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The Light Fantastic: 07/02/10

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I can remember standing in the duty free shop before the start of the Alaskan cruise. There was a spinning rack of science fiction and fantasy paperbacks. I had the money for one book. It came down to two: The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. As I was in a hurry I didn't even notice that they were books one and two in the then new Discworld series. I chose The Colour of Magic because I liked the title best.

I promptly forgot about The Light Fantastic until nearly twenty years had passed. In fact, I forgot about Terry Pratchett except for remembering that I had loved The Colour of Magic until my husband discovered my old copy. He is a more avid reader of series than I am and promptly went on a Discworld binge. In 2002 while on a business trip to Vancouver he picked up a bunch of the early Discworld books, including The Light Fantastic. He brought them home, read them and put them on our bookshelves before I even noticed that we had them.

In the meantime, I'd taken to reading the more recent Discworld books. When I was doing a shelf purge for the Friends of the Library I found our copy of The Light Fantastic and realized I had never read it, even though I knew the basic plot both from my husband describing the book to me and from watching the The Colour of Magic miniseries which combines the first two books. I read the book during down times at my Census enumerator training back in April.

Anyway, the book starts off where Colour of Magic ends. Rincewind, Twoflower and his luggage have fallen off the disc. They are saved by a very powerful spell with a mind of its own. Meanwhile, the entire world seems to be swimming towards certain doom in the form of a bright red star. If the wizards of Unseen University can stop fighting amongst themselves they might be able to put things to right.

When I talk to other Pratchett fans about The Light Fantastic the general consensus seems to be that the second book is better than the first. Here I have to buck with popular opinion and choose The Colour of Magic. There's something so delicious absurd about a tourist who acts like someone from any generic metropolis here on Earth going on vacation in a city built up of fantasy tropes such as Ankh-Moorpork. I think part of the magic for me is that I was playing tourist while reading the book.

With The Light Fantastic Pratchett expands his focus from Ankh-Moorpork to the disc as a whole, including the great Atun and the four elephants, to explain how the world works and all the other fantastic creatures and magical places. It's fun and all but it seems like too much jumping around from location to location for such a short book.

That being said, my favorite version of The Light Fantastic has to be The Colour of Magic miniseries. It's worth seeing if you haven't had the chance.

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Friday, July, 9, 2010 at 00:49:35

Lauren B

I just wanted to hop over and say hey. I adore Terry Pratchett and this was a good one, even though my favorites are the ones about Granny Weatherwax or Commander Vimes. Have you read Masquerade? I think that might be my favorite of all Terry Pratchett works, that and Jingo.

Comment #2: Sunday, July 11, 2010 at 13:18:04


My husband shares your love of the Weatherwax and Vimes books. I've read most of the Vimes books and the Weatherwax are my next priority for the series. I haven't read Masquerade yet.

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