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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Colour of Magic, and Sir Apropos of Nothing

There are times when you want to read something light and goofy. For me it's fairly rare: although I read fantasy literature for the escapism, I like heavy fare. Strong characters and grim endings -- these are a few of my favourite things. (You'll notice that even when I recommend children's literature, the stories are not generally frivolous or even wholly upbeat.)

But to every rule there is an exception.

Recently I sat down with The Colour of Magic (Terry Pratchett). I think I must be the last person on the planet who isn't familiar with Mr. Pratchett's work, but never you mind... Colour is a compilation of novellas (I don't think published separately) that revolve around the hapless Rincewind, possibly the world's worst wizard, and the mind-numbingly naive traveller Twoflower. The two stumble around the Discworld and have all sorts of hilarious misfortunes imposed upon them. But even though the plot is, frankly, fragmented (fantasy sit-com?), Colour has an appealing undercurrent of serious. The moment when Rincewind stares over The Edge and sees, across an enormous gulf of space, the great cosmic turtle that supports the Discworld -- shivers. Mr. Pratchett draws out sympathy for the characters even as we laugh at their pathetic flailings; I'm certainly hooked and hope the sequels will make it to the top of my reading list soon.

In a similar vein, I stumbled across Sir Apropos of Nothing in a used bookstore and saved it for a time when I needed ultra-light fantasy food. It's, uhh, a bit odd, and quite hard to describe. The main character is named Apropos, for no clear reason (for all that it's explained in the novel). He's a bitter and angry young man, who is determined to avenge his mother's brutal death at the hands of a chivalric knight. Apropos moves through a world of explicit stereotypes, but he thinks that he sees through it all. He sneers at the nobility of knighthood, but signs on as squire in the hopes of rising to the top of the profession, slaying his mother's murderer, and ultimately proving that Knighthood is a hollow concept. The novel seems to exist largely for the exercise of Hapless Escapades and the occasional pun (not as frequent as you might expect, thankfully). And though practically everyone is a stereotype (usually quite self-consciously, again thankfully), Peter David portrays even the most praiseworthy characters with hidden flaws. The reader can find pity for the characters -- and even the bitterly cynical Apropos. Best of all -- and this could be considered a spoiler (seriously, back off people, I'm talking about the ending) this is not a novel in which a disillusioned man finds his faith in humanity (or whatever fill-in-the-blank subject you prefer) at the end. No, the ending is definitely unsatisfying from that standpoint, but far more satisfying for being less unrealistically pat.

11 comments:

Laila said...

I'm glad you liked Colour of Magic. Quick, read The Light Fantastic before the film based on the two come out, this March! (More information at this Discworld fansite) The books quickly get even better, and deeper, and, yes, darker. Have fun.

Mister Troll said...

Ooh, a movie could be fun!

The Light Fantastic is on my library reading list. Alas, I'm number four in line. Given how swamped I am these days, I suppose Numbers One through Three may take their time reading it :-)

Jamie C said...

The Colour of Magic was good, but I don't think the early Discworld novels are the best ones. I think Pratchett really hit his stride with Guards! Guards! Have you read Good Omens by Pratchett and Gaiman? I'd recommend it if you're in the mood for silly.

Billy Goat said...

It's been a while since I read Discworld, but I remember liking The Light Fantastic better than The Colour of Magic, and liking the later stuff even better (including Guards, Guards). Not only is the later stuff better, but it took me a while to get into Pratchett's humor, I think. That might explain why I didn't really like Good Omens, which was my introduction to Pratchett.

It's funny to me to see Jamie recommending Good Omens on here. He recommended to me years ago. :) In fact, I believe he lent me most of the Discworld books I ended up reading.

Mister Troll said...

Right, right - the masses insist that I move forward with the Discworld novels :-) I'll get to them eventually.

By the way, isn't Billy Goat supposed to be posting a short-story-segment each day? :-)

Billy Goat said...

Mister Troll, you are a troublemaker. I specifically said in my post introducing the short stories that I would try it out for a week.

However, you reminded me that I need to write a post talking about that experience, and the plans to come from it.

avidbookreader said...

I have Prachett in my TBR pile so you're not alone in not reading his work. I just couldn't get into the first Discworld novel, sorry to say. I'll take recs on where I can start so that I can become a fan [g]

avidbookreader said...

That should say "Pratchett" sorry.

Keishon

Billy Goat said...

@Keishon - I had a hard time getting into Colour as well. I remember thinking, "Ah, I get what he's parodying, but this just isn't that funny" (I think this was during the Pern-spoofing bit). Anyway, maybe it was me, maybe it was the story. :) If you pick it back up again, I hope you enjoy it more, or at least get through it quickly if you don't.

aspiemom said...

I'm taking a reading hiatus. I just read "The Kite Runner" and everthing else seems irrelevant. I need to read a follow-up book but no idea what it will be.

Mister Troll said...

Yes, I'm starting to wonder if I may need a reading break as well, with all the reading I did in the last two months. Work and life are getting busier, so it'll probably be a timely break.

In general, I swing between movies and books. (Mrs. Troll and I have an off-and-on project to watch the entire Star Trek Next Generation series; we borrow a season's worth from the library for one week -- pretty much we end up glued to the couch in the evenings to avoid a $0.10 fine...)