Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Blog Fantastic 015: Sourcery review

It’s true I’ve only read five Discworld (I say only because Terry Pratchett’s either close to or already has written over 40 novels in the series) but only five volumes into the series I know that I’ll enjoy each new book I pick up. There are things I know will happen once I pick up a Discworld novel off the shelf. I will 1) laugh out loud (which doesn’t happen often with books), 2) snicker while Pratchett makes fun of a fantasy trope I love while simultaneously loving that very same fantasy trope all the more, and 3) learn something interesting and be sent off into deep thought over a brilliant line or paragraph. While Sourcery isn’t as thought-inducing as say Equal Rites, it’s still a damn good book because it’s hilarious. Let’s be honest, the primary reason anyone has for reading a Discworld novel isn’t that it will make you think, that’s just an added bonus, the real reason is that it’ll make you laugh ‘til your abs hurt and your face muscles are tired. In that respect, Sourcery is a success.

The fifth Discworld novel, Sourcery brings us back to the famous character of the first two books, Rincewind the wizard and the Luggage. Most of the humour and the story in this book works because of the characters. It’s a character centric novel and the plot, the little bit that exist, was probably a better and tighter plot but Pratchett had to go throw some magic in there and everything started to fall apart. To this day, he still pretends he had a firm grasp on where this novel was going before it decided to head into another direction all on its own. Please be warned, Pratchett is a professional liar, he writes books for a living. I won’t get into the details of the plot because there isn’t a whole lot of it and it’s much more fun if you discover it on your own. What the story really comes down to is people running around Discworld trying to avoid the nasty effects of the coming of a sourcerer to the flat planet. What made the novel work for me was Pratchett redefining Rincewind as a character and introducing new ones.

Oh, what’s a sourcerer? It’s quite simple really. See, a wizard is the eight son of an eight son (eight being a magical number on Discworld). Something happens with genetics that makes them susceptible to being able to absorb and channel some of the magic of Discworld. As it turns out, the eight son of an eight son of an eight son, or a wizard squared, is something altogether different. They’re not just able to channel magic, they’re a source of magic and none of the rules apply to them.

As I said above, the best thing about this book is the characters: who they are, what they do and how they interact with each other. The main characters of the story are made up of:

Rincewind: a terrible wizard who’s not very courageous but somehow manages to regularly do courageous things and save the world.

Conina: a warrior who live in the shadow of her father, Cohen the Barbarian. All she really wants to do is become a hairdresser but quests keep getting in the way.

Nijel: a barbarian-in-the-making. He’s out on his first quest. It’s almost been a week and he’s doing pretty well. Probably because he’s using his guide book, Inne Juste Seven Dayes I Wile Mayke you a Barberian Hero, written by Cohen the Barbarian.

Luggage: a chest made of sapient pearwood. It runs around on hundreds of tiny legs and gets into all sorts of mischief. It’s also adorable and tougher than nails.

It’s interesting to note that I don’t really consider Coin, the sourcerer of the story, a main character. He’s kind of just there to provide conflict for the others. I’m not sure if that was the intent or if Pratchett just never got around to it because he was busy writing about the aprocralypse and flying carpets.

Look at all that chaos and energy Josh Kirby paints. I love his covers. Too bad mine is an
edited (ahem, incomplete) cover. 

Pratchett makes fun of wizards a plenty. If they’re so powerful why do they just sit around and not do much of anything? That’s because they’re not all that powerful, they’re only wizards after all not sourcerers who are the ones with real power. He also has quite a bit of fun poking fun at barbarian heroes of the sword and sorcery sub-genre. Conina is funny because she’s a female barbarian but we quickly stop laughing once we found out just how effective she is. She’s reluctantly following in her father’s footsteps. Just imagine how much questing she could do if she put her mind to it? In case you’re too lazy to imagine it, she’s Genghis Khan all of Discworld. It’d be pretty terrifying, I guarantee it. Out of all the characters in the book, Nijel wins the prize for being the most ridiculous. He’s the embodiment of a table-top role-playing nerd taking to its extreme conclusion. With the help of his manual he heads off on a journey to actually become a barbarian hero. Nijel is a skinny young man who weighs less than his trusty guidebook and does nothing without first consulting his book. He also gets over silly arguments when the rules mentioned in Cohen’s book are broken. How he survived his time alone before meeting Rincewind and Conina is one of the great mysteries in all of Discworld (at least those five novels I’ve actually read).

Terry Pratchett, or Sir Terry like some have become found of calling him, is a special kind of writer. He’s not just a satirist or a comedian or a post-modern philosopher, he’s all of these combined into some sort of super writer*. I might not as much to say about Sourcery as I have for previous Discworld novels but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong or bad about this volume. It just focused on different aspects of Pratchett’s writing than some of the other books. There were more jokes and less philosophy. Either way, it’s a great novel to read especially for readers of fantasy literature who also have a fondness for British type humour.

*I haven’t check but Sir Terry is probably the eight son of an eight son (of an eight son?) which is why his word fu is so strong. Nobody cracks a joke like he does because nobody has that genetically developed magic manipulation of words. It’s all very scientific and I haven’t really done my research, but I’m convinced he has an advantage no other writers have and that’s what makes him so good. I’m also pretty certain that he has more than one pair of arms because he sure writes a lot.

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