Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The Colour of Magic, by Terry Pratchett

This is the first Terry Pratchett I have read- following his death earlier this year and due to the fact that I've had and meant to read a copy of this for ages, I suggested it as a book club read for November. Sorry guys.

Not only is it my first Pratchett, it is most certainly my last. I DNFd it folks. I very rarely DNF. I forced my poor, loyal eyes through about 220 pages, but I just could no go on. I got to the Dragon Wyrmberg bit but, after what I considered to be a valiant effort, it had to stop because it was making me hate books and hate reading and wanted to do literally anything else.

The Colour of Magic then. From what I could gather, it's about a magical world on the move, a disc held up by four elephants on a turtle swimming through space. Whatever floats your turtle. On this world is an undereducated wizard called Rincewind who finds himself, for reasons lengthy and dull, the guardian and custodian of an inept tourist from some wealthy mythical part of the Disc, called Twoflower. Twoflower and Rincewind tour what is for one a rugged and exciting once in a lifetime holiday destination, and for the other a mundane but deadly landscape. Along the way they get into a series of tousles and scrapes with trolls, dragons, tree elves and other assorted magical creatures. There's a part where all events that transpire might be decided by The Gods playing a tabletop board game. I think that's what was happening. The plot is incredibly episodic- our characters are captured/held up/threatened by a troll/dragon rider/barbarian/cranky God and they flee/escape/fight them accordingly and on to the next scuffle. Rinse and repeat.

It goes without saying that I did not like this book. At all. I'm not a *prolific* reader of the fantasy genre, but what I have read I've really enjoyed. From what I understand, The Colour of Magic is billed as a humorous parody of the Fantasy genre that pokes fun at its conventions and tropes. However, I found this book to be everything that I was pleasantly surprised to find that fantasy wasn't. Does that make sense? It was full of nonsense terms and ridiculous, underdeveloped characters, dithering trolls and brainless brawny heroes, bumbling wizards and diva dragon queens in skimpy loincloths...none of the fantasy novels I've ever read have been like that. I gather it's supposed to be a parody of fantasy writers such as Tolkein and Le Guin, but it came across as distinctly mean spirited and bitter. Tolkien's Middle Earth is a limitless expanse of wonder and imagination, his characters awe-inspiring and memorable. Yes there are a lot of them, but they all have functions and personalities and an essential group dynamic...I felt really defensive of Tolkien reading this and got kind of angry at how TP was mocking a genre that offers so many books that are so much better than his. Not just better stories, but better writing, better pace, better craft generally. I will say one thing though- I did like Death and hoped he would pop up more often, as his bemusement and stoic perseverance was one of the oly element of the book that I enjoyed.

Good parody is a loving homage, an acknowledgement of the traditions and conventions of a genre. It's funny. It works as a text in its own right. Hot Fuzz and Shawn of the Dead are brilliant homages to their genres. Scream. The Cabin in the Woods. They all show understanding and love of the genres they're sending up, an inside out knowledge and expert examination of convention and the audience's expectations. The Colour of Magic is to Fantasy what Scary Movie is to horror films. It becomes the very thing it thinks it's lampooning- in this case bad, generic fantasy.

I won't be returning to the Discworld. I had looked forward to reading this and had taken it for granted that I'd love it, so it was quite a weird feeling to have managed my expectations so badly. The Discword novels have such a fun fanbase that are both vocal and incredibly loyal and I'm sad that I have to hold my hands up to them and shrug. Not only do I not get it, I actively dislike the object of their fandom.

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