Release date: 24 November 1983
Rating: ★★★★★★★★ – 8/10
Book Depository link (link is for clothbound editions; pictures above are the versions I own, the paperbacks which I’m not entirely sure you can buy anymore)
The Colour of Magic (Discworld #1) blurb:
On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There’s an avaricious but inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist if you believe in them, and of course THE EDGE of the planet…
Before we get started, I am reading the ENTIRE Discworld series with Nicole from The Bookwork Drinketh. And if you would like to join us (one book per month for about 17 years, give or take), then please feel free to make with the clickies over here.
I first started reading Discworld novels when I was fifteen. Now, I know for some of you young whippersnappers out there, fifteen wasn’t that long ago; but for me, it was the late 1990’s. *GASP* I know, I know, this is the first time I have eluded to my age… but to be honest, I’m kind of the same age as this book, give or take a few months. Which is pretty awesome that a book that’s about to turn 35 years old is still being heralded as one of the best fantasy series’ around.
So, instead of reviewing the story itself (which is what I normally do), what I really want to talk about it how Pratchett started this amazing and wonderful world, how each story is still relevant to what is happening in today’s society (there’s usually some paradoxical metaphor happening), and then just my general summation (ok, I might talk about the plot here). You’ll also notice that I am what they call ‘highly influenced’. This means when I read funny books, I say funny things, so my reviews are more humorous. When I read serious books, I write serious reviews… so I apologise in advance!
Keeping all of the above in mind (FYI, this paragraph is like a teensy history lesson so feel free to skip it!) some of the other HUGE fantasy novels/series that were published around this time were Magician by Raymond E Feist (1982), The Belgariad by David Eddings (1982-1984), and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1985). Authors in the ’80s were not messing around. This was the era that Star Wars had been released in cinemas, and sci-fi’s younger sibling, fantasy, was really starting to take off for adult readers (as opposed to kid’s books like Enid Blyton’s The Folk of the Faraway Tree and The Wishing Chair). All these stories were serious books with serious stories. They were about prophecies, men going off to war against monsters, good battling evil, magicians, and all the other tropes that makes a classic fantasy novel. Don’t get me wrong, Tolkien did a pretty good job of setting the scene in the 1930’s and 1950’s, and I’m sure there are others I have missed (but these were the ones I was reading as a kid). And then came Terry Pratchett with his dry British humour, his hilariously disastrous characters and his social commentary, hidden underneath all of the fantastic dialogue and world building.
Let’s start with the world building though, as this is the very first Discworld novel. If you haven’t started yet, I’d like you to turn your books to page 11 and meet, the Great A’Tuin. The Great A’Tuin, of course, is the giant turtle who swims (flies?) through space. And on top of their back stand four giant elephants. And on top of the elephants is the Disc, which is of course, where the novels of the Discworld take place (ahhh, it all makes sense now). The Disc, of course, is flat (insert social commentary about ‘flat-earthers’) and should you go over the edge, you will immediately plunge into space and likely die. No one actually knows this, of course, because no one has ever returned from such a ridiculous voyage! *cough* However, the world is so vastly different from ours, that you would be hard pressed to not appreciate the amazing job that Pratchett has done in terms of world-building, particularly as there are forty-one novels (yup, 41 books in this series, you read it right the first time). Each continent has its own unique landscapes and idiosyncrasies of culture, and these are explored in different novels over the series.
So, the main characters of this novel are Rincewind, who makes several appearances throughout the series, and Twoflower, who (from my memory) appears in The Light Fantastic (and maybe another?). We also see the introduction of Luggage, who sticks around for a while, and the gods (small ‘g’) who make various appearances throughout the series. To be honest, I don’t really like Rincewind or Twoflower, Luggage is who (what?) makes this book for me. Honestly, I’m hanging out for Equal Rites (book 3) for most of my fave characters to appear. Is it kind of weird that the witches are my fave characters, but the wizards are probably my least fave? (I can’t help it, they’re just so inept at life!) I will say that my fave character of the wizard books is the Librarian, and Ridcully is ok too.
However, Death gets his own paragraph. Of course, you all must know some kind of personification of death. Whether that be the Grim Reaper, Mot, Thanatos (any Marvel fans here?), or La Calavera Catrina, death has taken many forms. Probably not quite such a hilarious form as the Disc’s Death though. For anyone looking for some mildly witty and sarcastic Death quotes, they are not in speech quotation marks. Death always speaks in CAPITALS, as though the sound is everywhere, and not actually spoken aloud, as it should be when you speak with such an entity. I’ve a random quote for your enjoyment (that has no spoilers).
At the top of the cellar steps Broadman knelt down and fumbled in his tinderbox. It turned out to be damp.
‘I’ll kill that bloody cat,’ he muttered, and groped for the spare box that was normally on the ledge by the door. It was missing. Broadman said a bad word. A lighted taper appeared in mid-air, right beside him.
HERE, TAKE THIS.
‘Thanks,’ said Broadman.
DON’T MENTION IT.
Broadman went to throw the taper down the steps. His hand paused in mid-air. He looked at the taper, his brow furrowing. Then he turned around and held the taper up to illuminate the scene. It didn’t shed much light, but it did give the darkness a shape . . .
‘Oh, no—’ he breathed.
BUT YES, said Death.
Pratchett’s writing style is unique, and the closest I have ever seen is Tom Holt (who, if you like Pratchett, I recommend you try The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice). It’s this amazing blend of dry humour, wit, fantastical whimsy, and a touch of sarcasm. All of this is rolled up in footnotes, hilarious dialogue and the most fascinating social commentary that is still wildly relevant.
In short, this book isn’t one of my favourites, however, it is an amazing introduction to the Discworld itself and I can’t really fault it as an enjoyable book (it’s not Pratchett’s fault that Rincewind annoys me). If you haven’t read this, and you’re thinking about it, I absolutely recommend it. Also, it kind of ends on a cliffhanger (literally), but The Light Fantastic commences immediately afterwards if you’re concerned!
Others who participated in this read-a-long (review-a-long?) are:
Nicole at The Bookwork Drinketh
Kathy at Pages Below the Vaulted Sky
Nina at The Cozy Pages
Didi at Didi Oviatt
Alicia at Miss Honeybugs Reads & Crafts
Lauren at A Storm of Pages