My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pratchett’s world develops so much more in this, the second Discworld novel. The LIght Fantastic picks up where The Colour of Magic left off, following the bumbling adventures of Rincewind, Twoflower, and The Luggage.
Pratchett’s similes are still unique, such as when describing the inside of a cloud –
Rincewind looked around, but for all the variety and interest in the scene around him they might as well have been in the inside of a pingpong ball.
– And so is his humour –
Riding along with her were a number of swarthy men that will certainly be killed before too long anyway, so a description is probably not essential.
– But his rambling has tightened considerably, such as this digression about honesty in reporting –
Thus, if a legend said of a notable hero that ‘all men spoke of his prowess’ any bard who valued his life would add hastily ‘except for a couple of people in his home village who thought he was a liar, and quite a lot of other people who had never really heard of him.’ Poetic simile was strictly limited to statements like ‘his mighty steed was as fleet as the wind on a fairly calm day, say about Force Three’, and any loose talk about a beloved having a face that launched a thousand ships would have to be backed by evidence that the object of desire did indeed look like a bottle of champagne.
Trust me, that’s tighter than in The Colour of Magic!
And, (drumroll) only three footnotes!
Also, I suspect the slip about the toothless Cohen the Barbarian ‘gritting his teeth’ was an intentional mistake because that’s just the kind of audience we Discworld readers love to discover and feel smart about.
But it’s the foreshadowing I love the most, over short and long terms. A discussion about where Twoflower bought The Luggage introduces our first wandering shop (sorry, tabernae vagantes). Disappearing as suddenly as it appears, its passing leaves nothing behind but a blank brick wall. In our world, we probably think it’s a fly-by-night shop that shuts down almost as suddenly as it opens, a purveyor of quality $2 goods, but it has a much more fantastic reason for existence in The Light Fantastic. In the short term, we know not to trust an apparently blank brick wall our heroes later encounter, but it also comes up many books down the line in a Vimes story with far greater significance. Pratchett is a master of such foreshadowing (which helps in the rambling funny bits).
Another talent that’s becoming stronger in The Light Fantastic is what I call the Pratchett Unsaids. You have to be alert at all times reading the Discworld novels, because while your mind is busy wandering off thinking about whether you need more chips, a paragraph with a hidden depth passes you by –
Weems crept very cautiously through the scrubby, mist-laden trees. The pale damp air muffled all sounds, but he was certain that there had been nothing to hear for the past ten minutes. He turned around very slowly, and then allowed himself the luxury of a long, heartfelt sigh. He stepped back into the cover of the bushes.
Something nudged the back of his knees, very gently. Something angular.
He looked down. There seemed to be more feet down there than there ought to be.
There was a short, sharp, snap.
See? If you’re not paying attention, you have no idea that The Luggage just ate poor old Weems.
All in all, The Light Fantastic is a far stronger and tighter story than in The Colour of Magic, and I can’t wait to get to reading the next one. Again. (It’s Equal Rites by the way. Yep. TP is king of the pun.)