Newest Review: ... 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... more
A Nation is what you make it
Nation - Terry Pratchett
Member Name: grahamt
Nation - Terry Pratchett
Date: 05/01/10, updated on 08/01/10 (80 review reads)
Advantages: A wonderful, colourful, fulfilling story
Disadvantages: No sequel?
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.
Summary: Proving that Pratchett is not bound to the Discworld