The Light Fantastic

By: Terry Pratchett

***Spoiler warning*** This novel is #2 in the Discworld series and the sequel to The Color of Magic.

Great A’Tuin the World Turtle is on a collision course with a bright red star that will end all life on the Disc. The only one who can save the world is Rincewind, the ineptest of all wizards by using one of the eight great spells lodged in his brain. The only problem is that the last anyone saw of Rincewind, he was falling off the edge of the world. 

Pratchett takes absurdism to a new level by constructing narratives that simultaneously feel convoluted and perfectly reasonable.  While his novels were designed to be fun and entertaining, you never shake the sense that Pratchett has a message (or several messages) to pass on to his audience, usually through snarky social commentary. For example:

"She is there, down below the mines and sea ooze and fake fossil bones put there by a Creator with nothing better to do than upset archaeologists and give them silly ideas. 
Not for the first time she reflected that there were many drawbacks to being a swordswoman, not the least of which was that men didn't take you seriously until you'd actually killed them, by which time it didn't really matter anyway. (...) But she was too big to be a thief, too honest to be an assassin, too intelligent to be a wife, and too proud to enter the only other female profession generally available."

I struggle to talk about the Discworld series because I worry that all the books will end up sounding the same, and maybe in a certain light they are. There’s humor, whacky hijinks, unexpected outcomes, and morals. If you read my previous review on The Color of Magic, you will recognize the similarities. I will attempt to combat this sameness by including some of my favorite quotes in future reviews of each Discworld book. That way you can get the general vibe and flavor of that particular story. That idea may not end up working, but I’ll give it a shot.

For your enjoyment, here are some of the best examples of Pratchetts sense of twisted humor in The Light Fantastic:

Someone who spent his life living rough under the sky knew the value of a good thick book, which ought to outlast at least a season of cooking fires if you were careful how you tore the pages out.

The Luggage said nothing.
“Look he’s not my responsibility,” said Rincewind. “Let’s be absolutely clear about that.”
The Luggage said nothing, but louder this time.

Death is still one of my favorite parts of this multiverse because of his odd quirks and spontaneous moments of sympathy from an otherwise dry character. We are introduced to his adopted daughter in this novel, and I’m excited to see how Pratchett develops Death as a father figure in future books like Mort.

I don’t want to spoil anything from the main plot, so I will leave you with some of the funniest and oddest things that happen in these 293 pages.

  • Death goes to a cocktail party and later learns to play Bridge with the four horsemen of the apocalypse
  • The gods are warring with the Ice Giants over an unreturned lawnmower
  • A universe traversing shop of infinite items appears at just the right moment so that Twoflower can buy a hideous souvenir 
  • Rock trolls catch Philosophy when they get old which causes them to lose touch with reality and fall asleep for centuries contemplating existence. 

Pratchett’s books always leave me feeling happy to have read his stories. I know I smile more reading them than I do most any other books except perhaps those by Neil Gaiman, but there definitely is a sense of loss after finishing each one. Pratchett, having passed away years ago, will never write another book, and I don’t like to think that one day I’ll finish all of his works. But life is like that, and no sad thought will stop me from getting to his next book, Equal Rites, very soon. 

Overall rating: 5

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