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Nation
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143 of 151 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 10 September 2008
I've had this book on order for months - and I rushed home to rip open the package and get reading when it arrived from Amazon.
And there was no Discworld.. No turtle, no elephants, no witches, no dwarves - nothing - nothing but Terry and his beautiful, perceptive way of understanding and writing about human nature, life, the universe and everything..
I get the feeling that what he has gifted us with, this time, was too important to be hidden cunningly among the wonderful characters and humour of the discworld series. Although the Tiffany Aching books are pretty special, and give my favourite (Small Gods) a run for its money..

What Terry Pratchett doesn't know about people, quantum physics and spiritual philosophy isn't worth knowing.. And the way he engages us, and leads us through both his stories, and the breadth and depth of life and being human, in this place - and at this time - speaks of both love and poetry. This is a beautiful book - and it was worth going in to work half asleep - because I couldn't put it down and get myself off to bed until I'd finished it. Highly recommended.
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89 of 94 people found the following review helpful
I want to add my review here of Nation but it's actually an extraordinarily difficult thing to do. The reason is that I don't want to appear to be `gushing' with praise for it. If ever I read such a review, it normally has the effect of turning me off the book completely, as it's obviously written by a fan who hasn't read a different author or genre since they left primary school. In view of this, here's what I genuinely thought of it:
I finished the book last night and my immediate thought was `Oh my gosh, this is a classic'. This is a book that will be discussed, debated and written about for years to come. It's a bit like being around when a new Dickens or Jane Austin novel came out.
The plot has been mentioned here already, so I won't repeat it again. I see that some reviewers have said that Nation is pitched at older children in their teens, but don't be fooled. This book has so much depth and can be read at so many levels, there's enough here to keep 10 year old Harry Potter fans to Academic Philosophers happy. The writing style is as clear and sparkling as cut crystal and while reading it, Pratchett takes your conscious mind out of this world and into his. You become each character, looking through their eyes, thinking their thoughts and feeling their every emotion. It is a fully immersive experience. The book also engages the brain by making you think about how societies and belief systems are created and our place in them. It is also a book to make you think about what makes you, you. If ever there was a book that could provide software upgrade for your brain, this is it.

Terry, I'll probably never meet you in person, but thank you for such a special gift.
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132 of 144 people found the following review helpful
So, first things first - this is not a Discworld book, which marks it as somewhat of a departure from the norm. Secondly, it's wonderful, made all the more wonderful by its separation from the usual Narrative Elements of a Terry Pratchett novel.

I received the book today and read it in a single sitting - bits of the book are tremendously sad, other bits are tremendously bitter - I do wonder how much of the book is a metaphor for TP's own deeply sad condition. There aren't many laughs in the book, but there is a very touching, emotionally resonant story that at its core is greatly optimistic.

I do hope that this isn't the last book we'll see from Terry Pratchett, who as an author has given me a greater Enjoyment to Hour ratio than any other writer. If this is to be his swan song though, he's carried it off marvellously.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2008
Britain's most popular fantasy satirist returns with his new non-Discworld novel and he doesn't disappoint. Nation is a possible world comic fantasy based on a version of Earth set in a time equivalent to our nineteenth century. The novel takes place in the fictional South Pelagic Islands (somewhere in the equivalent of our South Pacific) and after a tsunami wreaks havoc we follow the fortunes of Mau, the sole survivor of an island known as `The Nation', and shipwrecked English teenager named Daphne (the daughter of the heir-by-circumstance to the English throne).

As with all Pratchett novels the satire is sharp, penetrating and most-importantly laugh out loud; furthermore, that characteristic Pratchett wisdom is deeply embedded within the jokes.

In Nation the themes include the question of identity: Mau's own sense of personal identity is present throughout, as well as his identity in other people's eyes. The annihilation of his people by the tsunami robs Mau of the fulfilment of the journey from man to boy (he never gets to complete the ceremony that would make him a man in his society). However, despite his own worries about this he completes the journey through his deeds and the responsibility he assumes (and is granted by later arrivals) gives birth to his maturity. Moreover, Mau has to consider the role of community in his own sense of identity: in the absence of the community, to what extent does he still belong to it? What constitutes the community - the physical existence of the people or the rules and ideology it embraces?

This conflict is acutely felt by Mau throughout the book: his ancestors, The Grandfathers, `speak' to him inside his head and order him to continue the traditions of The Nation, yet Mau also feels it within himself to question these traditions, especially those in relation to the Gods, in light of the tsunami and his own attempts to re-establish society on the island.

Mau's scepticism about traditional theological beliefs and his conflict with the priest Ataba also provide us with an example typically thought-provoking undertone to Pratchett's satire. Mau struggles to reconcile the idea that the Gods act for the good of the people with the state of affairs he has survived and has to live with; Ataba's commitment to obedience to the traditions counterbalance this and offer insight into the role and importance of faith in forming strong community bonds and identity. Pratchett does not seem to suggest in Nation that one view is preferable over another, although Ataba's faith leads to his demise and the Nation's ultimate victory and contribution to wider culture is emphatically a scientific one.

This brings us to a criticism found in Nation of the attitudes of so-called civilised societies toward `savage' ways of life; in particular the treatment of indigenous peoples and their cultural traditions by the imperialist European conquerors. The reaction of Daphne when she first encounters Mau and the behaviour, later in the book, of English mutineers on the island demonstrate that if history is to attach the label of `savage' to anyone then it belongs firmly with the European `civilisers'; Pratchett, it seems, is keen to lower his hat to the achievements of the advanced ancient civilisations, now lost to history and in some cases silenced either by the power of force - external or internal.

There is plenty more in Nation: for example I found some delightful commentary on the nature of language and communication, and the humanity of human beings is redeemed as the means to breaking down cultural barriers; it is arrogance and presumption of moral rightness that sends cross-cultural relations awry.

It is because Pratchett's novels are so loaded with philosophical and other thought-provoking themes, alongside his ability to render these in accessible and light-hearted way, that they have so much appeal. The dialogue in Nation is as good as any other of Pratchett's Discworld novels and what I so much enjoy of Pratchett is the way he creates fantastic situations but keeps us involved, connected and ultimately nodding away with the ordinary feel of the dialogue; he manages to avoid fantasy cliché so often simply by giving us characters and responses to the fantastic that we can all understand and relate to. For example, the blossoming romance between Mau and Daphne is full of all the awkwardness of any teenage romance. The exercise is not simply escapism, but the feeling that we are being confronted with situation that is genuinely human in spite of the exotic events that surround it.

Overall, Nation possesses all the qualities that make Terry Pratchett such a readable and much-loved author: escapism, thought-provoking satire, razor-sharp dialogue and characters we can all identify with. Now that I am finished with Nation I suffer the same reaction I do to all Pratchett novels: a deep disappointment that I have finished, but an excited anticipation of the next; although I have no doubt I will be picking it up again.
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42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 10 September 2008
One of the funny things about Terry Pratchett is how easy it is to take him for granted. It's probably a truism to say that he hasn't really written a truly bad book. It could be levelled at him, however, that during middle-period Discworld books like Jingo, he was running on autopilot to some degree. All that changed around the period of The Truth and Thief of Time, where suddenly he seemed to find another gear entirely, which has given us wonderful Discworld novels such as Night Watch and the sublime Going Postal, not to mention the series of related Discworld stories starring Tiffany Aching and the Nac Mac Feegle.

Nation is a product of this later, and ongoing, period, but it is something of a departure. It isn't even a Discworld novel. Instead, it appears to take place in our own world, or some parallel version of it, with a distinctly mid-Victorian feel.

The root of the story is The Wave and how it is seen from the viewpoint of both Mau and Ermin...sorry, Daphne (don't worry, it gets explained later in the book). Mau is the sole survivor of The Nation, returning from the ritual exile that begins each boy's initiation into manhood to find his whole society has been wiped out by The Wave. At the same time, the ship in which Daphne is travelling, the Sweet Judy, is wrecked upon the same island during the same [literally] cataclysmic storm.

Apart from just trying to stay alive in the first place, Mau also seems to have to contend with the voices of The Grandfathers calling out to him; actually, ordering him around might be nearer the mark. Survival in these conditions isn't easy, from finding something to start a fire to worrying about the predations of the Raiders. And then there's the Ghost Girl, who wears trousers and carries the portable roof. How do you keep The Nation alive from there? Against the odds, Mau, the Ghost Girl and the others who gradually begin to arrive seem to start making a good fist of it. But there are still enormous obstacles in the way...

Nation is a book overflowing with ideas and, in the end, is one of a more humanist inclination. That is not to say that it is not a spiritual book: quite the opposite. Spirituality is talked about an awful lot, as is the need to be curious and to ask questions about the world around you. Indeed, along the way, the reader gets a more than adequate (and cunningly insinuated) grounding in the workings of scientific method. There is also no cliched happy ending, just a real one, with a rather nice epilogue as it happens; it's nice not to have a cop-out.

For me the standout part of the book is its beginning, and the aftermath of The Wave. Rarely has Pratchett written so powerfully, or indeed so bleakly. There is real emotional force and sadness in his description of Mau's return to his destroyed village home. This is the starting point for another of the book's wider themes: the change from childhood to adulthood, from innocence to knowledge: adolescence. Here, Nation reminded me a great deal of Philip Pullman's his Dark Materials (particularly The Amber Spyglass ). Indeed, like HDM, I would say that Nation isn't a "children's" book at all, just a book that both children and young adults would enjoy reading.

As one would expect from TP, none of this is done in a pompous or po-faced way. He rather has the habit of sidling big ideas like these into his books under cover of gags. After all this time, it's fairly safe to say he hasn't lost his touch. I'd even go as far as to say that, especially because of its beginning, this may be the finest thing he has written (and this, remember, is the author who was responsible, with Neil Gaiman, for the wondrous Good Omens). Given his track record that is saying something, but I think it may be true.

Unreservedly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 October 2009
I read quite a few Terry Pratchett books a few years ago, mainly those of the Discworld persuasion. Last year I read and thoroughly enjoyed Johnny and the Bomb. I think this is my favourite Prachett book.

This book is difficult to summarize. It is set in an alternate colonial history and follows the story of two young, daring individuals--Ermentrude aka Daphne, relative to the Queen, daughter of a Duke and enthusiastic young scientist, and Mau, the sole survivor of his entire tribe of the Nation following a tsunami. Daphne is traveling on a ship and is washed ashore. Eventually, of course, they interact, and hilarity ensues as they do not understand each other's language and customs. After a time, other survivors start straggling together, and they form a small, new tribe.

The book largely covers the theme of logic rationality. Both of them doubt their respective faiths and are very interested in science. Someone else on here mentioned it was like "Richard Dawkin's summer camp" or something along those lines, and I can see their point. For someone highly religious, it will probably come off offensive. It is cynical, but also endearing. There's the typical Pratchett humour, but it's quieter than his other work.

It's an interesting world, one that shows an alternate look on how colonialism potentially could have been. It's a book full of good fun and hands-down one of the smartest young adult books out there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 February 2011
Pratchett has always been at his best not while writing about wizards and magic,which for me often got in the way and resulted in contrived Deus Ex Machina endings to his books, but while writing about people,the way people think and behave,and the things and people that matter to them,getting inside their heads and providing an insight into their humanity.

Often he uses humour to shine a light on the absurdity of some of the ways in which people behave,but they are not,to my mind,humourous books per se.

Nation is a book about people. It isn't particularly funny. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 31 October 2009
Just finished Nation with tears running down my face for the last 20 minutes (BTW I am a middle-aged bloke not given to over sentimentality). Not because it is sad but because it is beautiful, intelligent and thoughtful in its reflection on the nature of reality, growing up and the nature of heroism. It is not without its faults and some of the more spiritual elements are a little loose. There are however a number of subtleties contained in the plotting and plot lines reconnect with each other almost without you noticing. Besides anyone who actually wants "perfection" from a novel had better simply give up now.

This is a very different Terry Pratchett book and it is actually quite difficult to see it as a "children's book" - both in terms of style and content. The commentary is wry and wise rather than laugh out loud funny (though I did at times) and its targets are of a more philosophical nature than the usual socio/political satire.

It is much easier if you simply approach it as a book and not as the next in a long line of TP novels. Many discworld fans will simply find this disappointing. To balance that, many readers who find TP's other work not to their taste should give this a go as it is so unlike his usual output (though should not be regarded as a "way in" for a reluctant TP convert - it really is a one off).

For me it was rather wonderful. Thank you Terry.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 7 September 2008
This latest offering from Terry Pratchett is not a discworld novel, instead it is a standalone story set on what would be a South Pacific island were it not set in a parallel universe.

Still, even in such a place, the customs and practices of the trousermen will be familiar, as will the tentative romance, the power of loss and the need of the human species to stop, every so often, and ask why.

Mau is an unlikely hero, but inspires both heart breaking sorrow and pride in his strength of character. Daphne is, as many of Pratchett's heroines, courageous, slightly sarcastic and steadfast in her uncertainty.

This book is darker than previous novels, Pratchett sometimes spears through the heart with the simplest of lines, and tragedy is a necessary undercurrent throughout the tale. At the end of the book, the author invites you to think, although surely by this point, the thinking has already begun.

A different, but rewarding novel. Probably not a good initiation into Pratchett's world, but a must for those who appreciate the subtleties of his fantastic writing skills.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 January 2009
Keep it brief...

It's not Discworld, but that doesn't matter - Discworld fans should not be disappointed. It has a good, strong plot with plenty of hooks to keep you reading. It's thoughtful, intelligent and funny in the best Pratchett tradition. The end may have been a little predictable, but perhaps that comes from this reader's familiarity with his other works.

There are plenty of strong & varied characters (whatever some other reviewers have said) although the main characters, Mau and Daphne, are both "Pratchett clones" - they could have come from any one of many of his previous Discworld books.

Thanks Terry - keep 'em coming.
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