The Color of Magic

One of the most well known and beloved of Fantasy series is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.  To date, there are 39 books in the series, and the books don’t have to be read in a specific order because they each tell stories about different people who live in Discworld.  The Color of Magic was the first Discworld book originally published in 1983.  This is also the first Discworld book that I’ve read, and it’s going to be the last.

Book Stats

210 pages

Fantasy

1st book of the Discworld series.

Setting

Discworld is a very strangely set up planet, it’s completely flat, and it rests upon the backs of four giant elephants.  What do the elephants stand on?  Why a giant turtle drifting though space of course.  The very basis of the world for these books shows that they’re going to be humorous books, or at least that was the author’s intent.  On the actual planet, the setting is a fairly standard pseudo-medievel European fantasy.  There are a a lot of magical elements in the book, and they seem to follow their own rules as they go along.  As weird as it is, the setting is the strongest part of this book.

Characters

There are two main characters in the book, the first is Rincewind a semi-trained wizard who was kicked out of wizardry school because he opened a forbidden book and the book lodged a spell into his brain.  The spell that is stuck there is the only spell he knows, but he has no idea what it does, making him a horribly incompetent wizard.  The only marketable skills that Rincewind is able to use are his skill as a translator and his skill at running away, both of which he does on a regular basis in this book.  The other main character is Twoflower, a tourist from a secluded continent who is on vacation exploring the rest of Discworld.  Where Rincewind is cowardly, Twoflower is stupidly optimistic and overly trusting of everything he sees in the world.

Plot

Ostensibly the plot was the story of Rincewind guiding Twoflower on his vacation through Discworld.  In truth the plot is a mash up of non-sequitar story elements, many of which never get resolved throughout the course of the book.  The book is split into 4 sections, each of which tells a different story about what Rincewind and Twoflower went through.  The biggest problem is that in none of the stories are they actually responsible for getting themselves out of trouble.  It’s either accidentally accomplished while Rincewind is running away, or it’s done through the actions of some of the gods who watch over the Discworld, or it’s a complete deus-ex-machina where the solution to their problem happens when their bodies are shifted to another dimension and they find themselves on a plain rather than falling aimlessly to the earth.

Enjoyment

One of the things that I’ve heard about the Discworld books is that they get better as the series goes along, all I can say to that is that I certainly hope so, because this book was absolutely terrible.  It was a combination of poorly told jokes, excessively explained worldbuilding (Where he constantly stops and explains in either paragraph form – or in footnotes a couple of times – something about the world that doesn’t matter to the plot.  It’s nothing more than lazy storytelling and a way to try and tell a cheap joke.), and constantly introduced story threads that never resolve.  The ending of the book is also garbage, because it doesn’t really end, it just sort of stops.  One of the main aspects of the story as it’s being told is the question of what the spell that Rincewind knows actually does, you never find out.  It’s constantly brought up that he might use it in a life or death situation – because who knows, it might do something helpful – but the one time he actually tries to use it he’s abruptly saved just before he can finish casting it.

The only decent thing I can say about this book is that it’s letting me do something on my blog that I haven’t done before – give a book a 1/10.

Overall Grade

Nothing in this book worked for me, the only thing that reading this book accomplished was to convince me to never pick up another book in the Discworld series.

1/10

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9 Comments

  1. Ohhh dear. :S This doesn’t bode well. I’ve got this book on my bookshelf but I haven’t read it yet, I bought it on a whim, knowing that many people praise Terry Pratchett. Maybe it wasn’t the best book for me to pick.
    Have you read any of his other works?

    Reply
    • I’ve read Nation, which is a standalone book he wrote that isn’t part of Discworld (I read it before I started my blog, so I don’t have a review, but thinking back on it I’d probably give it a 5 or 6 out of 10). I’ve also read Good Omens, which he co-authored with Neil Gaiman, which does have a review on my blog (I gave it a 6/10).

      I bought the book for the same reason you did, it’s a short book, so it won’t take too much time to read, but it just didn’t work for me at all.

      Reply
      • Ahhh right interesting, so you wern’t blown away by any of them. I must admit I’m not too sure how I’m going to get on with it either, it does sound like a very strange book!

  2. I have to disagree with you, I just read The Color of Magic. I have also read Good Omens and Making Money, another Disc World novel. from my opinion Pratchett is mocking the standard assumptions of fantasy novels. To that end the entire point of this book is that neither of the main characters are in control, they are being pushed forward towards the end of the story by supernatural forces. He is mocking the concept of the god choosing great heroes for destiny. If the gods need something done they can pick the most hapless idiot to do it, because they control all the rules.

    Reply
    • I see what you’re saying, but if the characters who we’re following don’t impact the story at all, why are we following them? I had the same problem with Good Omens, the two main characters in that book don’t impact anything involving the final resolution of the problem told in the story, so why are we following them as opposed to the more active characters?

      Even though he is clearly mocking the standard assumptions of fantasy novels, the plot is completely incoherent and doesn’t come to any kind of a resolution. Another problem is that the characters really have no skills at all that they could possibly rely on. It’s one thing to say that they have no control over their situation, but when you add in the fact that there is no possible way for them to get out of their problem, you have inactive main characters who are relying on the deus-ex-machina simply to survive. And as for the gods needing something done, what exactly do they accomplish in this book other than introducing Discworld to the readers?

      And for the most subjective part of my score for the book, I just didn’t think it was funny. The jokes were just put in place wherever Pratchett wanted to put them, regardless of how well it would fit into that part of the story. As a counter to this, read some of the books by Christopher Moore (especially Lamb and his vampire trilogy -Bloodsucking Fiends, You Suck, and Bite Me). Moore does an excellent job of telling jokes within the context of the story rather than shoehorning them in whether they fit or not. The Monster Hunter International books by Larry Correia are another good example of an author putting humor into a book without losing the story.

      Reply
  3. This was one of those books I’d heard of that was vaguely on my to-read list. Thanks for saving me the trouble!

    Reply
  4. I read The Color of Magic a few years ago and had practically the same reaction as you. I admit that some of it made me chuckle, but for the most part, it was simply too absurd for my taste. I haven’t picked up another Discworld novel since.

    Reply
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