Book Review: The Colour Of Magic By Terry Pratchett

When I was younger I really didn’t read. Books were a chore, tolerated in school and overlooked outside. They were just pages of words, incomprehensible, a puzzle without a picture, and aside from a few magazines (that related to my passions and hobbies), I could never find a way to pull any enjoyment from the words and stories they contained. My school friends, however, were different. For many, books played an important role in their lives and, at a time when you’re naively trying to press upon each other how cool and intellectual you are, I can clearly remember them going on about how Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody was the best song ever written, and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld saga was the best tale ever told.

But, still, I didn’t read it.

My “to read” pile, however, is starting to shrink and with my social media usage floundering into the non-existent as well, I’m struggling for sources of inspiration with which to replenish it. The result is that my mind is unlocking old memories. Thoughts of books I’ve never read but probably should have, slowly stumbling their way back into focus. I’ve got the seedling of a desire to read Harry Potter but before JK Rowling’s world of wizardry, I thought I’d throw myself at Discworld, ready to see if my childhood friends really were telling the truth!

Sadly, for me, they’re not. I’m sure, when you’re 12 years old, the idea of the world existing as a disc, perched on the back of giant turtle, is more than enough to set Terry Pratchett up as an absolute genius, but now, reading it as an adult, it was just the pathway into a tale that was beyond confusing.

The story would just waffle on in long-winded, and needlessly over polysyllabic, orations that lacked the natural rhythm required to make them easy to follow. Everything felt like it was being spun out and dragged through a pompous and wordy narration for the sake of trying to prove how clever it was. Instead of aiding the imagery, it just made it impossible to picture with any clarity; or follow with any conviction what was actually going on. I couldn’t even draw conclusive pictures of the main characters in my mind. Beyond the simplicity of a wooden chest on human legs, the rest of it’s cast were a conglomerate mess. The main protagonists played out by Gandalf the Grey and Hoggle from Labyrinth! I think the best way to explain my issue would be to suggest watching a foreign language film without any subtitles, you may have the basic idea of what is going on, but the why and the where of the story would be impossible to follow.

It doesn’t help, either, that Prachett’s attempt at humour felt totally cliched and outdated. Often, I felt like he was attempting to force a passage of text to be funny when it had no need and would fall flat. The lack of appropriate comic timing causing the joke to grate rather than amuse and the story would trip up, stutter forward and suffer as a result. Not that the story ever really felt like it was going to explode into life, though. Don’t get me wrong, the basic idea of the tale is OK, it evokes a fairy-tale image of fantasy, but I found it impossible to get beyond that with any real depth. Its surface is armoured by too many issues to be able to relax and get lost in its story.

I think this was highlighted best by the way my mind would wander easily and quickly onto other things as I read. It was a long way short of being a page-turner. For example, I usually read for around an hour at lunch, but after 30 minutes of The Colour of Magic, my mind couldn’t take anymore. I had to put it down. I’d give up and walk away, frustrated beyond enjoyment and without a desire to remain.

I really don’t see what my school friends, and an entire cult following, see in Pratchett’s Discworld stories.  The Colour of Magic gave life to it all, it should have brought this world screaming to life, it should have grabbed me, twisted me into a fantasy from which I didn’t want to leave. Instead, I have no real idea why anything actually happened and what little I did pull from the page, just felt adolescent and silly. Even the ending felt like it had less to do with rounding out the story it’d told to a fitting conclusion, and more like the book was taking a breath. It’s not an abrupt cut that could feel clinical and appropriate, either, but rather a slow exhale. It ends like a father reading to a child at bedtime saying “and here’s where we’ll stop for tonight”. But, unlike the excited kid, desperately wanting the next chapter now, I’ll be happy if I never step foot into the world again!

Posted on by 5WC in Book First Edition

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