The Light Fantastic – Terry Pratchett

Posted 27 May, 2009 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 30 Comments

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Title: The Light Fantastic
Author: Terry Pratchett
Published: 1986 Pages: 241
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5

A year ago I discovered Discworld for the first time with The Color of Magic, and I can’t believe it has been that long since poor Rincewind was left hanging over the side of the world! I have loved my Discworld journey thus far, but I have to say I preferred The Color of Magic just a tad. Perhaps timing? But now I’m really looking forward to traveling around at leisure (check out this Discworld reading guide the lovely Nymeth introduced me to). I’m thinking about pursuing the “Death” novels or “Witches” novels next.

What is Discworld? Well, I’m probably not the best to describe it to you, but it is a world (flat) that rests upon four giant elephants who stand upon an even more giant turtle, A’Tuin, who floats leisurely through space. The Discworld series contains over thirty novels, The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic being the first two. These two are sequels, but as I understand the rest are pretty much stand alone novels with running themes.

The Light Fantastic is a continuation of Rincewind and Twoflower’s journeys across Discworld. Rincewind is a fairly inept wizard who cannot perform magic because long ago a spell lodge itself in his mind. It happens that this spell is an incredibly important spell from a powerful collection of eight and the fate of Discworld rests in all eight of these spells being said at the same time. When a giant red star begins on a crash collision course towards Discworld, the importance of that spell grows exponentially, but can Rincewind stay out of enough trouble to keep himself alive and the spell safe?

Reading this book provided for constant amusement. I love the tongue-in-cheek humor of this novel and the cleverness. Pratchett doesn’t always give away his humor easily, and I always felt satisfied when I got it. In one scene, Twoflower is playing a game of cards: “It’s a special kind of playing…In your language, it’s called a thing you put across a river, for example” he concluded, “I think.” “Aqueduct?” hazarded Rincewind. “Fishing line? Weir? Dam?” “Yes, possibly.” So, I’m thinking to myself–I know there’s a joke here. Ooooh! Bridge! :) As with CoM I felt like I never quite got everything that should have been funny, perhaps because I’m not as familiar with the fantasy genre, but I definitely had a lot of giggle out loud moments.

And then there were the things that made me go “hmmm.” Poor Death is so misunderstood, and even though he plays a small role in these two novels, he’s one of my favorite characters. “The Death of the Disc was a traditionalist who prided himself on his personal service and spent most of the time being depressed because this was not appreciated. He would point out that no one feared death itself, just pain and separation and oblivion, and that it was quite unreasonable to take against someone just because he had empty eye sockets and a quiet pride in his work” (104). Although the subject matter and humor make these books feel light, Pratchett is always seeming to sneak in more serious food for thought.

One of the qualms that I have with this book, and I fear the rest of the series, is that there are no chapter breaks. Looking back at my review for CoM, it seems that I had a difficult time following that book as well. The focus of the novel shifts frequently and I often had a tough time figuring out what was going on. I’ve tried to put my finger on what it is that I’m having a tough time with, and I think that Pratchett transitions so quickly that my brain doesn’t always have time to process. This works well for me visually (like a movie), but in a book I felt like I always need to backtrack a bit to remember what was going on. Because I was reading this book in short amounts, it was a big pitfall. Other than that I really enjoyed the book. It seemed like this novel was more plot driven than the first, and that helped me focus more on the story. I would recommend this book, but read Color of Magic first.

Have you made the journey into Discworld yet? What are your favorite Discworld novels?

Date Finished: May 27, 2009 #27

30 Responses to “The Light Fantastic – Terry Pratchett”

  1. I’ve heard about Discworld, but knowing that there are so many books in the series, I’ve been hesitant to dive in. I don’t even know where to start! A while back, a friend gave me a copy of “Guards! Guards!” saying it was her favorite of Discworld book, but it has sat on my shelf untouched since then…

  2. Ok – I must admit that I have never heard of the DiscWorld until I read your review. I need to hone my science fiction skills before I tackle this one on my own :)

    I wanted to let you know how very much I have appreciated your comments. It is my number one priority to start commenting on my comments (to keep the dialogue going). That was such a great suggestion and just what I needed to nudge me in the right direction.

    I would love for you to post the blogging survey on your website! It is not original – but I am like you, I want to hear about the person behind the book blog. I look forward to reading your response.

  3. I started The Colour of Magic last year, but I couldn’t figure out what was going on, so I had to stop. I also started Nation, but didn’t get into it, so I stopped that one, too. But I’d really like to like Terry Pratchett, because those who like him seem to really like him. I’m willing to give him a couple more tries. Like you said, perhaps timing has something to do with it.

  4. Someday I’ll give this series a try! Interesting about the lack of chapter breaks. I can see why that would make things a bit difficult, especially for someone like me who likes to stop at chapter breaks when I need to put the book down.

  5. I am so eager to get into the discworld books, but I am not sure I would like them. I started with Wtches Aboard but left it after I coudn’t understand what was going on. Nymeth provided me with that chart too. So I’m going to start over again and hopefully like it. Imagine the more number of books I would enjoy if I like that one book :)

  6. Can you believe that I haven’t read anything by this author yet?! After reading your and Nymeth’s reviews, I think I should add this author’s books onto my wishlist!

  7. yay! *happy dance* You liked it! And they get even better after these first two :D I think trying the Death or the Witches books next is an excellent idea. Death is probably my all-time favourite character. And Granny Weatherwax is awesome too. I can’t wait for you to “meet” her.

    About the chapter breaks, yeah, he only uses them in his YA books, and for some reason in the Moist Von Lipzig ones too (Going Postal and Making Money). It bugged me too at first, but I guess I got used to it in time.

  8. I’ve started to read The Discworld novels from the beginning, as previously I have read the Guards arc or other random books.

    The Guards are still may favourites but I love Death and really enjoyed Mort, which I read recently.

  9. I have never been interested in reading these books at all – fantasy books are just not usually my thing but my partner loves these books and we did watch the movie the other night which I thought was pretty funny. I’m a fairly visual person so maybe now that I have seen that I might be able to get into the books. I also heard a radio interview with Terry Pratchett a while ago and he was hilarious!

  10. *Steph – I think the good thing about this series is that most don’t have to be read in any type of order (except this and Color of Magic). But 36 books is quite overwhelming!

    *Bermuda – These books are a lot of fun, but I guess they’re not for everyone.

    *Molly – If it helps, these books are more fantasy than science fiction (I don’t enjoy sci fi as much). And thanks about the comment about commenting–as you can tell, I was really behind, but I’m going to try and stay on top of my bloghopping. And I think I’ll do the survey as my Sunday Salon this weekend!

    *Charley – It took me a bit to get used to Pratchett’s writing and I got frustrated because I kept thinking the books should be easier (maybe because they’re short). I hope you’ll give it another try, though!

    *Lezlie – The Luggage is really fun–and such attitude! :) Without grabbing my book, I think Ahnk-Morpork is right!

    *Lit Feline – There were lots of paragraph breaks in this book, which helped me find places to put the book down, but I like chapters too. Preferrably short chapters!

    *Melody – I hadn’t even heard of Discworld or Pratchett until blogging! So glad to have discovered it. Hope you find something you like!

    *Nymeth – I keep thinking about your comments that these two books are not the best and not a great place for newbies to start–so I’m taking my enjoyment as a good sign. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for Mort next. Have you read them all?

    *Paperback Reader – I’m going to be on the lookout for Mort. I loved Death in these two books, so I’m really eager to get to know him better.

    *Karen – I bet the movie would be a lot of fun. Because the transitions are so quick in these books, I know I missed a lot. I kept thinking–wait, what just happened! :)

  11. Luggage! And Death! and Igor! They’re all like old friends now. I’m on my second readings of his books. I love them all, but especially the ones with Nanny Ogg and Mistress Weatherwax. The Wyrd Sisters is a really good one. There’s nothing like a little Headology and a few rounds of The Hedgehog song (http://www.speakeasy.org/~mamandel/filks/Hedgehog.html). Pratchett is love.

    One tip I can give you is (assuming you’re American) to Google things you don’t understand. There are a lot of references you might miss if you aren’t British, or haven’t spent time there.

    Oh yes, Carpe Jugulum was a good one too, although the Vampires aren’t on the wagon yet, it’s not gruesome and throws up some interesting topics to think about. It’s also a Weatherwax one, so there might even been a Hedgehog song in it, although I don’t remember it specifically.

    The Wee Free Men books are good, although you have to keep in mind that they are a “junior series” intended for teenagers. I still love them though. Good, light reads.

    And then there’s Equal Rites and Maskerade and Mort and The Reaper Man…

    Um, yes, can you tell I like Pratchett? :0)

  12. I read this one several years ago, and just didn’t get into it at all…

    …but then recently I read the Tiffany Aching series (Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, and Wintersmith), and absolutely loved them, so I may have to give the rest of Discworld another go.

  13. I just received my first Pratchett book from the library and the other will likely come today, so I’m excited! I’ve also heard the first two aren’t the best. Terry on 5-Squared reviewed them recently and he didn’t like them as much as several later on in the series.

  14. These sound like fascinating books. I love the idea. So great. Won’t be getting to them soon, but definately will be getting to them.

  15. *Blacksheep – Oh goodness are you a fan! You’ve made me really excited to continue on with the series to get to know some of the characters you talk about. And yes, I am American. But, without knowing with jokes are “British jokes” it’s hard to know what to google! :)

    *Fyrefly – Nymeth always mentions that these are probably the worst ones to start off with, even though they are introductory. Maybe just try a different branch of Discworld?

    *Amanda – I saw Terry’s review and almost linked it, but there was only one other so I didn’t bother. Oops! I’ll be curious what you think of these books. If nothing else, they are entertaining and fun.

    *Jaimie – Hope you like his stuff!

    *Michelle – The good thing about these books is they are really small and really short–great carry around books. No chapter breaks makes them though to put down, though.

  16. Hi Trish! Remember me?! I hope you have not forgotten me :) :)
    My previous blog got deleted :( and recently i started a new book blog :) :)

    so i m back to book blogging :)

    I had a DIscWorld book too, but I couldn’t finish it… i started but got stuck…:)

    maybe i was nto able to understand it… and now that u tell me… i m going to retry :)

    Lovely review :)

    Hope all’s well with you :) Take care!

  17. For me the thing about Discworld is that it took me years to get into the books. I tried and tried to get into them as a teen, even given in and trying a Dutch translation. I finally got past the first page, then stopped reading because I hated the Dutch.

    Then, at one point, I decided to give the books – I had/have no problems with the computer games – one past try with The Last Hero. I’ve been playing catch-up ever since.

    I do hear you on the breaks, though. I’m slowly creeping my way through the books and that still bothers me.

    I concur with Nymeth that Witches or Death sound a nice place to continue with. ^-^ And to everyone cared by the enormity: just pick any one book to start with, excepting maybe the Rincewind series. They might be ‘stand-alones’, but I think those are the ones that really benefit from being read in order because they are sort-of immediately consecutive.

    But that’s just my opinion. ^-^ (and I don’t get all the humour either. ^-~)

  18. When I first started Discworld it was with a Rincewind book – Interesting Times and it totally put me off for ages. But thank goodness I tried again because I just can not imagine a reading life without some Pratchett in it. If you love Death there’s a whole arc for you to try(and lots more of the Death of Rats). The Last Hero would be a great book to read after ‘The Light Fantastic’ as it features C

    It’s funny you should pick up on the paragraph thing. I remember in the early Discworld books, which inclkuded review excerpts there was always one negative one about how Pratchett didn’t even write in chapters.

  19. I love how broad your reading selections are. I think it’s so awesome that you read from pretty much every genre!

    These books were unknown to me until I started blogging. They seem really fun! Fantasy books kinda intimidate me, for some reason, even though I have liked pretty much every one I have read!

  20. I have Pratchett on my tbr but I just can’t get into a hurry in actually reading this dude. I’m glad it’s so popular and that is prob why I am NOT in a hurry to try Discworld or whatever. Don’t hate me.

  21. I LOVE Pratchett’s Discworld books … and I’ve only read about 3 of them! I’m currently reading a book that reminds me a bit of Terry Pratchett — Gil’s All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez. It is sometimes pretty screamingly funny!

  22. =Tamar

    If you’ve read one of the Discworld books and you think you may have missed some of the fun, try the lists of annotations at http://www.lspace.org – I believe most of the books have been covered there. No single person gets everything Pratchett puts in!

  23. *Veens – I missed you!! I’m so sorry that your blog got deleted, but I’m glad to see your bright smiling cheery self again. The Discworld books are short, but they aren’t easy reading! There’s a lot that I don’t really “get” either. I hope you won’t give up, though! Which one were you reading?

    *Shanra – I wonder why Pratchett chose not to provide chapter breaks for the stories. Actually, I think I read something about that recently but forgot. :P I’ll definitely have to try the Death series next! I’m excited for the journey but there are so many books it is almost overwhelming.

    *Jodie – Death of Rats! LOL—that sounds very interesting. I was kind of thinking about going to Mort next, but maybe I’ll try to find The Last Hero. Chapter breaks is a big thing for me. Since I can usually only read a bit at a time, I need a good stopping place. These were action non-stop, which is great, but not good for putting the book down!

    *Laura – Well, there are some genres I won’t touch! No horror or suspense thrillers for me. I had enough of that with RL Stine and Christopher Pike when I was younger. :P I hadn’t heard of Pratchett until blogging either, but they’re a lot of fun. And not overly fantasy-ish. Well, definitely fantasy-ish, but in a fun, humorous way.

    *bkclubcare – His books are really short if that’s any motivation. And of course no hate. I can’t bring myself to read a whole lot YA even though it is incredibly popular. Just something about those teenaged girls…

    *Terri B. – Gil’s All Fright Diner sounds like a hoot! Might be a good one to give a go for the RIP challenge—the title sounds very Halloweenish. I can’t wait to get my hands on more Pratchett. Do you have a favorite?

    *=Tamar – Thank you for the website! I’ll definitely have to give it a glance to see what it’s all about. And thanks for the reassurance about not getting all the jokes. I’m glad I’m not the only one!!

  24. I’m a new subscriber and wanted to say thanks for the link for the diskworld order. I would have been totally confused and hate to start a series out of order. I have yet to read anything by Pratchet yet.
    fyi – the Nymeth link is not working well not for me anyway.

  25. *Shellie – Welcome! Apparently you do not have to read The Color of Magic and Light Fantastic before diving into the other books, but I like reading things in order too. Hope you like Pratchett–these books are a lot of fun!

    Sorry about Nymeth’s link–thanks for bringing it to my attention. You can find her at http://www.thingsmeanalot.com Go visit her–she rocks. :)