Terry Pratchett looked at the world in a way that was true, relentless, cynical, and yet hilariously funny. “The Light Fantastic” is the second in his fantasy Discworld series, and it continues the story of the failed wizard Rincewind and his reluctant adventures.
The Discworld is a flat world, which rests on the back of four elephants, which in turn rest on the back of a giant tortoise (Great A’tuin) who flies through space. This world is full of magic, gods, elves, talking trees, trolls, wizards, and demons. Rincewind longs for a normal world, where things might get done in a normal way such as technology. He doesn’t find it. He longs for safety, which he also doesn’t find, ever.
Pratchett makes satirical parallels to just about everything. The character of Twoflower is a Tourist, something that the Discworld has not seen before. He embodies all the clichés of tourism, with his camera (where a little demon paints the view), his conviction that nothing bad will ever really happen to him, and his labelling of everything he sees as ‘quaint’, ‘picturesque’, and so on.
However, unlike many tourists, Twoflower has solved the problem of lost luggage. The Luggage is a character in its own right. It has multiple little legs it sprouts at will, helping it to run very fast and catch up with its owner. It also doubles as a kind of bodyguard, biting and even swallowing people who threaten its owner. The reader is told it is made of ‘sapient pearwood’, a magical wood, and is a weird cross between funny and kind of creepy.
Pratchett also manages to satirize computer programmers, in a chapter involving druids. Their stone circles are in fact large computer circuits, and they stand around discussing bugs in the system when the circles don’t ‘come on line’ as they should. The way the author finds innovative methods to create humour and poke fun at the real world seems endlessly creative.
He also likes to parody fantasy characters and scenarios. A prominent character in this story is Cohen the Barbarian. He has outlived his years as a muscle-bound hulk and is now an octogenarian. Regardless, he is still extremely good with a sword (assuming his back doesn’t seize up.)
I adore this author. His books are light, funny, and extremely clever. I would recommend this book and this author to anyone looking for a good laugh, certainly something we could all use more of.