“The Color of Magic” by Terry Pratchett
When Terry Pratchett passed away earlier this year, I decided it was time to explore his Discworld universe. It turns out, it was way past time.
Brief backstory: You have a flat, round world sitting on the backs of four enormous elephants who are in turn standing on the back of a mindbogglingly massive sea turtle slowing flippering its way through space. On this world (the Discworld), there is a preternaturally inept wizard named Rincewind who, much to his chagrin, becomes tourguide to the world’s first tourist, a strange being named Twoflower who is completely lacking in any instinct for self-preservation. Then, you know, there’s a hulking barbarian, dragons, tree-nymphs, sentient luggage, and Death himself.
The book is organized into four vignettes. They follow each other sequentially, but are written in such a way that they almost read more like short stories than chapters.
I truly enjoyed this book. The tone is absurd and satirical, taking all the tropes of ‘80s high fantasy and cranking them up to eleven. It was like reading Monty Python or witnessing the world’s silliest game of D&D. If such geeky references are already putting you off, this is not the book for you. But if they made you chuckle, or if you just said to yourself, “The world’s silliest game of D&D? I don’t know. That’s a pretty stiff competition,” odds are either you’re already a Discworld fan or you desperately need to be.
This is the first novel published in the Discworld series, but I found out a while after I read it that there is some debate among fans of Pratchett’s work as to whether this title or Equal Rites, the third published, should be read first. They each launch a different subseries, so there is no canonical harm in reading them in any old order. Having now read both, I can tell you that Equal Rites is in some ways more accessible. Equal Rites is cheekily humorous without being as completely over-the-top as The Color of Magic, and the plot is a continuous progression from beginning to end rather than episodic jumps. If you want to ease yourself into Pratchett’s world, go with Equal Rites. As for me, I’m actually really glad I started with The Color of Magic.
If you like satire, humor, and fantasy, you may love this book.