Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Light Fantastic

This sequel to the first Discworld novel, The Color of Magic, picks up right where the first one left off. The wizard Rincewind (who isn't much of a wizard since he he was a student and sneaked a look into the Octavo, a powerful spell book, and one of the spells lodged itself in his mind, scaring all the other potential spells away), his friend Twoflower (the Discworld's very first tourist), and the many-legged luggage are in dire straits indeed. They manage to extricate themselves with a flashy bit of deus ex machina, and the story continues.

Discworld, which is a flat world that rests on the backs of four elephants, which in turn stand on the back of a gigantic turtle named Great A'Tuin, suddenly finds a menacing red star on its horizon. The star is getting closer, and is having a deleterious effect on the Discworld's inhabitants. The powerful spell in Rincewind's mind seems to have something up its sleeve, and Rincewind isn't too sure he wants anything to do with it. He just wants to go home, back to the city of Ankh-Morpork, where he's not constantly about to fall from dizzying heights or being threatened by villainous thugs. In this book we first meet Discworld's greatest hero (or former greatest, as he's getting up in years), Cohen the Barbarian.

The wizards at Unseen University are concerned that the Octavo is growing restless, and as inexplicable magical things happen and the red star approaches, they become agitated. There is some friction between the traditional wizards, who like the dramatic, loud approach to magic with arcane ingredients and lots of theatrical, booming noises, and the newer ones, who prefer a more understated approach. My favorite character at Unseen University is the librarian, who is transformed into an orangutan in this book (and when you think of it, shouldn't every respectable library have an orangutan librarian? I wish mine had one!). Here is a passage about him I particularly enjoyed, in which Trymon (one of the modern wizards) goes into the library looking for information:

The job of magical librarian, who has to spend his working days in this sort of highly charged atmosphere, is a high-risk occupation.

The Head Librarian was sitting on top of his desk, quietly peeling an orange, and was well aware of that.

He glanced up when Trymon entered.

"I'm looking for anything we've got on the Pyramid of Tshut," said Trymon. He had come prepared: he took a banana out of his pocket.

The librarian looked at it mournfully, and then flopped down heavily on the floor. Trymon found a soft hand poked gently into his and the librarian led the way, waddling sadly between the bookshelves. It was like holding a little leather glove.
I hope there's an opening at that library soon, particularly as I have yet to hear about my application to Hogwart's.

While I enjoyed rereading the first book in this series, I must say I enjoyed this one even more. There is just as much humor and silliness, even more social commentary, and the characters gain additional emotional depth and resonance. Pratchett has an impressive command of language and is able to paint detailed pictures and evoke vivid sensory impressions that linger in the imagination long after the story has ended. I look forward to continuing my revisit and moving on into uncharted Discworld waters.

Books in the Discworld series:1. The Color of Magic
2. The Light Fantastic
3. Equal Rites
4. Mort
5. Sourcery
6. Wyrd Sisters
7. Pyramids
8. Guards, Guards
9. Eric
10. Moving Pictures
11. Reaper Man
12. Witches Abroad
13. Small Gods
14. Lords and Ladies
15. Men at Arms
16. Soul Music
17. Interesting Times
18. Maskerade
19. Feet of Clay
20. Hogfather
21. Jingo
22. The Last Continent
23. Carpe Jugulum
24. The Fifth Elephant
25. The Truth
26. The Thief of Time
27. The Last Hero
28. Nightwatch
29. Monstrous Regiment
30. Going Postal
31. Thud
32. Making Money

The Light Fantastic
(#2 in the Discworld series) by Terry Pratchett (Corgi Books, 1986)

Also reviewed at:
A Book a Week: "Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a fitting conclusion to the beginning of the Discworld books. It's a pleasure to be treated to Pratchett's creativity and imagination for the full length of a novel, and at some points I even read slowly, savouring the inventiveness of his use of language and description."
5 Squared: "As always, there are some deeper, more serious themes interwoven in the Discworld silliness. Here, Pratchett takes on Doomsday Zealots and Blind Religious Fervor."
Kate's Reviews: "I love the way Pratchett writes, drawing you in and he is so descriptive and clever that you feel like you are really there. I had no trouble imagining the red star, the trolls or the luggage. He is a fascinating writer and I have found myself just wanting to read more of his work."


  1. Wow. Moment of nostalgia. I read this more than 10 years ago, when I was just discovering Discworld.

    You just have to love The Librarian.

  2. I read these early books in the series years and years ago. I really want to go back and reread them eventually!

  3. Orpheus - it was fun to reread it after so long - and it definitely stood up to my fond memories of it, which is always a great thing!

    Marg - I hope you'll enjoy your reread as much as I'm enjoying mine. :-)

  4. Funnily enough I think this is possibly my least favourite in the series. I find the Diskworld books a bit hit and miss although I love his Tiffany Aching and some other series by Pratchett. I need to read Making Money so I am up to date again.

  5. Rhinoa - Tiffany Aching is my very favorite! The early ones seem to be a bit hit and miss for many readers. I love them all, some more than others, but I have enjoyed every one that I've read. :-)

  6. I always wondered what a librarian at Hogwarts might be like or being one would be like. I promise I'll read these eventually.

  7. Ladytink - I promise that if I get hired at Hogwarts I'll send you an invitation to come check out the library! :-D

  8. I keep meaning to read the Discworld novels, but I never seem to make it a priority! I do have Nation here to read by Pratchett, though. I should at least read that!

  9. Kailana - Nation is my absolute favorite, even though it's not a Discworld novel. I hope you enjoy it - and I have a feeling you will have to read the Discworld novels once you get a taste of Pratchett's writing. I hope so, anyway! :-)

  10. I loved Nation and Wee Free Men, and want to read many more.

  11. Shelley - Those are my two top favorites, but I really have enjoyed all the others I've read. Isn't it great that he's written so many? :-)


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