Author: Terry Pratchett
Paperback: 332 pages (Advanced Reader Edition)
Challenges: ARC challenge
… Cox was not like a shark. He was worse. Sharks are just eating machines. They don’t have a choice. First Mate Cox had a choice, every day, and had chosen to be First Mate Cox. And that was a strange choice, because if evil was a disease, then First Mate Cox would have been in a isolation ward on a bleak island somewhere. And even then, the bunnies nibbling at the seaweed would start to fight one another. Cox was, in fact, contagious. where his shadow fell, old friendships snapped and little wars broke out, milk soured, weevils fled from every stale ship’s biscuit, and rats queued up to jump into the sea…
–Nation by Terry Pratchett, page 240 (ARE)
Nation is my first reading experience of Terry Pratchett. I have Good Omens, which he co-authored with Neil Gaiman, on Mt. TBR, but I haven’t read it yet. After reading this book, though, I can say that Pratchett and Gaiman would be a good fit. I have seen the miniseries “The Color of Magic” based on Pratchett’s book by the same name, and loved it, so I wasn’t a complete Pratchett virgin ;-)
Nation is an alternate-reality fantasy teen fiction. Fun category… lol. A point made in the book by Locaha, god of death, is that there is no such thing as “does not happen,” only “does not happen here.” For every event that does or does not occur, the alternate occurs in another of the millions and billions of other imperfect worlds Imo, the god of creation, made. And in the world of Nation, there are tree-climbing octopi and an Island named after every holiday that was ever created, including “Mrs Ethel J. Bundy’s Birthday Island.”
Nation begins with a mighty crashing wave that wipes out all of Mau’s village. Mau, who was returning from his trial to become a man, believes he’s left his boy-soul on the island of children, and has no way of receiving his man-soul without the others. Therefore, he believes he has no soul. When other survivors of the great wave begin turning up on his island, they view him with suspicion and awe, as a Demon Boy. Among the other survivors is an English girl who also has shed her former self in the form of her name, Ermintrude, and has created a new person, one with purpose, by the name of Daphne. Unbeknownst to Daphne, she is the only child of the last heir to the Throne… unless they go about crowning Frenchies, that is… and no one wants that, especially the French (paraphrased from the book, don’t hate me!)
Pratchett’s humor is just one thing I loved about this book. It’s highly imaginative, too. But more than that, it’s insightful. He sees into the heart of people and gives the reader truth disguised as lies, which is what the best of art is all about. Pratchett presents us with a boy without a soul who does not allow the past to pull him under, but instead makes a new soul for himself, one that is stronger than any has ever had before. He shows us a girl who has been forced to sit by and helplessly watch her mother and newborn brother die, the emasculation of her father by her grandmother, and the loss of all she knew, who creates for herself a person with purpose and power. The two of them, Mau and Daphne, become the pillars that the new Nation cling to and revere.
I could definitely read Nation a second time and get a new story, or just read it again because it’s beautiful and funny and fascinating. My oldest daughter, Sam, wants me to hurry up and finish the review so she can cabbage onto it and ferret it away in her room to read and enjoy over and over, so I may have to buy another book. It’d be worth it ;-)
I give Nation by Terry Pratchett 5 out of 5 stars and add it to my list of favorites :-)
OH, and something interesting to add: The book was just published in October of ’08, but the National Theater of London has already dramatized it into a play. It’s actually a book I would enjoy seeing turned into a movie. I think it could be done very well.
Filed under: ARC Challenge, Book Reviews | Tagged: alternate reality, cannibals, Cox, Daphne, fantasy, fiction, Grandfather birds, Greater Pelagic, island, Mau, mutiny, Nation, pantaloon birds, raiders, Roberts, survivors, teen, tsunami | 6 Comments »