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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Review: The Color of Magic

I have a secret that calls into question my geek card: I don't like fantasy novels.  Ok, let me qualify that, in general I don't like fantasy novels.  The ones I've read are either filled with atrocious writing or so many characters that I need a field guide to keep up.

However, I had heard Discworld mentioned lots of times before as a funny Douglas Adams-y take on fantasy and even caught part of the film Hogfather one day on TV.

So I was intrigued and checked out my library's e-book version of the first novel in the series, The Color (or Colour, if you're British) of Magic.

The Plot in a Sentence or two:
The sort of, kind of, but not really a full wizard, Rincewind, is paid by the fiscally frivolous Twoflower, the Discworld's first tourist, to show him around. Along for the ride is Luggage a sentient chest that has dozens of little legs and sometimes teeth and Hrun the Barbarian who can use two syllable words when he thinks about it.  They go through lots of adventures, cheating Death along the way (who really has had it up to here with Rincewind) with the help of the Lady (whose name starts with L, is fond of gambling, and disappears when you acknowledge her).

What I liked:
Pratchett has a great sense of humor and it really shows through the work.  He winks and nudges the reader with how silly the cliches of fantasy are while fully incorporating them into his works.  I love his nods at the multiverse and our world (for one brief moment, Rincewind and Twoflower find themselves in our dimension.  A short page or two, but is hilarious in it's own right.  Rincewind also learns of the "magic" of Twoflower's country: economics).  The plot is full of big action set pieces that hold your interest and keep the novel moving.

What I didn't like:
For all of its genre breaking, the things I didn't like about the novel are the same things that I don't enjoy about fantasy:  Too many characters to keep straight.  So many countries and races and changes of scenery that it's hard to keep them individualized.  However, because the book had a humorous, parody edge, I didn't stress out as much about trying to remember how everything tied in.  By the first quarter of the book, I just sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the ride.

I really enjoyed the book and plan on continuing to read them. I felt a bit intimidated when I found that there's 30 something books in the series, and you really shouldn't read them chronologically. Luckily the website The L-Space Web has a detailed reading guide so you can follow the different major characters on their adventures.

Not enough to fully change my mind about fantasy in general, the book was good enough to help me keep an open mind.

What about you, how do you feel about fantasy? Any favorites I should try?


Melme said...

My love for fantasy ebbs and flows. I go through phases when I can't seem to get enough and then there are times when I just can't seem to "get into" anything. But that's the way I am with most media. I've got kind of an all or nothing way of doing things.

Pratchett is one of my favorites. My first experience with him (and Neil Gaiman at the same time) was Good Omens, which I loved. If you're interested in continuing with Pratchett, my favorites are "The Witches" series. I've read Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad and Lords and Ladies. I think there are a couple more (Maskerade and Carpe Jugulum, I think), but I haven't read them. They're loosely connected to each other (not really a series so much as stories about the same characters) and they make a lot of references to classical literature in Pratchett's very tongue-in-cheek sort of way.

A lot of people would suggest Robert Jordan straight away, but MY GOD could that man (may he rest in peace) ramble! If you don't like a ton of characters and needless description, stay away.

My husband, who doesn't really like fantasy, suggests George R R Martin's "Game of Thrones" series, but I would add the caveat that a) it can be pretty graphic (sex, language and violence) at times, b) the man is merciless to his characters and c) it's not finished and we've been waiting on the next book FOR YEARS! It is an intriguing read, though and the man writes good characters. :)

I'm really liking Scott Lynch's "Gentleman Bastards" series, starting with The Lies of Locke Lemora. It veers away from the epicness that you see in so much fantasy and focuses on a small group of thieves and their antics. It's got kind of Robin Hood-esqe feel with a gritty edge. Plus, I love the creative "period" cursing. (Bum-f**kery being my personal favorite.) There is quite a bit of cussing, though, so if that bothers you, you've been warned.

And, as I'm sure you know, suggesting books is a dangerous thing. Everybody's tastes are different and I've had several, what I thought were spot on suggestions, be completely off. But, you do what you can, right?

Sorry about the tome! Hope it helps! :)

Witless Exposition said...

I've actually tried Robert Jordan and made it through four of the books, but then the character list got to me. I keep telling myself that I'll go back one day and finish the series, but I'm not really sure I will.

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