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Discworld 1 | Colour of Magic | Terry Pratchett | Review

Discworld 1 | Colour of Magic | Terry Pratchett | Review

Welcome! To Chasing Epiphanies! Where typically knowledge is power, but on this special occasion, we’re exploring the power of imagination. For you see today, we’re looking at the first novel in Terry Pratchett’s highly acclaimed Discworld series, The Colour of Magic. The tale starts in the city of Ankh-Morpork, to which a ship has just brought its
very first tourist, from a distant continent. With him he brings a large sapient treasure chest, that walks around on numerous little legs, carrying around immense amounts of gold. We learn this tourist’s name is Twoflower, as he meets with our highly inept hero, Rincewind. Now Rincewind is a man who got expelled from the Unseen University of Wizardry, due to peeking at some forbidden texts, rendering him incapable of using any magic at all except for one spell, that – for all he knows – could end the entire world. And speaking of the world, it’s a literal disk, as the name of series implies, carried on the backs of four elephants, that in turn or carried through space by a galactic turtle. Being an astronomer in this world must either absolutely suck, or it’s the most exciting thing evah! Meanwhile, back in ye olde classic fantasy tavern, upon realizing that Twoflower has no idea how valuable gold is in Ankh-Morpork, Rincewind offers to be the man’s guide so he can get severely overpaid by his new eccentric employer. What follows is a whimsical journey into high fantasy and British humour, with Rincewind and Twoflower travelling in the world, stumbling into all sorts of trouble, while being stalked by the literal embodiment of Death no less. It’s one of Rincewind’s few skills. He can see Death and converse with him as well as see octarine, an impossible greenish-purple color that signifies that there’s magic in the air. I probably should have seen it coming but I was still surprised to see that there’s barely anything resembling a plot in this. It’s a buddy adventure, told in an episodic format, each of the four chapters representing a self-contained story along their journey. The thing about episodic stuff however is that – much like an anthology – the overall quality will depend on how many good episodic stories you have to tell. The first chapter was probably my least favorite, as it was overcrowded with characters
that you don’t know if they’ll be worth remembering, though I did like Rincewind and Twoflower’s interactions here, their initial moments of culture shock, while dodging thieves and bandits that are after Twoflower’s luggage. The second chapter takes us on a dungeon crawl and pretty early on it becomes apparent that this chapter is a Lovecraft parody… of sorts. It’s the most recognizable reference. And if I had been a reader back in the 80s when this came out, maybe I would have thought it was hilarious, but if I’m being honest some jokes in
this book don’t feel like jokes, just plain randomness. The world sometimes bends over backwards to push in references or world altering events out of nowhere. I mean honestly what’s so great about random- uh, why is there a banana on my head? Look into my eyes~ Look up! There’s the vast infinity of the sky! Look down! There’s an ant on the path you walk upon. To the planet you are small, yet to the ant as massive as the sky! We’re all small to someone, yet as great as gods to others! PERSPECTIVE/RETROSPECTIVE All hail the Banasune Empire! PRESENTATION/REPRESENTATION All hail and worship me! Tsar of the Spanish Guitar! President of Cold Hands! And the God… of GUILTY PLEASURES! [Explosion and Rock n’ Roll!] The third chapter brings us into conflict with a group of Dragon Riders, nestled into an upside-down mountain. This is where I’d say things start to pick up more, as we get more interesting concepts of world building. For example the dragons around the Wyrmberg – as the mountain is called – are magic projections of the riders’ minds. The more your imagination can grasp the concept of a dragon, the better it takes form in the physical world. You might call this a form of Platonic Idealism, a philosophical concept that imagines the physical world as a lesser version of the true world of ideas, where everything exists in their purest form. It’s similar to ideas I’ve seen in other fantasy stories as well, where knowing something’s true name gives you power over it. And frankly it’s one of my preferred types of magic systems, since this way every spell can reflect the
imagination and intellect of the characters. Finally, we arrive at the fourth and final chapter, which brings us close to the world’s edge and it’s by far my favorite part. It’s got the most creative use of magic. The stakes are high. The jokes don’t feel as random. The world-building is a delight to read. The characters are pushed to their limits. And the story – while still having some bits
of parody in it – still feels authentic. What I mean is that this adventure didn’t happen just to parody something else, it felt like it actually made sense that this story would happen in a Discworld setting, exploring the edges of the world. Overall it’s an awesome note to end on, except… it ends on a goddamn cliffhanger! I guess that’s just what I get for going blind into this series. If my research is correct the second novel,
The Light Fantastic, should tie things up a bit better. As I understand it, once Terry Pratchett knew that he was going to dedicate himself to writing about this world, his books became more focused and just better in general. Seems I’ll just have to read the next one, eventually, and see for myself. So, till next time always remember Imagination is sexy, so be the sexy you. Read a book! Woah wait! Maybe… if I just use the power of imagination I could magically learn the story of the next book. Asa baza, sim salla, cliffhangus! Doh! Bloody hell! [Echoing down]

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