Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sourcery

This installment in the Discworld series returns its attention to Rincewind, the wizard/reluctant hero of the first two books of the series. The book opens with a scene in which a disgruntled wizard, the eighth son of an eighth son, who left Unseen University in a huff because he did not wish to follow the Lore of Magic, which dictates that magicians remain celibate. Instead, he fell in love and married, and in turn he had children. His eighth child, was, of course, a son - and as everyone on the Discworld knows, the eighth son of an eighth son is a "wizard squared. A source of magic. A Sourcerer."

The father of this child, in the opening scene, manages to thwart death by transferring his spirit to a wizard's staff - the staff that his son, the sourcerer, will wield. The wizard is determined that his son will grow up to humiliate all the useless wizards at Unseen University who ridiculed him and turned him out. His son will have enormous power, and all the wizards will bow down to him, and he will rule the world. YOU'RE ONLY PUTTING OFF THE INEVITABLE, says Death in his voice that is "as hollow as a cave, as dense as a neutron star."

Death is patient - he knows he has only to wait. But in the meantime, the sourcerer is growing up under the baneful influence of the staff, and when he shows up at Unseen University years later, Rincewind is the Discworld's only hope for saving them all. And to look at Rincewind, who's never actually successfully used a spell, ever, even though his hat does bear the word "Wizzard" on it, it doesn't seem as though he's going to be a whole lot of help.

It was fun to see Rincewind again - I thought we'd left him behind - and to spend some time in the company of his magical luggage, a trunk made of sapient pearwood that has hundreds of little feet that transport it wherever its master goes. And also I loved seeing my favorite librarian again - the Unseen University librarian, who was transformed into an orangutan during an earlier adventure, and he won't allow the wizards to change him back. I loved the way he acted to protect his beloved books.

The story is full of Pratchett's usual witty humor and memorable characters, and although I can't say this one was my favorite in the series so far, it is still always such a pleasure to enter Pratchett's fantastical worlds, not to mention a delight to experience his masterful use of language. I also enjoy seeing how much fun he has poking affectionate fun at the many cliches that abound in fantasy fiction.

Here are a couple of my favorite, non-spoilery passages, in the hope that those of you who haven't done so yet will be inspired to give his books a try.

Nijel was one of those people who, if you say, "don't look now", would
immediately swivel his head like an owl on a turntable. These are the same
people who, when you point out, say, an unusual crocus just beside them, turn
around aimlessly and put their foot down with a sad little squashy noise. If
they were lost in a trackless desert you could find them by putting down,
somewhere on the sand, something small and fragile like a valuable old mug that
had been in your family for generations, and then hurrying back as soon as you
heard the crash.


* * *
Rincewind was used to the dressy ways of wizards, but this one was really impressive, his robe so padded and crenellated and buttressed in fantastic folds and creases that it had probably been designed by an architect. The matching hat looked like a wedding cake that had collided intimately with a Christmas tree.

The actual face, peering through the small gap between the baroque collar and the filigreed fringe of the brim, was a bit of a disappointment. At some time in the past it had thought its appearance would be improved by a thin, scruffy moustache. It had been wrong.

Books in the Disworld 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
33. Unseen Academicals

Sourcery (#5 in the Discworld series) by Terry Pratchett (Signet, 1989)

Also reviewed at:
A Book a Week: "But what did I love? The Librarian. The books. I don't want to give too much away, but the Librarian was almost my favourite character, intelligent, quick thinking, and surprisingly sympathetic for an orangutan."
5-Squared: "This was kind of a "transition" book for Pratchett- the tone is just a tad bit more serious than his earlier works, and the book loosely examines the themes of Power, Ambition, and Self-Sacrifice. With time, Pratchett's Discworld books get longer, a smidgen less zany, and a dab more insightful as his writing style evolves."
Just a Weblog: "Overall the book is fairly decent, but I feel that I've probably read too many of his books too quickly or something, because I just wasn't pulled into the story one bit."

6 comments:

  1. This is the fifth of the Discworld books? Indeed, the fifth? I kind of feel like a jerk then - I checked this out of the library years and years ago, lost it, and had to pay for it; which at the time was a substantial bit of money for me. And I didn't even like it! And I swore of Terry Pratchett forever; but if it's the fifth in the series I think I've been being unfair about it.

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  2. Jenny - Oh, that is a sad story! This one was cute, and it was fun revisiting some favorite characters, but it's not my favorite. If you'd like to give Terry Pratchett a try, I'd start with either of my two favorites, Nation or The Wee Free Men, which is the first of a 3-book series for kids featuring young witch Tiffany Aching. They are both excellent, as is the entire Tiffany Aching series. Nation is a standalone, and is my favorite book that I've read this year.

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  3. I am looking forward to reading this series starting in 2010. I have been reading his trilogies this year and I have read a couple of these books, but I want to read the whole thing. :)

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  4. Kailana - I had a lot of fun rereading the earlier books in the series, and now I'm enjoying moving into uncharted territory, I'll be looking forward to hearing what you think when you get to this series!

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  5. Oh wow, that passage about Nijel made me laugh and laugh when I read it, and again this morning. Perhaps because I know people like that (perhaps because I have occasionally been accused of *being* like that...)

    I love this review, Darla. It describes my feelings on the book exactly.

    I wonder which of us will get to reviewing Wyrd Sisters first? *scampers off to move it to the top of the pile*

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  6. Kiirstin - Yikes, I'd better get going! Although with my review backlog, even if I read it today you'd probably get your review up first. :p

    I think that's why I found Nijel's description so funny - sometimes I am the person squishing that crocus, too. LOL

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