The Lighter Side of JzB

Here you will find photos, poetry, and possibly some light-hearted foolishness. For the Heavier Side
of JzB
see my other blog,
Retirement Blues. (There be dragons!)

I claim copyright and reserve all rights for my original material of every type and genre.

Every day visits*
From Moose, Goose, and Orb Weaver
All seized by Haiku

"Why moose and goose?" you may ask. Back on 2/04/13 Pirate wrote a haiku with an elk in it, and I responded with
one with a moose and then included him every day. A few days later in comments Mystic asked "Where's the goose?"
So I started including her with this post on 2/07. A week later on the 14th, Mark Readfern
asked for and received a spider. The rest is history.

*Well, most days, anyway. Grant me a bit of poetic license.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


By Terry Pratchett
A Discworld Novel

I’ll just dispense with all mystery and tell you right up front that THE COLOR OF MAGIC is a serious contender for the worst novel I’ve ever read - while at the same time bearing no resemblance to anything written by Dan Brown.  No - wait - slight correction.  There is one resemblance: the story makes absolutely no sense.

Now, you might think that if one’s disbelief can extend far enough to accept the notion of a world consisting of a disc spinning slowly on the backs of four elephants who in turn are riding on the back of a turtle that is not only big enough to support all of this, but also making its way, at its own torpid turtelian pace, across the vast reaches of whatever benighted universe contains this madness, it can accommodate just about anything.  “Just about” are the key words here, and that notion is one that author Terry Pratchett set out to probe in this novel - more or less in the manner that a colonoscopy recipient might be probed.

Usually a book review would say something about the story’s plot. Sadly though, there is none.  Believe me - I looked.  There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no character arcs.  Just stuff happening for no apparent reason. Well - there is an end, of a sort - more on that later.  In the foreword to the Harper paperback edition I foolishly picked on a recent visit to the local B and N, Pratchett says “The Discworld is not a coherent fantasy world.”  Let’s give him full credit for full disclosure.  THE COLOR OF MAGIC is not a coherent fantasy novel. 

The writing is sprightly enough, and the cobbled together vignettes that comprise this mess, each OK in itself, are delivered with an appropriately light and often humorous touch, which is all good as far as it goes - but unfortunately falls several disc rotations short of being far enough.  The connective tissue that utterly fails to unite the various episodes appears to be a sort of Dea Ex Machina, if I’m reading it right.  [Note: I did spell it right.]  And if I’m not, then there is no connection at all, and it’s just some sort of only partially randomized, partially realized chaos.  To call this narrative ‘picaresque” would be to give that lovely word a bloody beating it has done nothing to deserve.

As an example, the first two characters we meet, Weasel and Bravd the Hublander - brigands of some undefined nature - are left behind on page 11, never to be seen nor heard from again.  This same fate, in turn, befalls wizards  - male and female, alive and dead, dragons, legions of comely [female] and brutish [male] dryads, and numerous other thieves, assassins, barbarians, slaves and demigods.

Our main characters are Rincewind, a hapless and utterly failed sorcerer, his even more hapless traveling companion, Twoflower, an unlikely tourist - in fact the only one, ever - on the disc, and the latter’s persistent and self-propelled article of luggage, made, naturally, from sapient pear wood.

That’s pretty much it.  They fall into and then out of a series of more or less increasingly hazardous situations through no fault nor ability of their own, and with no apparent purpose. And, perhaps fittingly, I suppose, the story ends - five and a half pages beyond where the words “THE END,” are printed in large friendly letters - with a cliff hanger.  Or, more accurately, a rim fall.

In fairness, this was the first book Pratchett wrote in this series, and it seems he went on to do better.  He must have, since there are ca. 40 Discworld novels with millions of copies sold. Pictured below is an illustrated reading guide that identifies THE COLOR OF MAGIC as one of several entry points, in this case leading down the wizard’s path.  Evidently, and encouragingly, it seems not to have been the best choice.  

One fan of the series has this to say, or rather shout, since it’s mostly in caps:  “If you decide to take the path of the wizards: ask someone else for advice? I just. I STRONGLY SUGGEST THAT YOU DO NOT GO THIS ROUTE AND WON’T GIVE YOU ANY ADVICE THAT MIGHT HELP YOU DOWN THIS BLIGHTED PATH.”

Based on my limited experience, this is sound advice. I wavered between moments of enjoyable reading and wanting to fling the damned book into the fire place. That said, though, I am inexplicably rather fond of the characters. Presumably, one can explore and enjoy the Discworld experience without spending much time with Rincwind and Twoflower.  But not everyone shares this opinion, as the vid below indicates.  I’ll give Pratchett and the Discworld another chance, and seek another entry point - possibly the City Watch series, if I can lay my hands on a copy of GUARDS, GUARDS.

FIRST UPDATE 12/03/16  [There will be a second, if and when I can get a round to-it.]

Despite all my dissing, Pratchett is a certifiable genius, and there is much to marvel at in this book - such as his references, homages and parodies of, to and about fantasy archetypes and well known examples of the genre, in which I am not particularly well versed.  And some of that is his humor, some of which is British in the extreme, and can very easily be lost on Americans like me.  Further, some of that is based on near puns, which I gather are more typically British-style than American-style.  There is help, though.  I stumbled across this annotated guide whilst trying to figure out how echo-gnomics could be rendered as reflected sound of underground spirits.   Even explained, it's a reach to far, but, whatever.

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