The Light Fantastic

June 15th, 2006
This entry is part [part not set] of 2 in the series Discworld

The second of Pratchett’s Discworld novels, The Light Fantastic picks up right where The Colour of magic left off, with its protagonist Rincewind (a silly name which I suspect may somehow be sillier in Pratchett’s native England) finds himself miraculously saved from almost certain doom…although it wasn’t miracles, in fact, but an action taken by the Octavio, a book of eight spells so powerful they are actually sentient. Now the Octavio doesn’t normally take action to save bottom rung wizards who find themselves unfortunately in orbit around the Disc, but when Rincewind was still studying to be a wizard, he managed to read one of the spells of the Octavio, and the spell was so powerful it left the book entirely to take up lodging in Rincewind’s head, where it sat, preventing him from using any other spells and occasionally trying to get itself said when he faced an untimely death. So the Octavio saved Rincewind to save the spell on his head, not because they couldn’t have normally gotten it back anyway, but because the end of the world was coming, and they didn’t really want to blow a lot of time getting that done. Are you confused yet? Because we’re really only a few pages in. It seems every Wizard on the Disc wants that spell now, and they’re all trying to find him, along with a host of other baddies they’ve hired; but with the help of some new friends, the Disc’s first tourist, and some magical luggage, he avoids capture, meets new and psychotically dangerous people, and eventually has a chance to save the world. This book, to be completely honest, is kind of a mess. It’s funny, sure, but this is definitely before Pratchett got the hang of balancing parody of genre conventions (Cohen the Barbarian), original genre characterizations (Rincewind himself), and social commentary (um…druidic computer nerds? Somebody help me, here.); most clearly favoring the first of those three. This is, perhaps, where reading Diskworld out of publication order has stifled my enjoyment, since someone coming across this as the second offering from a new author to their experience probably would have just laughed their way through this and not seen where Pratchett’s developing potential could have possibly carried this story to more interesting places. I liked this book reasonably well, and I already know that certain of its characters reappear in other works so I certainly don’t regret reading it for the sake of its backstory, but on its own merits it’s probably the weakest of the Pratchett books I’ve read so far. So…recommended for the Discworld completists, but I think you’ll find more merit for your time exploring the Disc in other books.

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7 Responses to “The Light Fantastic”

  1. Jack Ruttan says:

    You’re like myself in having resisted the charms of Pratchett. The characters are memorable, but I find the humour a little forced, and doesn’t always work for me.

  2. Skwid says:

    I don’t know that I’d say I’ve resisted his charms. Really, I find him very charming indeed, but his work improved greatly over time, and this book and other early books definitely have that forced feel you describe.

    Thanks for posting, Jack.

  3. These are the books that, if you read them in order, will make you go, “I dunno, this Pratchett guy really isn’t all that good, a bit silly really.”

    So on the whole, out of order reading has a lot to recommend it.

  4. Skwid says:

    Really, he’s almost unique in that regard…so many authors seem to have spectacular starts and then eventually succumb to the Brain Eater. Pratchett’s extraordinary in both his prolificity and his continuing advancements in skill.

  5. Ronen V says:

    Say it ain’t so!!! How can you not LOVE The Light Fantastic. This was the first Discworld novel I ever read… back in… errr…. 1985… and I haven’t missed a single one since. It is still one of my favorites.

    I am such a big fan, I actually started a website dedicated to Discworld. Yes, I know, just what the world needed… another one (

    But still, I guess you are not all bad. You did say you liked some of the other books. There may be redemption for you after all. 🙂

  6. Skwid says:

    It\’s not that I didn\’t like the book, I even say otherwise…I just think it pales in comparison with many of his other, later works.

    Hey, not a bad site at all, Ronen. Thanks for stopping by…here\’s hoping my chances for redemption may further improve.

  7. Jack Ruttan says:

    After that first, slightly dispiriting taste, I’ll have to try more. But so much to read out there!

    I did enjoy his characters, however. Even if some bits read like warmed-over Douglas Adams.

    (Just found this comment thread through an ego-search, and thought I’d add another two cents!)

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