I re-read this now that it's more than a decade on (and I'm a cultured, classy, 26-year-old man who is able to tie a scarf unaided) in order to bring...moreI re-read this now that it's more than a decade on (and I'm a cultured, classy, 26-year-old man who is able to tie a scarf unaided) in order to bring you The Definitive Holistic Opinion of Harry Potter.
Having re-read it, I have less than no patience for anyone who is part of the abysmal "backlash" against these novels. If you're one of these people who got angry about the success of a kids book with a clear narrative voice, well-realised characters and central themes (initially) concerning bravery, stoicism and friendship then you're an idiot. The most offensive thing I found in this book was that I accidentally have the American version, and they kept referring to the Philosopher's Stone (a famous quasi-mythological alchemical artefact that gave the story a nice meta-narrative twist) as The Sorceror's Stone (presumably a Magic Rock? I don't know). Also they said Mom a lot (rightfully highlighted a furious crimson by my spell-checker). And apparently "bangs" are "a fringe". Bloody colonists.
I hate to sound like a typically English imperialist but is the concept of foreign euphemism such a daunting one that they must have a team of editors scour the book for any flavour and ruthlessly drain it? The book is so clearly set in England that whenever someone opens their mouth and crass bastardisation of the language tumbles out it snaps you clean out of the flow. I don't think anyone does counter-wise for American-to-English "translations", do they?
There is nothing at all wrong with this book, frankly it's so good -especially for a first attempt- that it painfully exposes how terribly it all fell apart later when the books became (book five) Harry Potter and The Long Boring One. Or (seven) Harry Potter and the Interminable Camping Trip Where They Bickered Until Someone Else Showed Him Where The Plot Contrivance Was. And then there was that awful hackneyed Christ allegory that was completely bewildering and out of nowhere. And she'd introduced a time-travel device four books ago that was just Never Mentioned Again (where did that go? That could have been really useful, couldn't it?).
All the foibles of the later books and minor plot niggles (the way Snape acts in the first book doesn't make any sense at all in the scheme of his later web of allegiance) aside, HP:TPS is a damn fine opening novel -outside of Pratchett- surely one of the finest children's books ever written, and a warm, genuine pleasure from cover to cover.(less)
I really do mean to be sparing with my five-star reviews.
It should be unusual for a person to say "this is among the best books I have ever read" more...moreI really do mean to be sparing with my five-star reviews.
It should be unusual for a person to say "this is among the best books I have ever read" more than three or four times a year, unless they're a hyperbolic teenager. Or don't read alot. This was just unarguably superlative, though.
Pratchett seems to have landed firmly on his feet at this point, and spends the novel firing on all cylinders exploring reflections as things both opposite and the same in his usual understated fashion. Crucially, this thematic exploration never intrudes on the immediacy of the mathematically precise interlocking narrative. Even going as far as to have a recurring joke about ignoring symbolism.
Blimey though it is a cracking narrative. Our superbly charactered mobile argument of a coven travel through a world populated by myth and magic and cliche, but viewed just that vital few degrees askance: "So the Big Bad Wolf, then, how could he talk? And is it ok that he just ate the grandma to set up a story?"
Frankly, when he's writing like this I'm reduced to nit-picking rather than criticism, so here it is: The resolution of the "Magrat and the Sisters" thread felt a little rushed and over-the-top. That's all I've got.
Funny, wise and touching the whole way through.(less)
Before I review this book I feel it's important that I give it some context:
A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)
The Tombs of Atuan (1971)
The Farthest Shore (19...moreBefore I review this book I feel it's important that I give it some context:
A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)
The Tombs of Atuan (1971)
The Farthest Shore (1972)
Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea (1990) The dates in particular.
The real heartbreak of this book is that it does not need to be a continuation of Ged's story. In fact, it should not. Books 1-3 of the Earthsea cycle are some of the best and most profoundly moving fantasy novels that have ever been written, all three of them together have perhaps half the word-count of The Fellowship of The Ring, yet cover ten times as much plot and have hundreds of times the emotional heft of the former.
The leading lady (Tenar) bounces reactively from one man to the next for menacing/protection as appropriate, while half-heartedly muttering about male dominance in the fantasy world, which would have been... tolerable if Le Guin had not consequently taken a hatchet to Ged's character in order to make some pretty unpleasant and misandrinist remarks about the Nature of Male Character In General. Concurrently to this, the titular character is introduced as a confusing metaphor for the power of women through... dragons, maybe?
As a standalone novel, it would be bad-to-average fantasy. As a coda to the Earthsea Cycle it is a travesty. Please, please read the first three, then never read this one.(less)
Very close to being excellent, but certain parts veered too far into farce for my taste. Still highly recommended to anybody for the perfect ending al...moreVery close to being excellent, but certain parts veered too far into farce for my taste. Still highly recommended to anybody for the perfect ending alone.(less)
I'd heard loads about how this was Dick's best book, so started here. But if this is as good as it gets I can't see much point continuing with him.
It...moreI'd heard loads about how this was Dick's best book, so started here. But if this is as good as it gets I can't see much point continuing with him.
It starts with some entertaining enough (if -understandably- dated) capitalist satire, then it introduces insane book-ruining magical powers and wastes 100 pages to get to a series of deus ex machina and plot... well, wrenches.
Bat-shit, semi-religious and it more just stops than ends. Can't recommend this at all.(less)
Often given special mention -even in company as stellar as Pterry's back-catalogue- Small Gods is the tale of the novice Brutha, his God Om, and the N...moreOften given special mention -even in company as stellar as Pterry's back-catalogue- Small Gods is the tale of the novice Brutha, his God Om, and the New Testament of the monotheistic religion formed around the latter.
Dr Mark Kermode often seasons any conversation about Spielberg's oeuvre with the formula: "The more serious the subject matter, the worse the film", contending that Schindler's List is no Jaws and Munich is no Lost Ark (I completely disagree, but stay with me). Every flaw (all one of them) in Small Gods comes from how passionate Pratchett was about what he was saying, and how careful he felt it was necessary to be with the subject matter. In addition, the sheer volume of stuff he tried to cover in one book hindered the narrative. We're taken on a whistle-stop biblical tour by a God and his only believer over such a broad scope of territory and ideas that the plot is gently steered (by necessity) toward the back burner while people, places and concepts are established.
To illustrate by comparison: R. Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing trilogy was (essentially) attempting what Small Gods did in 400 pages with three bloated volumes, and it crashed and burned in spectacular fashion come book three.
That said, this is still Pratchett damn close to the top of his game: Brutha and Om hashing out a bargain in the temple of a dead God, the mad embodiment of dogma (Deacon Vorbis) trying to convince us of the value of "fundamental truth" compared to mere "actual truth" or Didactylos recounting the importance of uncertainty as a starting point. So many of the scenes and interactions are superb, let alone how effortless he makes it seem to mix jokes with such a dark thematic palette.
It's just that after he set himself such a high standard with Reaper Man and Witches Abroad, Small Gods isn't as good.(less)
By Pratchett's (admittedly high) standards, this is definitely a bit rough. It's obvious that he's had a retcon a lot of the ideas in this book to get...moreBy Pratchett's (admittedly high) standards, this is definitely a bit rough. It's obvious that he's had a retcon a lot of the ideas in this book to get where he has with the series, but there's still that smooth prose and sense of fun you really don't get with a lot of other books.
Definitely worth re-reading just to see how the series started.(less)
**spoiler alert** Another strong entry for the Discworld series.
It was this book in which Pratchett claims to have discovered "The Joy of Plot", and i...more**spoiler alert** Another strong entry for the Discworld series.
It was this book in which Pratchett claims to have discovered "The Joy of Plot", and it shows. There's none of the useless drifting as in Equal Rites, and the ending seems to happen logically as opposed to on the whim of a super-character as in Mort.
It's the roughest treatment Pratchett ever gives one of his main characters, with Rincewind both not getting the girl and being left stranded in the "worse than hell" realm of the Dungeon Dimensions. Which, after you've read the other 30 books where everything generally comes up swimmingly for the main characters, was a bit of a shock.
Isplore the Red is likely the best antagonist he's put to the page over these first five books, as well. with the symbolism inherent in the cold metal staff put to perfect use. In retrospect, the whole point of the book seems to be: "only a complete nutter would want infinite power".
Downsides: The genie seems to be a bit of a missed gag, and the prose is a bit too full of simile. Fair enough a large chunk of the book is spent trying to describe the impossible, but almost every paragraph has something like a something something sounds like a something looking like the smell of paisley. It's fine for most of the book, but grates when the sorcerous confrontation really kicks off.(less)
This was a great book, definitely the best book of the first few, and a certain indication of better to come. It's 4 & 1/2 out of 5 but you can't...moreThis was a great book, definitely the best book of the first few, and a certain indication of better to come. It's 4 & 1/2 out of 5 but you can't do that here.
Pratchett finally gives free reign to his love of words and language, and his just-about reverent mockery of shakespeare and verse had me laughing out loud in places.
What's really impressive is how well he marries the disparate elements together; nerdy language jokes, references to pop-culture and a bickering coven all dish out the laughs at a swift pace which mostly dovetails neatly into the plot. I say mostly because, to borrow a criticism from the man himself: The plot fights with the gags over who goes first, and what the tone is..
All in all though, an excellent read, and a fine place to start your Discworld library.(less)
Death was toned down from a malicious agent towards the more gentle and implacable figure he would later be. The...moreMuch better than The Colour of Magic.
Death was toned down from a malicious agent towards the more gentle and implacable figure he would later be. The Librarian was introduced, if briefly, and it contains the pun "Horse D'oeurves", which is frankly outstanding.
The plot rattles along at a fair old pace, and we get the first look at what Pratchett really considers the only antogonist worth writing about, what he termed "The death of the mind". How people respond to fear and adversity by abdicating what it is that makes them worthwhile.
That and it manages to have a conclusion that is both funny and exciting.(less)
Pratchett's first three discworld books all showed different aspects of what he could do with a pen.
The Colour of Magic was a showcase for his insane...morePratchett's first three discworld books all showed different aspects of what he could do with a pen.
The Colour of Magic was a showcase for his insane inventive side, The Light Fantastic showed his ability to resolve plot-threads with real panaché and Equal Rites was where we first got a look at his talent for seeing people and their motivations.
Compare it to his later stuff and it's still rough, pale fare, and there's about fifty to a hundred pages in the middle that serve no discernable purpose which almost stopped me getting through it altogehter.
I'd say this is likely the worst book of his I've read, but I may revise this as I continue through his stuff in this quarter-life Pratchett retrospective.(less)