Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Review: The Light Fantastic

I've read and loved many of Terry Pratchett's books, including “Small Gods,” “Good Omens” (which he wrote with Neil Gaiman), and “Equal Rites.” So like many of his fans, I was deeply saddened to hear Terry died this past year. In honor of the creator of Discworld, I decided to read a book of his I'd never read before. When I found “The Light Fantastic” in the library, it seemed like the perfect fit.

What I love about Terry Pratchett is that he manages to pay homage to the scifi/fantasy genre even as he satirizes it. “The Light Fantastic” is filled with brilliant send ups of fantasy tropes, from the elderly but still heroic Cohen the Barbarian to the druids who are open to nature and science but burn anyone who disagrees with them. And of course there's Rincewind, the much beloved and terribly incompetent wizard protagonist of many of Pratchett's books. This was the first time I'd read a “Rincewind” book, and I found him as sharp and funny as I'd hoped. Pratchett makes Rincewind's tendency to run from danger seem practical and truly sympathetic, making Rincewind less of an anti-hero than someone flat out opposed to heroism in general.

Yet for all this book's sharp humor and lovable characters, Pratchett also depicts the terrifying results of religious fanaticism as well as the cold grey horror of relentless capitalism. Trymon, an ambitious wizard obsessed with organization, is willing to sacrifice anyone and anything on his path to power. Pratchett is careful to note that Trymon isn't cruel or sadistic per se; he simply doesn't notice or care if anyone is hurt by his actions. It's easy to see the humor in this book, but Pratchett's keen observations of human behavior and his humanist philosophy gives this book a deep heart. In the end, even Trymon can't stand the result of his blind actions, just as today's business “leaders” will suffer from the results of their terrible, selfish decisions as much as anyone else (think global warming or antibiotic resistance).

I enjoyed this book, and I'm looking forward to reading more of Terry Pratchett's books. Thankfully, he wrote a huge number of them before he died. Rest in Peace, Terry. The turtle moves.

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