And… I’m not all that impressed. There were some funny bits and some clever wordplays that made me chuckle, but for some reason I wasn’t terribly drawn in. It’s like this book was trying to be Douglas Adams, but didn’t quite get there, or maintain it, or didn’t make me care about the characters as much, or something. Still, I’ve been told that this isn’t Pratchett’s best, so I’ll hang in there for another book or two.

Thoughts on a re-read: This was the first of Terry Pratchett’s books that I ever read, and I think it explains why I was so reluctant to read another. Not that it’s bad, necessarily, but someone recommended to me that I start with this one rather than The Color of Magic, and that was a mistake. The Discworld books are mostly pretty independent of each other, as I understand it, but The Color of Magic / The Light Fantastic really are two halves of a whole story, and so by starting with this one first, I missed all of the parts that introduced who Rincewind and Twoflower were and what they were doing, which was pretty crucial to understanding this half of the story. (Especially given that this book starts exactly where the first one ends, namely, with Rincewind and Twoflower haven fallen off the edge of the Disc.)

This book was a little bit less rough around the edges than The Color of Magic, but it’s still not Pratchett at his best. There are a lot of funny jokes, very much in line with Pratchett’s dry sarcastic British humor (which will always sound like Douglas Adams to me. Sorry, Terry, but I read Adams first – and frequently – as a kid.) The action is still pretty episodic, with not a lot of smooth connections between one bit and the next, although the story also broadens out for some scenes/storylines that don’t directly feature Rincewind and Twoflower (namely, what’s going on at the Unseen University with the wizards that are after Rincewind and his Spell). What I didn’t get from this book that I do get from later Pratchett books is as much of a sense of something deeper or more insightful hidden amongst the farcical action and silly wordplay. There’s some of it there – I particularly like the bit at the end about how “The important thing about having lots of things to remember is that you’ve got to go somewhere afterward where you can remember them.” – but not nearly as much as I got out of the Tiffany Aching books, for example. So while this was a fun afternoon’s read, it’s not his best, and I don’t know that it’s likely to particularly stick with me. 3 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: DO NOT make the mistake I did and read this one without having read The Color of Magic (preferably immediately) beforehand. That said, I will agree that these two books are maybe not the best place to start if you’re unfamiliar with Discworld, even though they were published first.

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First Line: The sun rose slowly, as if it wasn’t sure it was worth all the effort.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • Location 126: “He could, though, just make out a miniature replica of Cori Celesti, upon whose utter peak the world’s quarrelsome and somewhat bourgeois gods lived in a palace of marble, alabaster and uncut moquette three-piece suites they had chosen to call Dunmanifestin.” – A heavy fabric with a thick nap, used for upholstery.
  • p. 960: “He pushed Twoflower aside, gathered his tattered robe around him with great dignity, set his face toward that area of horizon he believed to contain the city of his birth, and with intense determination and considerable absentmindedness stepped right off the top of a thirty-foot trilithon.” – A prehistoric structure consisting of two large stones set upright to support a third on their tops, found especially in Europe.
  • Location 1052: ““They’re not very ecumenical around here, you shee”” – of worldwide scope or applicability; universal.
  • Location 2820: “Rincewind looked up at the actinic light that lanced down through the distant hole at the top of the staircase.” – producing a photochemical effect.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 18, 2015 9:18 am

    My friends all advised me against starting with any Rincewind story. One friend suggested that I start with Guards! Guards!, and I’m glad I did.

    • May 18, 2015 9:41 am

      I read this and The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents first, and neither did anything for me, and then years later I read the Tiffany Aching books and LOVED them, so now I’m going back and picking up more of his earlier/other Discworld books.

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