18/05/2015

Sourcery (by Terry Pratchett)


I’ve read most of the early Discworld books by the late Terry Pratchett at least a couple of times. But on my first read-through - which was about twenty years ago - I wasn’t particularly keen on the fifth in the series. So I never re-read it.

However, I recently came across an excellent review of Sourcery, which lauded it highly and made me think that perhaps I’d missed something. So I pulled it out, and have read it over the past week.

It begins with introducing a wizard, the eighth son of an eighth son, who did the unthinkable: he ran away from the celibate life of the Discworld wizards, and got married. Then he had eight sons, and according to Discworld lore, that made his youngest a Sourcerer, a powerful and potentially dangerous wizard who could do real magic, not just the minor academic stuff of the regular wizards, or the helpful herbalism and headology of the witches.

We then meet the Sourcerer as a young lad of, probably, about ten. He’s guided - or, rather, coerced - by the soul of his father who is implanted in his staff. He begins by insisting that he should be Archchancellor, although the official hat decides to make a run for it, and then by reforming the old city of Ankh Morpork to make a shining, glistening home for wizards - and these elderly, mostly harmless men find themselves doing magic too.

There are lots of viewpoints, lots of people; Rincewind the incompetent wizard finds himself in the midst of another adventure, with a barbarian girl who wants to be a hairdresser, and a young geeky guy who wants to be a barbarian. The four horsemen of the apocralypse (no typo: it’s an apocryphal end of the world) call into a pub for a drink and their horses are stolen. We meet a genie with an answering machine. And the librarian, who is an ape, seems to be the only person around with any idea of what’s going on…

It’s classic Pratchett, and I’m glad I re-read it, of only to appreciate the cleverness of his convoluted plots, and the brilliance of his original similes and metaphors that appear when least expected. But it didn’t really do anything for me; the classical and other allusions were minimal, the satire on humanity almost nill. I got the message that ‘real’ magic is dangerous, and to be avoided, but that was pretty clear right from the start.

And the end of the story was a bit of a let-down.

Certainly worth reading as part of the series, but not, in my view, one of the best Discworld books. There's no need to have read any of the earlier books, although it might make the number of characters slightly less confusing if you do.

'Sourcery' is constantly in print, despite having been published originally in 1988, and readily available second-hand.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

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