28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Brings the Discworld into sharp focus
, 28 Nov. 2002
This review is from: The Light Fantastic: A Discworld Novel: 2 (Paperback)
The Light Fantastic is the second book in Terry Pratchett's brilliantly funny Discworld series, continuing the tale related in the first book The Colour of Magic. The last we knew, Rincewind and Discworld's first tourist Twoflower had fallen off the rim of the world, which is an especially dangerous happenstance on a world that is totally flat and carried on the backs of four elephants who in turn stand atop the great cosmic turtle Great A'Tuin. While Rincewind is Discworld's most incompetent wizard and all-around unlucky fellow, he manages to evade the clutches of Death (although he does bump into him fairly often) time and again (27 times by Twoflower's count at the midpoint of this novel). Why this is so is, we discover, is because Rincewind carries one of the eight most powerful spells from the magical Octavo. Reality keeps having to reshape itself in order to keep rescuing the wizard. Although Rincewind, the eternally optimistic Twoflower, and the magical Luggage of sapient pearwood are once again on the disc, they face a number of obstacles in getting home to Ankh-Morpork. They are fortunate enough to join forces with Disworld's greatest hero Cohen the Barbarian; Cohen is an old man now, but he doesn't let that stop him from rescuing maidens, stealing treasures, and doing other heroic things. At this particular time, the Discworld itself is in danger, threatened with an imminent collision with a giant red star heading its way. The wizards of Unseen University believe that all eight powerful spells from the Octavo must be read in order to save the Discworld, so the missing Rincewind must be found in order to release the necessary eighth spell locked inside his brain. A series of adventures and misadventures ensue for our motley crew of characters, including a stopover at a vacated witch's house made of candy, a wild ride on a broomstick, a collision with a druid-steered cloud, and a trip to the home of Death himself before Rincewind manages to return home. Whether he can actually make use of the eighth spell and somehow manage to avert the Discworld's total destruction by the onrushing red star is, as is typical for this inept failed wizard, questionable at best.
The Light Fantastic builds upon the story of The Colour of Magic and breathes more life into the unique Discworld of Terry Pratchett's imaginative construction. More areas of the world are revealed to the reader, and we for the first time get a decent look at what goes on in the school of wizardry. Not only do we meet Cohen the Barbarian, we are also introduced to the ape librarian of Unseen University, who will become a significant character in later novels. You should certainly read the previous novel before this one because the two are closely connected in terms of plot, characterization, etc. It will also help you to recognize just how much more vibrant and real Pratchett's Discworld seems by the end of The Light Fantastic. The comedy quotient of both novels is about equal, but the storyline seems much stronger and flows much more naturally in this one. Pratchett was honing his already sharp scythe of quick wit and nascent satire in these first two Discworld novels, building a compellingly unique little world and populating it with unforgettable characters. This is high-brow comedy of the highest order, and we readers are privileged to be able to say we were there from the start with Rincewind, Twoflower, and the Luggage.
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