The late Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels have long been a glaring omission in my sci-fi/fantasy reading. Attempts at rectifying this have often seemed daunting: the man penned a lot of these books, and the manner in which you break into them seems more confusing than it should be. On the one hand it’s claimed that the books are all largely standalone and that you should just jump into whatever seems appealing to you. On the other hand there appear to be multiple sub-series which should be read in a particular order. In both cases the sheer amount of choice is quite intimidating.
As such I have for now made the boring choice to read the Discworld novels in the order that they were published. This allows me to both placate the obsessive completionist side of my reading while also seeing how Pratchett developed his world as he continued to write about it. Which means starting off with The Colour of Magic.
After a droll introduction explaining Discworld cosmology, the narrative focuses in on the inept wizard Rincewind, who is tasked with protecting Twoflower, Discworld’s first tourist (his vacation seems to be on the verge of sparking an international relations disaster). What follows is an episodic series of misadventures as the two of them stumble through various scenic locales.
At times it reminded me of Jack Vance’s picaresque Cugel novels, with its sense of surreal and absurd satire, albeit without Vance’s baroque prose and dialogue. Like Vance’s dying earth, Discworld seems to run on a sort of structured illogic, where the rules of its fantasy world are just vague and loose enough for the narrative to flaunt it without feeling random.
It was an enjoyable and at times memorable ride that didn’t quite overstay its welcome. As a standalone novel it’s decent enough, but I can see the potential for future greatness here. The general consensus seems to be that it takes Pratchett two or three novels in before he hits his stride, so I am interested to see where he takes things.
So as an introduction I’d say that The Colour of Magic was a success.