When Sir Terry Pratchett passed away earlier this year a good friend of mine bought me a gift, an eBook version of the first of the Discworld series, entitled The Colour of Magic. I had never read any of the Discworld books before and at the time wasn’t in a position to sit down and read much, so it sat on my virtual bookshelf until a week ago. My new job allows me to commute via public transit, and therefore that provides me with an opportunity to put on my earbuds with quiet music and read.
I went into reading this book with very little knowledge of the world the Pratchett devised, but I knew that he tended towards a more absurdist type of humor. Within a few pages of reading, this was confirmed, as things that make no sense at all simply happened as a way to continue a narrative thread. If you’ve read Douglas Adams and his Hitchhiker’s Guide series, this style of comedy will seem very, very familiar.
The gist of the story follows a not-quite Wizard name Rincewind and a traveling companion who was thrust upon him, named Twoflower. The two of them end up in wild and crazy circumstances as they are bounced around the Discworld, often with no control of their surroundings or destination. Fate (who makes a few appearances in the book) finds the two protagonists in the most unlikely situations, often requiring the pair to resign themselves to the fact that they seem to be the most lucky people who have ever existed.
The writing is great, as you’d expect from someone like Pratchett, but it boggles the mind how he is able to keep this bizarre world of confusion straight for as many novels as he has. Granted, the entire premise of the book is that the rules can change, and because of this Pratchett has incredible license to form the world in whatever way he pleases.
I won’t give any spoilers, but the book’s ending took me by surprise, as I wasn’t expecting things to wrap up the way that they did. However, since this is the first book in the series, I’m sure something absurd will happen to start the next book in the series and allow the story to continue on. In fact the depth of this universe is one thing that might keep me from continuing on in reading the series. I could easily see myself feeling compelled to plow through book after book as the web of the narrative is spun ever larger.
I would certainly recommend the book to anyone who enjoys absurdist style humor such has Hitchhiker’s Guide. It’s a nice short book and a quick read, with a pleasant writing style. I’m quite pleased that my friend bestowed this gift on me, and will need to repay him in kind some time in the future…