Terry Pratchett's 'Nation' a departure from 'Discworld'
By Marissa Creamer
Rowan Public Library
Although best known for his Discworld comic fantasy series for adults, author Terry Pratchett has also written a number of books for young people, including the Carnegie-medal-winning “The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents.”
Most recently, he penned “Wintersmith,” the third of the Tiffany Aching novels, featuring a resourceful trainee witch. Pratchett’s latest novel, “Nation,” is a departure from Discworld, and is, as he explains in his author’s note, “set in a parallel universe, a phenomenon known only to advanced physicists and anyone who has ever watched any episode of any SF series, anywhere.”
A crossover novel written for teens that will appeal to adults as well, it requires no knowledge of Pratchett’s previous work.
Set in the mid-19th century, “Nation” is the story of Mau, the sole survivor after a tsunami sweeps away his remote island village. As the teen struggles with his faith in the gods that allowed this to happen, he slowly begins to rebuild a society of refugees with the help of Daphne, a young British teen who is shipwrecked on the island.
This deeply philosophical novel follows Mau as he wrestles with his demons: How could the gods destroy the Nation, allowing even innocent children to die? Do such gods deserve to be worshipped, or are they even real? What is the use of tradition in the face of present needs?
While Mau is struggling with such spiritual conundrums, the sheltered Daphne is receiving a more practical education. The girl who has been taught that “a lady should never lift anything heavier than a parasol and should certainly never set foot in a kitchen” will chew the food for a toothless old woman, midwife the birth of a baby, poison a murderer and amputate a man’s leg.
The story is written with characteristic Pratchett humor, if somewhat muted compared to the usual Discworld zaniness. The sole inhabitants of the island, Daphne invites Mau to an introductory tea party at the shipwrecked remains of the Sweet Judy.
She attempts to follow the rules of her book of etiquette as she completes a gold-edged invitation card. “She dipped her pen in the ink and crossed out Government House, Port Mercia at the top of the card, and carefully wrote underneath: ‘The Wreck of the Sweet Judy.’ There were other changes that needed to be made. Whoever had designed the card had completely overlooked the possibility that you might want to invite someone whose name you didn’t know, who lived on a beach, wore hardly any clothing, and almost certainly couldn’t read. But she did her best, on both sides of the card,* and then signed it ‘Ermintrude Fanshaw (the Honorable Miss)….. *Where it said ‘Dress,’ she’d written: ‘Yes, please.’ ”
Pratchett also provides plenty of excitement, with at least one scene evocative of an Indiana Jones film. Together Mau and Daphne defend the island against cannibals and discover an amazing secret about the Nation, revealing much about its past and charting a course for the future.
You can find “Nation,” and other titles by Terry Pratchett, at Rowan Public Library.
Holiday closings: All library locations will close 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 23, and reopen Dec. 27; East branch will reopen Dec. 29.
All locations will close at 5 p.m. Dec. 31 and reopen Jan. 2.
Tuesday movies: 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, “Blackbeard’s Ghost” with Suzanne Pleshette; Dec. 30, 6:30 p.m., “Silk Stalkings,” with Cyd Charisse. Children should be accompanied by an adult.