A right good romp on the Disc, full of madcap adventure and plenty of wonderment (plus a dash of introspection for good measure)!
This the first book of Pratchett’s long-running Discworld series, and the first gateway into all things Disc (yet it is not the only entry point). The story is told through four novelette-sized vignettes that tie together enough to justify compilation here.
The story is told through the eyes of the much-harried wizard, Rincewind, who has been expelled from the wizarding school known as the Unseen University due to his rather inconvenient ability of not being able to cast any spells (almost). Rincewind makes fast friends with a local ‘tourist’ named Twoflower (the first tourist in fact). The wizard is primarily concerned with his new friend’s inexhaustible supply of precious metals due to a quirk in the exchange rates (setting a nice tone of absurdity to compliment Pratchett’s steady, dry and brilliant wit). The local Patrician charges Rincewind with the seemingly impossible task of keeping Twoflower alive while he tours about the place (no need to start an international incident by letting the locals pop off paying tourists).
The story takes on the momentum of a roly poly dodge of misadventures as the twosome seem to simply fall in and out of trouble. The action is often driven by Twoflower’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed view of the world as he stumbles along taking in all the sights. The tourist is too awed at each every new experience to notice when any real danger is abound. Rincewind serves as a polarizing balance to this as he continually foretells their certain doom with biting sarcasm. That said, Rincewind also manages to develop a special place in his heart for Twoflower’s unique and almost child-like love of new experiences which helps to fully flesh the characters out.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the luggage. Every tourist must carry their very own piece of gawdy and garish luggage. Twoflower is no different. However, we learn very early on that this particular piece of travelware is very unique—being of the magical quality. The luggage itself becomes a character unto itself and is even granted a sort of point-of-view status throughout the book as it scurries on after its meandering owner like an extremely loyal big dog. I’ll say no more, except that the luggage really was my favorite part of the book.
Our protagonists pass through various parts of Discworld, much like a mad tour bus (with pontoons and wings) might. We get to see a lot and this book has the usual tongue-in-cheek, world-building asides that offer laugh-out-loud perspectives on an absurd world that all too closely mirrors our own in its absurdity. Of course, this is Pratchett’s genius as he makes us reconsider our own reality through the unique silliness floundering about on Discworld.
Through various interactions with other players on the Disc (including the gods themselves), we learn more and more about Rincewind and Twoflower. From sword-slashing barbarians to academic wizards; even fabled dragons and monsters abound the place. Classic fans of the fantasy genre will note some specific references that might particularly tickle their funny bones, but even neophyte priests will enjoy the universally relatable humor. I mean come on? Twoflower is an insurance salesman on holiday amongst: trolls, dragons, pirates, slavers, wizards, heroes, and multi-tentacled beasts of old. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?!
Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes, YouTube or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).