Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Light Fantastic


Discworld is a place of magic. As such, there are magical people, like Wizards, floating around. Rincewind is a wizard - he just happens to be amazingly bad at it. There are 8 great spells (8 is the magic number on Discworld) and one of them got into his head by mistake. Now, no other spells will dare get into his head because they're too frightened of the Great Spell. Twoflower is a tourist from the Counterweight Continent, and sports all sorts of strange devices. His most interesting item is the Luggage, which is made out of a magical wood call Sapient Pearwood. It has lots of little legs, a mind of its own, and things disappear inside it never to be seen again. But, if need be, it can somehow take your laundry and clean it for you, or produce certain items out of nowhere... At the end of the first book in the Discworld series, The Colour of Magic, Rincewind is hanging off the edge of the world (it's a disc, so of course it's flat), and Death's understudy is trying to convince him to die. But Wizards have a special privilege - they can only be taken by Death himself. Twoflower and the Luggage are... somewhere around. And so begins The Light Fantastic. (So named because that's what you can see if you're hanging over the edge of the world). Rincewind somehow survives, and further survives many things which should mean his instant death. Much to his dismay, he is joined in his quest by Twoflower and the Luggage. But after a while he begins to realise something - that he's constantly being saved from the jaws of death because the Great Spell wants to keep him alive. And the reason for this, Rincewind reasons, cannot be good. In fact it would mean the end of the world. Oh, and could it be that the great A'Tuin, the turtle carrying Discworld on its back) is changing course? (Just to complicate matters even further...) There are some lovely characters in this second novel in the Discworld saga, notably Cohen, the aged barbarian with no teeth, and Bethan, his reluctant damsel in distress.
(They completely ruined her sacrifice - that is, the sacrifice of her - but when she's been rescued by this ancient hero with a zimmerframe and no teeth, she does her very best to be the good damsel in distress and fall in love with him). Rincewind and Twoflower are a much funnier combination than for most of the first book, and the peripheral characters are fine, though perhaps not quite as well-developed as in the later novels. The story runs well, is nicely plotted (although again, not quite as well paced as in some of the later books of the series - Pratchett seems to improve all the time - if he improves any more than he is at present, his books may end up with a public health warning on them for inducing similar effects to narcotics...), and the characters, as already mentioned, are terrific. I am pleased to say that Death (my favourite character) is back and funnier than ever. I really enjoyed this book, second in the series but about eight in the order I read it. In addition to the plot mentioned earlier, there is also a battle among the wizards, one of whom is trying to upset the balance of power... and then there is the danger of the creatures from the dreaded Dungeon Dimensions... There are also more glimpses of the biting satire that epitomises the whole series. Overall, this should definitely be in the collection of anyone who likes Pratchett's novels, or a bit of light-hearted fantasy, or just good comedy writing. Thanks for reading, CaptainD (NB - this review was first published on Epinions.)
The Light Fantastic Originally published in Shvoong:

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