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Book Review

Book Cover



Author: Terry Pratchett
RRP: £6.99, US $8.99, Cdn $12.95
ISBN: 978 0 5525 5780 1
Available 01 October 2009

Mau’s world was always one of comforting ritual and predictability, life’s rhythms were dictated by the gods. Daphne’s world was defined just as much by etiquette. The ebb and flow of both their lives seemed predetermined until the wave came. For Mau it meant the eradication of the Nation, his people and everything he had known, for Daphne it meant shipwreck on Mau’s Island. Together they must learn to survive, but their very survival makes them question everything that they once thought they knew...

Nation is the new book by Terry Pratchett, and there can be few words that I can add to further glisten Pratchett’s already well documented and well deserved praise. As a writer he almost single handily created a market for wit and humour in fantasy novels with his extensive Discworld novels.

For anyone expecting this novel to be another in this series there may be some disappointment. True, Pratchett has used his usual sense of wit and the absurd to pepper Nation with some amusing imagery but, in truth, this is a far more serious book. One may speculate that this turn towards the serious side of things has been brought on by his diagnosis, but personally I think that these ideas are the stuff which has rattled around an enquiring mind for most of his life.

The book follows the fortunes of Mau and Daphne following a catastrophe which has effectively wiped out both of their worlds. As they slowly recover they are joined by a traumatised woman, a baby and a zealous priest. The focus of the novel is firmly on Mau and poses the question, would you still have a belief in a god which would kill everyone you know?

For Mau and the reader these are troubling thoughts and not so divorced from our own real world, with nightly news of another thousand wiped out from flood, famine or pestilence, in such a world what is the role of God? Pratchett uses the novel to expertly dissect the almost meaningless rhetoric of religious leaders who spend time making excuses for a deity that apparently has the power to create a utopia, but instead appears to want to create a series of random and destructive events.

It is a futile exercise to question whether the book is written well, Pratchett’s prose is as good as ever, as is his ability to create characters which draw you into the story. There is one oddity about the novel as Pratchett seems to have stolen an idea from Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973), by having the last chapter reveal that the whole story has, in fact been told as a flashback. It doesn’t detract from the book, but then I’m not sure that it adds anything either.

So if you like your Pratchett thought provoking then this is going to be right up your alley, just don’t expect it to be another Discworld book.


Charles Packer

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