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Feb 09 2015

The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

In the second Discworld novel, The Light Fantastic, Rincewind saves the Disc, not quite by accident but certainly not through great forethought and cunning action, either. The Disc appears to be hurtling toward a great red star in such a way that collision is imminent, and the only way to prevent the Disc’s annihilation is for the eight Great Spells to be cast simultaneously. The problem, such as it is, is that one of the Spells has lodged itself in Rincewind’s brain, and he is (a) far away from the other seven, and (b) not being seen.

As a through-line to hang a novel on, this is a bit thin. There may have been more suspense about the outcome when the book was new, but now there are 38 more Discworld books, so obvsly it doesn’t go crashing into a looming star, casting the remainder of the series into flashback. But the main line isn’t what interests Pratchett anyway, or at least, that’s not what he devotes most of his attention to. He seems most interested in the set pieces, sketches, and ancillary characters that he introduces throughout the book. Sometimes they’re parodies of established fantasy pieces (Cohen the Barbarian, who is now in his late 80s but fierce as ever), while sometimes they are just extended bits of drollery, put there for their own sakes.

Of course, like druids everywhere they believes in the essential unity of all life, the healing power of plants, the natural rhythm of the seasons and the burning alive of anyone who didn’t approach all this in the right frame of mind, but they had also thought long and hard about the very basis of creation and had formulated the following theory:
The universe, they said, depended for its operation on the balance of four forces which they identified as charm, persuasion, uncertainty and bloody-mindedness.
Thus it was that the sun and moon orbited the Disc because they were persuaded not to fall down, but didn’t actually fly away because of uncertainty. Charm allowed trees to grow and bloody-mindedness kept them up, and so on.

This is all good fun, and the book bounces along happily, skewering cliches left and right. There’s not a lot of heft here (which is fine! how many other books don’t even reach this level of fun?), but for the longer project of the series I’m interested in finding out how many of the minor characters turn up again. Also in the longer context, it’s probably important that the Great Spell is no longer with Rincewind at the end of the book, freeing him up considerably as a character. Twoflower, a tourist who has often driven events in the first two books, decides at the end of the book that his vacation is over and returns to his place of origin. I guess we’ll see about that, too.

About the author

Doug Merrill

Writer, editor, translator, project manager, reformed bookseller. Currently based in Berlin, following stints in Moscow, Tbilisi, Munich, Washington, Warsaw, Budapest and Atlanta. Also blogs at A Fistful of Euros, though less frequently than here these days.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2015/02/09/the-light-fantastic-by-terry-pratchett/

2 pings

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