Wednesday, February 10, 2016
This book starts the rip-roaring writing style of many of Pratchett's Discworld books. It starts off a bit disjointed, but, by about page 30, you're riding the crest of a magical wave that just doesn't stop until page 220. There is more humor in this book; sentences which leave you chuckling. But the wry commentary on life isn't here. Pratchett doesn't seem to be lampooning life so much as simply writing a good story. And what a story it is.
Rincewind is the main character. Ah yes, Rincewind, the protagonist of the first two books. There are times during this when I wanted to shake Pratchett. I couldn't decide what he was trying to say with the character. Rincewind is not a good wizard. It's said ad nauseum. I get it. I get it. Rincewind has been told, repeatedly, he's awful. He can't do magic. He would just like to live quietly in the library. Yet, life seems to have decided he's going to save the world. I was frustrated with all the pages spent driving home how bad a wizard Rincewind is and how he kept trying to get away from some destiny he didn't want. How that story plays out is very good. The conclusion of Rincewind's story feels right, even if how it got there is a bit rough.
My current all-time best Pratchett quote is found here, on page 5 in my copy. "'...what is it in this world that makes living worthwhile?' Death thought about it. 'CATS,' he said eventually. 'CATS ARE NICE.'" If there is a theme, it would be the attempt to discover what makes living worthwhile. The characters of the book; Rincewind, Coin, Conine, Nijel, the Librarian, Creosote; do grow as the book progresses relative to the characters which surround them. The Librarian seems to be the most prescient of all of them, quite interesting for an orangutang, but even he has to figure some things out and decide what is important. The characters are well-defined and it's easy to root for them.
This theme of finding what makes life worth living is carried over from "Mort", book #4. Rincewind is in book #4, although he's a minor character. The continuity of character is one of the reasons Discworld is beloved. You get to see how characters, minor names in some books, get their own stories, grow and change, as the series took form.
I also like the description of Unseen University's library. It's clear Pratchett loved libraries and the description of this one is wonderful. I'd love to be lost in its stacks. I like how the books are portrayed as sentient. Who hasn't walked into a library or a bookstore and felt the books calling to you. I don't remember if there are more stories involving the library. I hope so. There's a lot to talk about in a library full of magic.
This book would stand on its own. You wouldn't have to read any of the books in front of it to get a lot out of it. It's still good to have read the first two in the series so when Rincewind's story is tied up and delivered, you have a sense of who he is.
Beverage: Raspberry Seltzer