Title: The Colour of Magic.
Series: Discworld #1.
Writer(s): Terry Pratchett.
Format: Mass Market Paperback.
Release Date: January 18th 1985 (first published November 24th 1983).
Genre(s): Fantasy, Humour.
My Overall Rating: ★★☆☆☆.
There’s a number of fantasy writers out there who have been crowned Gods for their contribution to the genre in one way or another. With their incredible imagination and impeccable wordsmithery, they have set loose pieces of literature that have become impossible to overlook for fans of the genre around the world. Amongst these writers, the legendary Terry Pratchett is one that has had his name spewed in my direction by everyone that I can think of. Known especially for his books set in his Discworld series and for his work with Neil Gaiman, Good Omens, rarely have I heard anyone disrespect the man for his work or his person. While the first book of the Discworld series isn’t the first book that is often recommended by fans to introduce neophytes to the author’s mind, it remains the beginning of something gargantuan. However, in my case, this was my foray into a universe where its comedy was my main enemy.
What is The Colour of Magic about? Set on a disc-flat world supported on the backs of four giant elephants who stand upon a ginormous sea turtle, the story follows Rincewind, an incompetent wizard, who serves as a guide to Twoflower, a tourist insurance clerk who is accompanied by a treasure chest with many legs. Together, they are off to explore various regions around the world with peculiar civilizations who are bound to complicate their journey. Throughout their adventure, they also end up realizing that Gods are also playing games with them and that nothing they do will be easy, as survival swiftly becomes a much more crucial objective than sight-seeing. Left in the hands of an inept wizard, the fate of the world, and the lives of this group, is now all but safe.
Let’s just say it already. I did not find this funny. I did not laugh a single time. The Colour of Magic is by far the perfect example of a story that explains my general reluctance to pick up anything humourous. I have always thought comedy to be something utterly subjective, impossible to please all. Throughout this book, I have tried countless times to decipher Terry Pratchett’s sense of humour, to try and acclimate myself to his jokes, whether it was through one-liners or the countless interactions between bizarre characters, but nothing in this collection of short stories—I’m calling it for what it pretty much is—was able to crack a smile on my face. While I’m usually prone to bend in half giggling at clever and dark humour, I was unfortunately confronted with something that seemed set on the other side of the spectrum. Although his writing style is promising, it’s essentially the content of this story—or lack of—that never had a chance with me. While I could sum it and blame it entirely on British humour and high expectations, I honestly think there are flaws in this one that contributed to its failure to impress.
While the humour might not have been my cup of tea, the world-building was as wacky as expected. It’s one thing to have a world mounted on elephants and turtles but to have such idiosyncratic characters and creatures on all the continents was fascinating to read about, to say the least. You’d have to be ready for the unimaginable to fully embrace this book’s direction but you’ll also have to take into consideration that Terry Pratchett has a unique writing style as well. There’s no clearly-defined and coherent story, and this takes away a quintessential element that could’ve allowed the writing style to work better with me. It also doesn’t help that the spontaneous and sporadic point-of-view flipping makes things even harder to follow, just when you thought the plot was messy enough to give you a headache. If anything, I see this book as an experimental introduction to a world that I’ll surely learn more of as I give the next couple of books a chance to win me over.
The Colour of Magic is a humdrum adventure filled with quirky and eccentric events with an incompetent wizard, a naive tourist, and a thousand-legged luggage at the heart of it all.
A two-part TV mini-series based on the first two books (The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic) was released in 2008, starring David Jason as Rincewind and Sean Astin as Twoflower.