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Strange lacy trousers like the grandfather bird
Nation - Terry Pratchett
Member Name: rune_tune
Nation - Terry Pratchett
Date: 08/10/08, updated on 08/10/08 (150 review reads)
Advantages: Some excellent writing, some of Terry Pratchetts best in a long time
Disadvantages: Is slightly darker than other Terry Pratchett Works.
~ 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 He includes puns, cultural and historical references and also has a use of footnotes (less obvious in later books) that comment about the narrative (usually in a funny way).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.
Summary: Very readable and great writing as usual from the master.