The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett. ★★★1/2
The Light Fantastic is part of the Discworld series, which is to say one of forty fantasy novels. Before you start panicking, the series can, for the most part, be read in any order. Generally, I recommend starting with Guards! Guards!, Going Postal, or maybe Small Gods. However, The Light Fantastic is one of those rare Discworld novels where you probably do need to have read a preceding book, in this case The Color of Magic.
The Color of Magic ends with an almost literal cliffhanger, and The Light Fantastic picks up directly where The Color of Magic left off and is a better book in several ways. For one thing, it has much more of a plot and drive. Near the beginning of The Light Fantastic a red star appears in the sky, and the Discworld is moving inevitably towards it. The narrative is focused around Rincewind and Twoflower, but there is a closely related subplot concerning the wizards of the Unseen University, who are trying to retrieve Rincewind (dead or alive) and the spell stuck inside his head.
The characterization of The Light Fantastic is also improved. Rincewind and Twoflower seem more vivid, and the Luggage even seems more alive than in the first book. There are also a number of memoriable secondary characters such as the (latter reappearing) Cohen and the Barbarian, who’s been heroing for a very long time.
I really do love the dynamic of Rincewind and Twoflower and how they are such friends, whatever Rincewind may say to the contrary. Their parting at the end of the book was a sad moment, and I look forward to reaching Interesting Times in my reread, in which the pair are reunited.
I feel like this book was also an improvement on female characters. While it may not have passed the Bechdel test, Bethan is around for much of the action, Ysabell makes an appearance, and the “professional heroine” Herrena gets this hilarious introduction:
“Now, there is a tendency at a point like this to look over one’s shoulder at the cover artist and start going on at length about leather, tight boots and naked blades.
Words like ‘full’, ‘round’ and even ‘pert’ creep into the narrative, until the writer has to go and have a cold shower and a lie down.
Which is all rather silly, because any woman setting out to make a living by the sword isn’t about to go around looking like something off the cover of the more advanced kind of lingerie catalog for the specialized buyer.
Oh well, all right. The point that must be made is that although Herrena the Henna-Haired Harridan would look quite stunning after a good bath, a heavy-duty manicure, and the pick of the leather racks in Woo Hun Ling’s Oriental Exotica and Martial Aids on Heroes Street, she was currently quite sensibly dressed in light chain mail, soft boots, and a short sword.
All right, maybe the boots were leather. But not black.”
As ever, the word play is excellent and frequently laugh out loud funny, as the above sample should show.
I’d recommend this one (and it’s predecessor) for people looking for a light, funny read, but if you’re looking to get into Discworld, please start with one of the books I mentioned in the first paragraph! While The Light Fantastic is fun, the successive books go far beyond it.
Two other covers:
I’m not really impressed with any of these covers.