Something that fascinates me when you get these big iconic works of art in a creative scene is which ones inspire whole new schools and which ones stand alone. For my money, The Colour of Magic is in the latter category. When was the last time you read a book that reminded you of The Colour of Magic?
Hell, even Sir Pterry didn’t write too many more like it. Which is part of my fascination with the book.
I have to say now that I am more a fan of the concept here than the actual story. The story itself is unlikely to rock your world in here and now, although it is a great favourite of many. I will get to that in time. But the concept – take the great, mad, visceral and alien world and adventures of Swords & Sorcery, and then stick in a very average and unwilling human to run the gauntlet as protagonist – is brilliant. To call Rincewind a reluctant hero is to miss the chance to use terms like begrudging, resistant, and heavily coerced.
And the world is mad. It’s something that’s a strength and a weakness, because you get the feeling that fitting everything in distracted Pratchett from the actual story (he freely admits he only really discovered plot around the time of Sourcery). He flits from place to place, eager to show us all his riffs on the ridiculousness of it all. Exploring all his ideas is huge fun, even for someone who didn’t know every idea he was riffing on. Is it as much fun as it could be if he really dug onto one place, as he did in later books? Who knows; it’s best to focus on what it does.
This sort of madcap approach comes into the storytelling too. The Colour of Magic is more a group of interconnected novellas than one story, and the novellas are arguably collections of scenes rather than true narratives. Certainly, anyone expecting major change or growth from Rincewind is at the wrong theatre. He’s there to have disasters happen to him and react hilariously.
Ultimately, I’m more into story and characters. The wonder of the Wyrmberg, or the horrible feeling of knowing what’ll happen next when insurance is introduced to the uniformly dishonest if not sharp citizens of Ankh-Morpork, are great, but they are side dishes on the menu of my enjoyment. Ultimately, there’s a limit to how much I’m going to recommend this book.
But, neverthless, I enjoy it and recommend it. Why? Because it’s fun to visit a mad fantasy world and wonder around, even if few others seem to want to write it.
p.s. I would totally play the shit out of an open world Discworld computer RPG.