Gavin's Reviews > Pyramids

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett
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's review
Feb 28, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy
Read from February 15 to 28, 2011

The problem I'm having re-reading Pterry's early stuff is how he tends to revisit the same themes and character-types later, and do them orders of magnitude better.

I admit I have a soft spot for Pyramids -even though it's clearly proto-Small Gods- largely because the establishing sequence (Pteppic's introduction during his Assassin's exam) is absolutely inspired writing. It's punchy, funny and ferociously lean, and it contains all the wit and wisdom to be expected from Pratchett at his best. From here, the plot moves, via interesting contrivance, to a wonderfully thorough alter-Egypt in the form of Djelibeybi to meet Deacon Vorbi- sorry, High Priest Dios, the antagonist of the piece.

Now, I am fine with what he does with Dios: Yes, he seems to have lifted it from The Stainless Steel Rat's "Him" somewhat, but that's a damn fine place to lift material from and he does enough new things with Dios to ensure his fate is both logical and thematically satisfying (rather than TSSR's Deus Ex Machina). Unfortunately -as with so many of his books- Dios is not, in actual fact, an antagonist. There's even a narrative interjection at one point where we're told that High Priest's are Always The Baddies, which is clunky and awkward enough before you realise that this passage has to be there because he's realised we don't actually dislike the villain.

However, as criticisms of an author go "he's far too nice a chap to write a boo-hiss villain" is pretty tame stuff, and it's clear throughout the story that the real enemy of the Old Kingdom is the willing, subservient stupidity & stagnation engendered by millennia of pointless Ritual. The real negatives are his ill-disciplined Tsortean/Ephebian midriff (done much better in Jingo, as it happens), which stems from the drifting, threat-free plot.

Still, even when he drifts and meanders, it's seldom a diversion you're entirely against taking, and the excellent portions outweigh the mediocre by quite some margin.
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Reading Progress

02/23/2011 page 80
23.0% "16% - when the pharoah dies: I understood death would come in the form of a giant, three-headed scarab beetle. Death shrugged. WELL. NOW YOU KNOW. Goddamn I have to stop reading these in public."

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