The Colour of Magic (by Terry Pratchett)

It’s a long time since I’ve read any of the late Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ books. I’ve lent some to a young friend, and finally decided it was time to re-read them myself. I decided to start at the beginning, even though I didn’t get very far in my last re-read. So a week or so ago I picked up ‘The Colour of Magic’, which I last read in 2007.

I remembered that this book is not as full of satire as the later Discworld books; nor do the characters have any real depth of personality. But although I expected to find it a tad tedious, I found myself enjoying it very much. The story is about a ‘foreign’ tourist, called Twoflower, who arrives in Ankh-Morpork full of enthusiasm for seeing the sights. He has a ‘picture box’, with an imp inside painting pictures for him, which is a wonderful precursor to many other pseudo-technological items that appear in later books.

We also meet the ‘Luggage’, Twoflower’s faithful follower, made of sapient pearwood. This is like a large suitcase on legs, and it contains whatever its owner happens to need - including food, at times. It manages to keep going despite all kinds of disasters, even shipwreck. Although it has no face, it can appear hurt or angry, and has been known to bite or even consume people - or other creatures - with whom it is annoyed.

Twoflower is befriended by Rincewind, the small, skinny and not very successful wizard who has been thrown out of the Unseen University. Rincewind is self-centred but basically kind, and feels honour bound to keep Twoflower safe from the many dangers that might beset him. He’s tempted by his gold, too. But Twoflower, oblivious to most threats, and enthralled by the dangers he spots, is delightfully naive.

It’s basically an adventure story, introducing some of the Discworld races - and they really are different races, not merely different nationalities of humans - and also seeing life from a pseudo-theological perspective. The Discworld gods are rather like the Greek pagan ones, throwing dice to determine the fate of people in the world, and in particular Rincewind.

We meet the skeletal Death, who appears in almost all the Discworld books too. He’s not a particularly nice character in this one, and his role seems a bit more direct than it becomes in later books. Still, I like the way Pratchett picked up on some of his early creations and built them up to become more three-dimensional.

There are puns, and literary references, some of which I ‘got’, others of which passed me by. Anyone curious about them, or wanting to know where Pratchett got some of his names from, can check the relevant Discworld Wiki page.

All in all, I enjoyed it. I should mention that the book ends on an almost literal cliffhanger, which is continued (eventually) in the sequel, ‘The Light Fantastic’, which I expect to read in about a month or so.

Review by Sue F copyright 2019 Sue's Book Reviews

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