Thursday, May 12, 2016

Nation, by Sir Terry Pratchett

This week I'm taking a look at one of Pratchett's stand-alone novels, Nation, which is set in an alternate universe Earth in the Great Pelagic Ocean which is like the South Pacific, but different! Although the fact it's an alternate universe doesn't factor in as greatly until you get towards the end of the book, but I digress. Overall this is very much a Pratchett book because it manages to simultaneously be funny with that dry English wit Pratchett specializes in, while also being immensely philosophical as well. In some ways I think it's a good way to introduce people to Pratchett without overwhelming them with the complex cast of characters found in Discworld.

The plot centers mostly around Mau, a boy from an island referred to only as the Nation who is finishing his ritual stay on the Boys Island and is returning home to complete his coming of age ritual. However his world is swept away, very literally, when a great tsunami washes through the Mothering Sunday Islands, devastating the entire island chain. Mau is forced to find a way to survive in a world devoid of people, although that begins to change when first he discovers a mysterious white girl, the survivor of a ship that's been tossed onto the Nation. After the initial misunderstandings they start working together, although things become much more complicated when other people begin turning up on the island as well.

As a Pratchett book this is actually pretty standard for him, and I don't mean that disparagingly. It's quite a good book and he deals with topics such as religion, science, politics, the seething trouble that is humanity providing his own humanistic philosophy towards everything. But for me personally, who's read almost everything else he's written, it's hardly anything new to me. As an avid Pratchett fan I have been exposed numerous times to his philosophy and it's certainly affected my thinking quite a bit. But after reading it so many times it starts to get a little preachy. Again, this isn't to say that his philosophy is bad or anything, I actually agree with quite a lot of it, but for me it kind of feels like more of the same at this point rather than something new.

I think if I were to recommend this book to anyone, I'd recommend it to people who don't feel like they could commit to reading Discworld. I will admit that with it being such a long-running and complicated series it's a little intimidating to know where to begin. Nation however is a stand-alone novel and it's not overly long so I think it'd be less intimidating for the casual reader. Especially those poor deluded souls who look down on fantasy as being an inferior genre. While Pratchett's other books have gone into matters like law, politics, religion, and stories in greater detail, Nation talks about everything a little more generally so I think it's a nice eclectic selection of his personal philosophy. If you ever wanted to read about the ideas of what may be considered one of the greatest humanist philosophers in recent times, Nation is a very good way to do that.

Otherwise, if you've read Discworld and you're familiar with Pratchett's personal philosophy I think you'll find this is very much the same stuff. It's good stuff! But still the same.

- Kalpar

No comments:

Post a Comment