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I am an idiot. There you are. I've said it. After over 700 reviews on this site, I've finally admitted that sometimes my own preconceptions and prejudices get the better of me.
The evidence? Exhibit A: Nation by Terry Pratchett. Normally when a new Terry Pratchett book comes out, I'm online and pre-ordering it well before its release date With Nation, I didn't. Why? Firstly because it wasn't a Discworld novel and secondly because it was billed as a "children's book".
When I finally decided to buy a copy, I found how wrong all my prejudices and preconceptions had been. Nation is, quite simply, one of Pratchett's best and freshest books for a good long while, easily outshining the more recent Discworld books.
It's precisely this move into a new arena which makes it such a success. With recent Discworld novels, you get the impression that Pratchett has felt the need to pander to his fan base and is becoming increasingly constrained by expectations. Nation is something new. It offers Pratchett a chance to start again from scratch, to move away from preconceptions and go back to writing something he really wants to write. It also means that the book is more of a challenge for both author and reader: Pratchett has to create new characters and new worlds from scratch and make up care about them as much as we care about the Discworld's inhabitants.
So, if it's not a Discworld novel, what is it? It takes in the story of Mau, a young boy on the verge of manhood who returns to his island (the Nation of the title) to find everything and everyone has been swept away by a massive Tsunami. His only companion becomes a young girl from the great British Empire who is shipwrecked on Mau's island. Although they initially cannot understand a word of what the other says, they slowly start to come to terms with what has happened set about re-building the wrecked nation.
This plot summary cannot hope to do justice to a plot which is layered, complex, intelligent and deeply, deeply engrossing from start to finish. Discworld plots have never really been much to write home about. When boiled down to their essentials, they are actually quite small and silly - something to hang the jokes off and characters off. Sure, they contain some very deep ideas and amusing/cynical observations, but the actual plots are all rather inconsequential. Nation, on the other hand, combines those big ideas with a genuinely compelling storyline and the usual Pratchett humour. I was hooked by about the tenth page.
The world in which Nation is set is both recognisably ours, and yet not ours. It is, effectively, an alternate reality containing people, places and situations which are familiar, but given a slight twist. This familiarity means that Pratchett can take his characters pretty much anywhere, confident that his readers will be right there with him. It also allows him to cast his acerbic eye on familiar customs and ideas, making the reader think about how absurd some of the things we do or the ideas we hold dear really are.
Nation offers plenty of food for thought and, if you choose to do so, there are plenty of questions asked about gods, belief systems, the veneration of ancestors, human nature and much, much more. Yet, Nation never forgets that its primary purpose is to entertain; to tell a story that makes the reader care for the characters and their fate. That mix of intelligence and entertainment is always a difficult to get right. Nation succeeds where so many other books have failed.
Don't be misled by the fact that this paperback is published by Corgi Children's. Although ostensibly aimed at children, then is no evidence of Pratchett dumbing down his writing (indeed, I'm not sure he would know how to; or that he would if he did). Nation is every bit as intelligent, entertaining and thought-provoking as any of his so-called "adult books". Aside from moving the plot and characters out of the Discworld, nothing else has changed.
Pratchett maintains his traditional style, mixing "reality" with the absurd with gay abandon. There is a great deal of heart and emotion to Nation - far more so than most of Pratchett's other books. It's populated by characters that feel very real and make you care deeply about them. There is much humour to be mined from constant mis-understandings and, of course, there are footnotes and skewed observations aplenty. Pratchett even moves away from his normal narrative style and uses chapters which enhance the readability of the book to a surprising degree, building in much more natural and regular stopping points.
Page for page, Nation might not be the funniest of Pratchett's books, but there is plenty that will make you smile and, just occasionally laugh out loud. Although there are a few jokes which have been recycled, most are new or at least feel fresher and funnier in a new setting.
When writing this review, I've been wracking my brain, desperately trying to think of something negative to say by way of balance and I am seriously struggling. I can only come up with two. One: the ending is a little vague and open-ended. But then, this is deliberate, so that's a slightly unfair criticism, like criticising the sea for being a bit wet. About the only other thing I can think of is that it's not a Discworld novel. If you're so wedded to that world that you don't want to read any other Pratchett books set outside it, then you might end up feeling let-down. But, as noted above, that was my initial mistake and on reflection, is what makes me an idiot.
Available new for less than a fiver, this is definitely a book that's worth buying. If you're a Pratchett fan, you'll find the usual heady mix of laughs, insightful observations and intelligent writing. If you've never got into Pratchett because you don't like the fantasy/sci-fi nature of his Discworld books, then this could be the perfect Pratchett for you.
Corgi Children's, 2009
© Copyright SWSt 2011
Having never read anything by Pratchett before, despite meaning to, I was keen to try 'Nation' as soon as I saw it on the list of Carnegie Medal nominees. Although it seems to be marketed to young teens, the range of reviews on Amazon suggests that it suit adults equally well, as I believe Patchett's writing normally does. As this writer is best known for his ever growing Discworld series, it is important to note that this book is a stand alone and does not form any part of that series of stories. This has led several dedicated Discworld readers to conclude ruefully that although 'Nation' is a good read, it's just not quite on a level with Pratchett's previous writing. If that's the case (which I doubt simply because I know how disappointing it can be to pick up a book expecting to find a new addition to a series you love and discover that it is something else entirely) then I must read his latest Discworld instalment soon, as this book is superb.
== The premise(s) ==
A teenage boy, Mau, is returning from the Boys' Island to the Nation, his home, where he will be given his man soul in a traditional coming-of-age ritual. While he travels between the two islands, a freak wave erupts and destroys his world by killing all the inhabitants of the Nation. Devastated, Mau retreats into himself as he explores the wreckage of his homeland and struggles to accept what the Gods have done to him. Believing himself to be without a soul and with no way of ever achieving manhood, Mau begins to reflect on the rules of his Nation as he tries to achieve a kind of normality. How can he live now?
Meanwhile, a ship is turned away from England, which has become terribly infected by Russian Influenza. The King is dead and a little known law in the Magna Carta states that his heir must step onto British soil within 9 months in order to prevent the crown being seized by another country. The Men of Last Resort are on the case and the ship is soon under new orders. Can they find the heir in time?
Another ship, The Sweet Judy, (manned by a crew who were not very sweet,) is caught up in the tsunami and crashes onto the Nation. Alone and frightened, but sure of her dignity and her place in the world, Ermintrude Fanshaw watches as a strange and shockingly underdressed boy buries the dead. She tries inviting him to tea and considers whether or not a chaperone needs to be alive or simply present to make a meeting between them suitable. Ermintrude, who soon throws off her uncomfortable name for the simpler 'Daphne', is confident that her father will find her despite the fact that there are 80 islands in the Mothering Sunday Islands. But when? And how is she to conduct herself in the meantime?
== Life on an island ==
If it sounds a bit complicated, then be reassured that it isn't really. (Although I will admit that the switches of perspective in the first few chapters did make it a bit difficult for me to settle into the story at first. I am an impatient person and I could not see how the disparate storylines were related or indeed relevant, which frustrated me.) The vast majority of the action takes place on the Nation as Mau and Daphne learn how to communicate and begin to question their expectations and beliefs. It was fascinating to learn about their respective attitudes and amusing to see the way they interpret the world around them so differently. One instance that had me laughing out loud (there were several) was when Daphne drew a picture inviting Mau to tea and Mau interpreted the picture easily...to mean something completely different. Their innocence is charming and their deliberations engaging.
As the novel continues, other characters begin to arrive on the Nation, seeking sanctuary. Each of them contributes something to the story and allows Daphne and Mau to continue on their journey to adulthood. Some of the characters are amusing, some are sympathetic and some are simply evil. The range kept my interest and allowed for more of a focus on how one interacts as part of a community rather than as a friend. Mau in particular has to learn how to become more politic and to consider that the Gods he now struggles to believe in may have a purpose that he has never anticipated.
Set in 1860, the novel presents a world that is at once very similar to ours and subtly different, allowing Pratchett to create a powerful story that recreates our own history and has the potential to engage readers in deep philosophical and historical questions. The western world is portrayed as invasive and overly concerned with building an empire, while the writer suggests that supposedly primitive cultures are really anything but. I found that I really enjoyed reading the book and that, while I was certainly aware of the moral messages the book promotes, the writing never felt didactic or overtly moralising.
Pratchett's written style is clear, simple and evocative. It is at once easy and strangely pleasant to read; I would sit down to read a bit of the book with breakfast and still be sat there two hours later. It is not necessarily that the storyline is gripping, although it is highly engaging; it is the fact that it is well written and genuinely interesting. The dialogue and interaction between characters is convincing. The events, despite their often fantastical nature, are believable within the context of the situation Pratchett has set up.
The ending is at once inevitable and beautiful, and the novel concludes with a chapter which brings events up to the modern day and acts as a kind of conclusion. It is a fitting end to the story and, though the events may be predictable, that only makes them the more powerful and, oddly, realistic.
Finally there is an entertaining Author's Note in which Pratchett reflects on the realism of a few snippets from the book. This is short but contains some interesting details and is worth reading.
== Conclusions ==
This is the book I enjoyed reading the most out of this year's crop of Carnegie books. It is well written, imaginative, creative and philosophical without ever insisting on anything. The central characters are not merely sympathetic: they are admirable as they discover their strength and respond to the challenges around them. The story begins with a creation myth and partly the book explores the value and significance of religion, but it does it in a way that is integral to the storyline and allows the reader to reach their own conclusions.
I'm a huge fan of Terry Pratchett but haven't had chance to read any of his books that are not in the disc world series, so when this came out and I heard nothing but good reviews for it, I was of course looking forward to reading it and seeing what Pratchett would do with characters not from Disc World.
Ermintrude is a very distant heir to the throne and when most of England is killed off what she thought was impossible happens, her father is next in line to the throne, making her second in line. But at this time she on the other side of the world and needs time to sail back home. At the same time Mau is partaking in the ritual of becoming a man, he must leave his island and find a way to get back , and when he does he will no longer be considered a man. But on his way back a massive tidal wave passes over him and his island, killing all its inhabitants. When he manages to make his way back he left with none of his family, just a cave full of dead ancestors bones and the ship wrecked Ermintrude, and a talking parrot.
Although Mau and Ermintrude don't know each other and can't speak the same language they must do their best to rebuild the Nation on Maus island as more and more people keep turning up, including women who have just given birth and an old and very religious priest. He wants Mau to pay the proper respect to the Gods, but Mau doesn't believe in Gods anymore, not since they killed all his family, every one he's ever known. But the Gods and his ancestors keep talking to him in his head, so what should he do? They also have to contend the ongoing threat of raiders who could turn up at the nation at any moment, killing everyone and taking all they have worked for.
The story of nation is very good, although I think it was marketed as a children's books and I'm not sure what children would think of it, it seems a bit older to me. It's set in a time when the British Nation was very strong and wanted to stick their flags everywhere they could, this is the world that Ermintrude knows so when she finds herself on a small island that is considered big by most peoples standards she doesn't quite know what to do with herself. On top of that she also needs to learn to communicate with someone who doesn't know how to wear clothes, or do most things she is used to. I liked this, what it really means to be a nation, there is a lot to be said about community, what it is and how it's built and maintained, what relationships mean to people, etc.
Religion plays a strong theme throughout this book and by the time I finished reading it, it really started to annoy me. Mau has grown up somewhere very religious, but when his whole family is killed with the wave, all he can think is that either the Gods let that happen, or they don't exist. The book really does go on about the many different ways why Gods shouldn't exist, why people make them up because they need them to exist, but of course they don't really. It gets boring. I don't believe in God, at all, so I really don't need convincing, and I think that for people who are actually religious this over the top determination to make people see it 'the right way' must get quite annoying. I don't mind religion being mention in the story, I see why it was needed, but not as much as it was. It detracts from what the story was and turns it into a way to make people 'convert' to atheism. Maybe I just picked up on it more than other people might, but to me there was no getting away from how much this was mentioned.
So apart from religion getting mentioned way too often, the story really does work well. I love Mau's and Ermintrudes relationship, they're really sweet, but I also like how real this is kept, and all of the story actually. It's not about make believe (although it is obviously fiction), but it is more about being true, and what is right.
Overall I prefer the disc world books, but this was OK. I do think it makes a nice break from disc world, but still, I am looking forward very much to the next in the disc world series, and am not really too excited about the next non disc world book, there are better books than this one if you would like to read one by Pratchett.
This book was something of a surprise to me. Although set in an alternate universe, the geography reads so much like our own that it was difficult to remember that it was not true history through and through (or perhaps I should say alternate history).
Starting with horrific disaster - the wiping out of almost an entire people - and the two main characters unable to understand a single word of each others language, this book could so easily have gone horribly wrong. However, it is te...more This book was something of a surprise to me. Although set in an alternate universe, the geography reads so much like our own that it was difficult to remember that it was not true history through and through (or perhaps I should say alternate history).
Starting with horrific disaster - the wiping out of almost an entire people - and the two main characters unable to understand a single word of each others language, this book could so easily have gone horribly wrong. However, it is tenderly and sympathetically written, and, as one might expect from Pratchett, each character succeeds in being a fully rounded human being who engages our sympathy or our distaste while remaining fully believable.
The story rolls along at a steady pace, and it's not too heavily moralistic, but a light, amusing story. Overall, a great light read.
Crossposted to http://www.goodreads.com
Terry Prachett, if you dont know who he is you must be living under a rock! Or on a tropical island in the middle of the sea...
I spotted this book in hardback at a local bookstore, i dont usually pay full price for books so this was a little impulse buy. Ater all i own pretty much every single Pratchett book going. Upon reading the blurb and the first few pages i got the impression this book was aimed at younger readers, 12+ maybe. I also found the whole book to be done in a slightly simpler style to his usual writing within the discworld. Regardless of this i found it really very interesting, if a little creepy in parts. Of course im not syaing thats a bad thing!
The main narrative of the story is a great natural disaster. Not only does this affect Mau it also brings a strange girl in a huge "canoe" to the island. The book makes for an interesting read about how Mau overcomes the challenges and, in effect, shows his transition from boy to adult. Usually this type of corny metaphore is not my cup of tea, but Pratchett pulls it off perfectly as usual. The book had an interesting little twist at the end which topped it off nicely.
All societies have their Right of Passage initiation into manhood ceremonies for their young men and The Nation isn't any different. Many such ceremonies involve the elders of the tribe and sometimes painful surgery but Mau, hero of our tale, has no such audience: his trial is carried out very much alone. He is marooned on the Boy's Island, 20 miles away from his home, where he has to survive, make or find tools, build himself a boat and get himself back to his island home, only after which will he be acclaimed by his tribe and win his man's soul. And so he sets sail.
The Honourable Miss Ermintrude Fanshaw has problems of her own: she is 140th in line to the throne. That is not the problem though. The problem is her grandmother, who believes that a women's place is to be a woman, a woman dedicated to living a pointless life ruled by Good Manners and little Learning until favourably married or becoming Queen, but not necessarily in that order. Of course, with so many people ahead of her, her likelihood of becoming Queen would be remote, where it not for The Plague raging throughout the land. Fortunately for Ermintrude, she isn't in the land of her birth: she's half-way around the World, on a ship, travelling to meet her father.
Although this is Terry Pratchett's World, it isn't the Discworld. The World in question is remarkably like our very own but then again not quite. Ermintrude's nation is not The Nation but bears something of a similarity to our own British Nation. The Nation is a tiny island in the middle of the Pelagic Ocean, which ocean being located where we would find our Pacific. It is here where events will unfold.
For both Mau and Ermintrude, nature is going to intervene in the form of a tsunami. This calamity will deprive Mau of his family and his tribe. There will be no welcoming committee when his battered canoe finally reaches home. What he will find is a strange little white girl and the wreck of a large ship washed up in the middle of the island. Between the two of them they set about trying to understand each other, survive the devastation, help the survivors from other islands who get washed up on the shores of The Nation and fight off pirates and cannibals. Throughout, Mau has to handle the voices of the ancestors in his head, demanding that he restore the symbols of the Nation to their rightful place.
Both are going to do a lot of learning in a very short time. Both are going to be changed more than they ever thought possible. Both are going to discover that the World is not quite the place they thought it was.
Nation proves that Pratchett is not a one-trick pony, not that those of us who believe he is one of the world's greatest writers ever thought he was. He is one of those writers who manages to produce a story that will enthral all readers from 9 to 99. In Nation he may just have produced a book that will prove as timeless as Alice... or Peter Pan, for it has the feel of both.
It's set in a World that is both familiar and strange. It is full of wonder and mystery. It's heroes show courage, compassion, intelligence and fortitude. Moreover, the story works. It is superbly written with a narrative that pounds along. Pratchett's use of language is unmatched and the pictures he draws burst in your head in full colour. The only acknowledgement to a younger audience is the omission of certain details that might just prove a little too "detailed". However, I found the book hard to put down and finished all 400 pages far too quickly.
I loved this book but I'm guessing that it will be a one-off as the story-line is very much complete in itself and probably doesn't leave any openings for a sequel. The version I read was in paperback, published by Corgi at a cover price of £6.99.
I'm not normally a fan of Terry's writing outside of Discworld, however this book peaked my curiosity and when Waterstones had a half-price offer on, I picked it up and brought it home. For a book I wasn't expecting to be so impressed with, I read it in just over a week of bedtime reading!
For those that don't read Pratchett, he created the Discworld, which is a parallel of our own world except with magic and trolls and Corporal Nobby Nobbs. Most of his books have been set there, and a few of those books have reached a broader audience as movies made and broadcast by SkyTV. One of his non-Discworld books, Johnny and the bomb, was also made into a mini-series shown on the BBC.
Nation is set in a somewhat historically fictional nineteenth century archipelago of the Pacific Ocean. A community of people, referred to as "The Nation", is washed away by a tsunami leaving only a handful of Survivors. The main character is Mau, who is midway through a manhood ritual when the wave strikes and is nicknamed Demon Boy by some of the other survivors. Ermintrude, daughter of a British Noble and one hundred and forty first in line to the throne, is on a voyage to visit her father when the wave hits and is shipwrecked on Mau's island. Attracting more survivors to the island, they forge a new nation, and discover the history of the island and it's culture leaving lasting imprints well into the twenty-first century.
While there is no mistaking the book is a work of fiction, it reminds the reader what little is needed to almost wipe out a civilization - a fact I'm unfortunately reminded about every time i switch on the TV or read a newspaper. I'm referring to the fact that Armageddon appears to be the current theme for a lot of films and documentaries, making me feel this book is just one of a crowd with nothing to really make it stand out except for an easy to read narrative and enough twists and turns to keep the reader interested in what is on the next page.
What I'd really like to see is the next Discworld book, please!
Two things separate Nation from most of Terry's work and make it something of a curiosity. Firstly it's his first non-Discworld Novel in a while. Secondly it's the first novel that was written after the onset of his, recently much publicized, Alzheimer's Disease.
Personally I love the Discworld but it's nice to see Terry set works in other places and I have to say that I couldn't see any sign of failing faculties.
At first Nation appears to be set on Earth in the 18th Century, and I suppose if you don't look at the maps and know nothing of history you could read all the way through it thinking that, but if you do look at the maps and if you're paying attention it quickly becomes clear that this is a different Earth and an alternative 18th Century.
I'm not going to summarize the plot as there's no way to do it justice in a review that's short enough to be worth reading. Instead I'm going to touch on a few points and then go on to what the book is actually like.
The main characters are a pair of adolescents - a boy from a south sea island and an English girl who is 64th in line for the British throne. They are both trapped on Nation, an island, in the middle of a vast ocean, by a terrible Tsunami. And at first they are trapped alone with no language in common and many of the islands resources destroyed by the wave. It takes a great effort of will from both of them for them to come together.
The girl is lost and out of place and the boy is so full of grief for the loss of everyone and everything he has ever known that he is half-mad some of the time. And I really felt for these characters. This book may be suitable for adults and young adults alike but that doesn't mean that it's easy reading.
Nation is a very angry book. At it's heart are two questions. "How can we live together?" and "Why do bad things happen to good people for no reason?"
The book seems to have been inspired by the Boxing Day Tsunami and by Terry's ongoing thoughts on religion, death and ethical living.
I read the book in hospital while waiting for and recovering from surgery. I was glad to have it as a companion because sometimes you need a book that's heavier in subject than the events you're going through.
Some have said that this book is not funny but I disagree. The subject matter may be dark but there are moments in it so funny I laughed out loud until I couldn't breathe properly. In a hospital. At night. When I was supposed to be asleep.
Nation by Terry Pratchett is a brilliant young adult novel that can be enjoyed by both adolencents and adults.
It offers a refreshing change from the wonderful discworld novels that Pratchett is more commenly known for, but maintains his origional wit, comicality and excellent absurdity.
The novel peels back its stratum efficaciously to unveil philosophies regarding life, death and faith. The story revolves around a teenage island boy called Mau and is set in a fantastical yet recognisable 18th century world.
It begins with Mau stranded on the Boys Island, a place of important rite of passage, where he must build a raft to sail to his home and tribe to gain his Man Soul and leave boyhood behind. Tragedy strikes in a graphic and mystical way when the area is hit by giant waves, destroying the rest of his people.
Finding himself alone all but for a prim but charming english girl Daphne; also stranded by a shipwreck; the story follows them as they overcome challenges and build a new Nation with suvivors from surrounding islands.
Mau's faith is put in to question by the loss he has gone though and Pratchett pushes forth the importance of science without ridiculing religion, demonstrating its importance and how it can be good and bad on society.
For such a deep novel Pratchett delivers an exciting romp full of jokes based on the misunderstandings between Daphne and Mau (for instance Daphne invites Mau to a highly inappropriate tea party with a sketch of directional arrows towards the ship and Mau proceeds to throw spears at it). It is uplifting, stirring and one of Pratchetts most impressive novels showing him for the unparalleled comic literature craftsman he is.
'Nation,' Terry Pratchett's most recent and possibly final novel, is a shift away from his highly-successful Discworld series, which now numbers over 30 titles. In it, the characters inhabit a world similar to our own, in roughly 1800. Mau, a teenage boy who lives on a island in the pacific ocean returns to his village after a tidal wave to discover that, tragically, everyone he knows is dead. To add to his troubles, a large ship has also been washed up, bringing with it more dead bodies and one survivor - a girl.
Stripped of his heritage and faced with the massive tasks of trying to re-instate the traditions of his forefathers, protect his island and the other surviors from maurauders, and understand what on earth the strange girl is saying, Mau finds that he and the survivors have built a nation.
A roller-coaster read of adventure, discovery and loss, this book will appeal to both children and adults as it takes a fresh look at the concept of belonging, of cultural identity, and of loss. With a hint of Robinson Crusoe, this witty and darkly brilliant book makes a potentially fantastic final flourish for Pratchett, and is an excellent introduction to the genre of fantasy.
Nation by Terry Pratchett.
~ About the Author ~
Terry Pratchett is one of the best known of Fantasy writers out there. He began writing in 1983, and when I first began reading his books (I read his second novel The Light Fantastic just after publication) no-one really knew who he was! It couldn't be more different today, and this has lead to one bizarre claim to fame - In the UK, he holds the record for the greatest number of books that are shoplifted!
Pterry (as many of his fans will refer to him, harking back to a particular novel) does more than just write about a fantasy world. He includes puns, cultural and historical references and also has a use of footnotes (less obvious in later books) that comment about the narrative (usually in a funny way). Another aspect of his writing is he tends to avoid use of chapters in books (although there are some rare exceptions to this and Nation is chaptered).
His style, for me at least - is pretty unique.
Pterry was a journalist, who admits that he would write about his experiences while working as a press officer for the Central Electricity Generating board (CEGB) which including covering nuclear power stations - If he thought he would be believed!
Unfortunately he has recently been diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's, but has pledged to carry on writing.
Note: The above passage is taken from my review of Mort, also by Terry Pratchett and so I've kept it because I can't think what to change for this review.
Nation is not part of the Discworld series of books and is aimed at Children as much as adults - much like the Tiffany Aching series he wrote, and so can be read as a stand-alone novel.
I was also fortunate enough to meet Pterry in 1994, and more recently (just this week - Oct. 2008) when he was at a local book signing in Southport, and its here that I bought the novel, Nation.
~ Book Synopsis ~
We begin on a ship, in dock around the 19th Century, in what we find is a parallel universe to our own. Illness has ravaged the country, and the ship is sent straight back out to sail, with the quest of finding the Heir to the Throne of England, since the current monarchy have all succumbed to this disease. As well as being given this task, they are also asked to take passengers with them, relatives of the Heir they have to bring home.
Mau is a boy, but a boy going through the ritual rights of becoming a man. He has spent time alone on the island where he will eventually return to his own island having gone through the rites of passage.
But as he begins his journey home, knowing that the village of Nation, where he comes from will be waiting for him, disaster strikes, and Mau only just holds on to his canoe and survives the massive wave that struck.
Unbeknown to Mau, a Tsunami has struck decimating the fictional South Pelagic Islands, and he eventually lands back at Nation. He finds the island is deserted and the bodies of the islanders are scattered all around. Some pigs are still around, as are the birds and wildlife that survived, but he is all that is left of Nation. But then he notices a gauged out section of forest and making his way there he stumbles upon the wreck of the Ship, but more than this, he finds a survivor, a trouserwoman!
Daphne (okay her real name is Ermintrude, but she likes Daphne better and anyway, whose to know.....) is alone on a strange Island, with just a bird which she keeps covered up because it comes out with words a young lady of her disposition should definitely not be hearing!
Then as she gains her bearings, she finds she is not alone after all, and there is a boy around her age also on the Island, and initially he doesn't seem to realize she is there.
Eventually they find each other, and begin to forge a friendship and ways of communicating. Mau seems driven by voices of the Gods he is hearing, but despite the differences between them, they do seem to have a solid friendship.
And then another survivor of the wave arrives with a woman and baby. Will this be the only other arrival on the Island? Or will the trousermen come and try to destroy the 'savages'? And how the hell is Mau going to milk a pig?
Will the conflicts, including the love and hatred be overcome?
~ Thoughts on the Book ~
Nation is perhaps one of the best of Terry Pratchett I've read in a long time. That doesn't mean that I've been disappointed with more recent novels, but there has been a little something lacking, a depth that is brought right back in to focus with this particular book.
I've said before, that Pratchett manages so often to integrate so much into a book. Whether it is reference to ancient or modern happenings, philosophy, culture, death, and religion, plus a whole lot more, it is this that Terry Pratchett manages to bring to the reader in such a way that it isn't condescending, it isn't moralized, but it is very thought-provoking and often very funny!
I was surprised to find that British colonialism in particular is brutally 'attacked' by Pratchett, but done in a way that you don't sit there and bristle, thinking "how dare he..." but understanding and recognizing that we were often brutal and arrogant in our thinking towards people during the times we conquered new lands. Religion is also given a bit of a battering as well, again without managing to deter the reader. Something that is not easily done.
The strength of the characters is key with any Pratchett novel, and again he doesn't disappoint, although it did take me a few chapters to really understand whom the main characters were going to be and what the interaction was going to be like between them. Perhaps a little longer than some previous novels, but it doesn't detract despite this.
We know that Mau and Daphne are of a similar age, but while I found out how old Daphne is, we don't ever truly know the age of Mau. I suspect early to mid teens is going to be around the right spot, which means he is of a similar if not exact age of Daphne.
We follow the internal battle that Mau has to endure. Having lost not just his parents, but also the entire village to the wave, he is left wondering will he ever be able to bring Nation back? Is it lost forever? And he and Daphne struggle to understand their feelings towards each other as they begin to grow closer together.
Teenage Angst. Yes, its right on in there, but again it isn't patronizing and doesn't lecture but manages to focus on how it actually pushes them both towards maturity in ways that might otherwise not have happened, and ultimately for the good of all mankind.
It's at slight fault in one sense, in that I did find the flow of the book wasn't quite there at times, and its something I noticed with his last novel. I can't help but wonder if this is simply because I'm trying to pick up on possible problems subconsciously knowing he now has Alzheimer's, or whether it is a genuine problem with this book. I asked my sister what she thought, and she also tended to agree that it wasn't a free flowing as some of his work so I do it is a genuine problem here whatever the reason. But its not enough to mark it down a star.
~ Final Thoughts ~
As I've said, this is a departure from the usual Terry Pratchett, in that it's got back a depth that at times was lost, and yet it hasn't lost any of the characteristic humour that Terry Pratchett displays so often.
I sense this novel was something he really wanted to achieve, and has spent quite a bit of time writing it and this 'extra' care really does seem to come through.
Once again, Nation has all the qualities we've come to expect from Terry Pratchett. His satire is, as always, razor sharp, his characters are believable and we can easily identify with them even those we find annoying, and it allows him to almost be at his most philosophical and become the most wickedly shrewd observer of human nature, which is what Terry Pratchett (in my mind at least) does best.
Its faults, as I've said are that it is flawed at times as you read. And while it has its humour, its not the rip-roaring humour you might also find in some of his other works either, but more subtle. I would even say it's staid at times, but it doesn't get bogged down despite this.
He balances the book exceptionally well, when the subject matter is in fact very dark and disturbing at times. Its again testament to how he writes and he does a great job from stopping the book from tipping over the edge and becoming too serious and therefore unreadable.
Its aimed at Children, and I sense the age bracket will be much the age of Mau and Daphne, 13/14 years old and above. I don't sense this is going to be a book for the reader who is younger than that.
It also is a great read for the adult as well, and so Terry Pratchett manages once again to make his book accessible to a wide audience.
Now I've just got to wait for his next release which I've heard is going to be called - "I Shall Wear Midnight"
~ Availability ~
Widely available. As mentioned I bought this from the local bookstore where Pterry was signing copies, so paid the full £16-99 cover price. However I've had a quick look online and found the cheapest listing is for £6-28 (exc. Postage).
· ISBN-10: 0385613709
· ISBN-13: 978-0385613705
An excellent book for most ages, and the most in-depth I've seen from Terry Pratchett for a long time.
Also my review on Ciao.
Mau thinks he is the only known survivor of "The Wave". He returns to his home island of "Nation" scared and alone ready to give himself to the Dark Current. Then the Grandfathers start shouting at him, a Ghost Girl arrives and everything changes.
"Nation" is a weird novel even by Terry Pratchett standards. Pratchett has a monopoly on a certain wonderful brand of weirdness in the form of his magical and iconic "Discworld" series. However, "Nation" is something of different entity.
A departure for Pratchett, "Nation" takes him away from his comfort zone and away from his established old faithful cast of characters. Pratchett, excuse the pun, could have been a little bit at sea here. However, this makes this one of his most rewarding novels in many years.
All the ingredients of a great Pratchett novel are here with his distinctive disjointed and satirical writing style in evidence. Once again he takes great joy in dismantling the fundamentals of organised religion in society and large parts of "Nation" are mocking references to Christianity among other religions. However, as ceaselessly entertaining as Pratchett's ability is to find new ways to mock religion and it's doctrine, he has done it with more style and humour in previous novels such as "Small Gods" and "Good Omens".
Fortunately, this is not just yet another excuse for Pratchett to have a go at religion and Pratchett's central theme of love and loss is surprisingly subtle. There is emotional depth here previously unseen in a Pratchett story. The humour has been toned down in this one in favour of a warmth and hope that affirms Pratchett's unswerving faith in humanity. This makes "Nation" a uniquely serious novel which a fan may not expect. However, it also makes this a good novel for the uninitiated to Pratchett's genius.
"Nation" is an undoubtedly enjoyable mish mash of ideas that can be confusing at times. Although set on a parallel world to Earth, the geography is very similar and it takes a lot of thought to get your head around the similarities and differences. This is a novel of World history that has taken some research and there is an obvious intelligence and history here. However, I have to admit that a more casual reader may become lost. Although the plot is interesting there is an initial dawdle to it and there is a degree of perseverance required initially as the protagonist "Mau" wanders around trying to make some semblance of sense of the events unfolding. I do feel it is worth the wait though as the novel picks up in pace and Pratchett's attention to details is astounding.
Pratchett's alternate reality is rich and vivid and entirely believable. He has created a great cast of well-realised characters and the emerging relationships throughout are both tender and funny. This is Pratchett's best novel in a long while . It is a fresh and vibrant step away from the fantasy themes Pratchett usually treads. A novel well worth anyones time.