Sabrina F Ahmad
Every now and then, I simply get tired of serious literature and soapy novels, no matter how beautifully written. It's times like these that I find myself running back to fantasy, where I can just leave the real world behind and lose myself in magic. If it's a funny fantasy, even better.
Now, you just can't say 'funny' and 'fantasy' without instantly thinking of Terry Pratchett. With a mega-series (Discworld) spanning some 40 books at current count, and 50 million copies of his books sold worldwide, this British-born humorist is definitely a big name amongst writers of this genre, if not THE name to look out for.
Now, I realise that the twenty-fourth novel in the Discworld series is not a good place to start, so here's a little skinny about Discworld, for the uninitiated. The Discworld is a disc-shaped world borne by four elephants, who in turn are standing on the back of the great turtle A'tuin, which wades languidly through space. This interesting planet (if indeed you can call it a planet) is home to a host of colourful characters. Three places that feature most frequently in this series are the city of Ankh-Morpokh, the village of Lancre, and the Unseen University (of Magic, like Hogwarts, only way weirder). The city of Ankh-Morpokh, which is the focus of this particular novel, is ruled by the omniscient Patrician Lord Vetinari. A benevolent despot with a rather sinister sense of humour, his word is law, and this law is enforced by the City Watch, who are basically the policemen of Ankh-Morpokh.
The story opens with a diplomatic situation in a faraway land of Bonk, famous for its reserves of fat (which make for excellent candles, soap, and the like) where the controversial new Low King of Dwarves is to be crowned. Since Ankh-Morphok, which has an enormous immigrant population of dwarves, wishes to maintain a good trade relationship with Bonk, they need to send an ambassador to attend the coronation ceremony. For reasons best known to himself, Lord Vetinari sends Sam Vimes, who is both the commander of the City Watch, and the Duke of Ankh-Morpokh, through his marriage with Lady Sybil. As an uneasy Vimes reluctantly leaves a busy beat (crimes of serious significance are popping up all over the city) to make way for the vampire and werewolf-ridden kingdom, in a sub-plot, his second-in-command, Captain Carrot also leaves the Watch to go searching for his girlfriend Sgt Angua, leaving the Watch in the hands of an incompetent junior officer.
Upon reaching Bonk, Vimes discovers that all is not what it seems, and under the already tense façade of international politics, are undercurrents of a decidedly criminal nature. The copper in Vimes takes over, and we have a fast-paced whodunit no less breathtaking and political than a Fred Forsythe book.
Pratchett makes his usual tongue-in-cheek references to popular books, movies, pop culture, poking fun at human nature in a way that is guaranteed to make you split your sides laughing. Aside from the fact that he has a keen understanding of human foibles and idiosyncrasies, so that his works are actually cleverly disguised social commentaries, he uses language to maximum effect, with outrageous metaphors, similes and hyperboles. Consider the phrase 'a riddle wrapped up in an enigma, shrouded in mystery'.
If you want a read that incorporates everything from politics to mystery to romance without losing its sense of fun, then this is definitely the read for you.
Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2007