Nation by Terry Pratchett

Title:  Nation

Author:  Terry Pratchett

Paperback:  332 pages (Advanced Reader Edition)

ISBN:  9780061433016

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.

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling

Title:  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Author:  J. K. Rowling

Hardback:  352 pages

Publisher:  Scholastic Inc.

Publish Date:  2005

ISBN:  9780439784542

“Fine,” said Harry, who was concentrating on handing Ron a glass of pumpkin juice.  “There you go, Ron.  Drink up.”

Ron had just raised the glass to his lips when Hermione spoke sharply.

“Don’t drink that, Ron!”

Both Harry and Ron looked up at her.

“Why not?” said Ron.

Hermione was now staring at Harry as though she could not believe her eyes.

“You just put something in that drink.”

“Excuse me?” said Harry.

“You heard me.  I saw you.  You just tipped something into Ron’s drink.  You’ve got the bottle in your hand right now!”

“I don’t know what you’r talking about,” said Harry, stowing the little bottle hastily in his pocket.

“Ron, I warn you, don’t drink it!”  Hermione said again, alarmed, but Ron picked up the glass, drained it in one gulp, and said, “Stop bossing me around, Hermione.”

She looked scandalized.  Bending low so that only Harry could hear her, she hissed, “You should be expelled for that.  I’d never have believed it of you, Harry!”

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling, page 293

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling  is the sixth of the seven book series chronicling the lives and exploits of the orphaned title character and his friends and classmates as they discover they are witches and wizards, go to Hogwarts school to learn to hone their skills, and learn to bond with friends and co-exist with enemies under the genially paternal headmaster, Professor Dumbledore.  In this particularly darkest book yet (I’m told book seven is even worse), Harry struggles with coming to terms (still and again) with the deaths of those close to him, while desiring to get revenge on Lord Voldermort, aka Tom Marvolo Riddle, for the deaths.

Yeah….  I remember when the first book was taking the American bookworld by storm, causing some Christian groups to suffer apoplectic fits at the thought of their sweet angelic prodgeny being infected by evil should so much as the book’s binding touch their innocent hands, and children clamoring to snatch the books off their shelves.  However, six books in and it just seems to be a repeat of each of the last five books’ plotline.  The children return to school, Harry suspects evil is afoot right away, no one believes him, everyone turns against him and treats him like a nutter, then evil pops out from behind the painting of the tutu-wearing trolls and says “Bwa-ha-ha!”  Harry saves the day, Hogwarts and the entire wizarding world, everyone apologizes for doubting him, then they all say good-bye for the summer and look forward to returning in the fall where they can go through the whole cycle all over again.  HP and the HBP has all that plus pimples, crushes and love potions.

It’s an okay book, but nothing I’ll remember next year… I doubt I’ll remember it next month, even.  I found myself trying to remember when whatever event being referenced occured, and I realized that I’ve forgotten a lot of the content of the previous books already.  What’s more, I think up to a third of this book could have been dropped.  Some of it was a repeat of what had happened in a previous book, but some of it  just seemed superfluous.

I’m glad I read it since I’ve read the other books of the series, and I definitely wanted to get it done before the movie comes out this coming July.  Some people have said the last book, Deathly Hollows, is the best book of the series. 

From the way this book has ended, Deathly Hollowsat least seems like it will break the endless cycle.  Harry tells Ron and Hermione that he doesn’t plan to return to Hogwarts for his final year because he plans to hunt down and kill Voldemort, and his friends inform him they’ll be right beside him wherever he goes.  But… it’ll be a while before that movie comes out so I needn’t get into too much of a hurry reading the book.

While Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling  was an easy and comfortable read, it often fell flat and fizzled in places.  I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

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The movie looks like it’ll be really good, I thought the others were good, too.