Monday, 20 March 2017

BOOK REVIEWS: The Colour of Magic (Discworld #1) by Sir Terry Pratchett

I rarely re-read books. It’s not that I don’t find books I want to read more than once, more that there are so many out there to read for the first time that going over old ground doesn’t seem the best use of time. So it is slightly against form that I’ve decided to embark on reading the full Discworld cycle over again. Twenty years at least have passed since the last time I read some of these so it’ll be interesting to see how things have changed.

One thing I did remember is that it takes a while for Pratchett to truly get into his style and rhythm and so I wasn’t expecting the Colour of Magic to blow me away – and it didn’t. I wouldn’t say it is a bad book, but I know there are better ones in the series to come.

I’ll be honest and confess to skimming through large chunks of this because I vaguely remember the details and also because I know from later experiences “how” to read Pratchett – when to skim, when something is important, when he is merely having a bit of fun etc.

As a result it was so hard to objectively look at this and judge it on its own meritsIt was a really strange feeling reading it - I felt myself filling bits of information in that I wouldn’t have known the first time I read this and I don’t know whether that helped or hindered. It is no doubt exceptionally difficult to review a book in isolation when you know it is part of a (in this case) 40+ long series, and especially when you’ve read the vast majority of the later instalments.

Considered on its own though, I guess the Colour of Magic is reasonably enjoyable but it certainly isn’t a classic or a must-read. The characters are likeable enough though in need of a bit more layering at this early stage in their existence. Rincewind obviously grows significantly in the later stories but he is a bit one dimensional at this point. The luggage was, I thought, underused but the rest are pretty forgettable if I’m honest.

The narrative is essentially a take on the “buddy” movie, though with definite reluctance on the side of one of the “buddies”. It’s pretty superficial as a whole but there are some genuinely funny moments.

Pratchett’s style of spoofing real life via the fantasy genre was way ahead of its time, though the Colour of Magic isn’t the best example of his work. There are hints here though of what we eventually come to learn (which is that Sir Terry was a shrewd observer of real life and could tell a story with the best of them) though this sputters more than it roars. The Discworld itself felt hugely underdeveloped though again this may be just in comparison to what it becomes.

As a standalone this is undoubtedly not the finished article, and it is fair to say that Pratchett was certainly on a learning curve when this was written. But there are enough moments of genius here to intrigue and I obviously must have liked it enough first time around to keep going with the rest.

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5

Till next time,
DT

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