Friday, July 20, 2007

Terry Pratchett: Wintersmith

Just finished reading Terry Pratchett's latest 'for younger readers' Discworld book. It was OK.

In general, given the quality of some of TP's books for 'grown ups', I have found the kids' books disappointing. But this is probably the best of the bunch so far. For some reason, TP seems to think that if you're doing a kids' book it needs to have a much smaller story than adult books - so some of his grown up books have had plots involving wars, governments, countries, etc., but the kids books all happen on a local level. And contain more 'knob gags' and swearing references (though often implicit).

I'm stuck halfway between liking and being offended by the stereotypically Scottish (blue skinned, orange haired, kilt wearing, drinking, swearing, stupid) Feegles - half the time its funny but it veers dangerously close to racism at times. You couldn't have a comedy race of stereotypically Jewish or Indian or Chinese characters in a book like this, cos there would be outrage - even Welsh would probably not be received well - but Scottish is OK? Hmmm.

So what of the plot? Well, the nearly-thirteen year old main character Tiffany Aching inadvertently does something silly early on in the story, which changes the seasons, and spends the rest of the book trying to restore things back to the way they should be. Along the way she has to, basically, be more grown up than the grown ups in the story and deal with the unwanted romantic advances of the Wintersmith. And there's a storyline involving her male friend Roland which ultimately seems pointless. I think TP just wanted to keep him in the story somehow.

The main problem I have with this book is that TP chose to start it with a chapter which, chronologically, comes near the end of the book. This ends with a 'but all this hasn't happened yet' type line and we jump back 6 months or so. By choosing to do this, the author is more or less saying 'the start of my story is not very interesting' and has to give the reader a tantalising glimpse of something exciting coming up to keep them reading through the dull bits. Books that start like this are never great.

Its a shame. We used to get two 'grown up' Pratchett books a year, now we get less than one as his writing seems to have slowed down a bit and he's now doing these kids' books. Still, the next 'grown up' book can't be too far away, so here's hoping.

But, of course, the next book on my 'to read' list is another kids' book - out at midnight tonight...

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