Mark Reads ‘The Light Fantastic’: Part 1

In the first part of The Light Fantastic, I don’t even know how to summarize any of this. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Holy shit. Well, this is already nothing like I expected.

Actually, that’s not quite true. In terms of the writing and Pratchett’s wit, this is like an enhanced version of The Color of Magic. Things felt a little bit funnier, the parody was a bit sharper, and the weirdness was a bit… weirder. It’s the Discworld. And that means this is par for the course:

… but it is vital to an understanding of the Disc that he – or she – is there, down below the mines and sea ooze and fake fossil bones put there by a Creator with nothing better to do than upset archaeologists and give them silly ideas.

Hey, dinosaurs are the best silly idea. THE BEST. Oh, I loved dinosaurs so much when I was a kid. I don’t dislike them now or anything; they’re just… not my main interest these days. (I’m really into food these days.)

The start of The Light Fantastic is large. It feels all-encompassing. That idea in and of itself is funny to me, since Pratchett ended the last book with a huge cliffhanger, and then he deliberately dawdles about in tons of asides and jokes before he ever begins to tell us what the hell is going on with Rincewind and Twoflower. Instead, he hints towards an ending for this book, one that is going to have far-reaching consequences for this entire universe, namely because:

Actually, the philosophers have got it all wrong. Great A’Tuin is in fact having a great time.

Great A’Tuin is the only creature in the entire universe that knows exactly where it is going.

Of course, philosophers have debated for years about where Great A’Tuin might be going, and have often said how worried they are that they might never find out.

They’re due to find out in about two months. And then they’re really going to worry…

LIKE, THIS ISN’T EVEN SOMETHING I EVER CONSIDERED. Great A’Tuin is going somewhere? They’re not just floating through space because This Is What You Do? Oh god. OH GOD.

We do finally catch up with Twoflower, onboard the Potent Voyager, which is voyaging down into space, the result of the “one thousand percent successful” escape attempt from Krull, and Rincewind is just two miles above him, also plunging through space while reliving his life in a whole lot more detail than most people experience. And really, I’m so tickled that this is both a summary of the events of the last book and an utter parody of when books that are part of a series summarize events that happen before said book. That’s a fine line between the two of them, and it’s something that Pratchett balanced well in The Color of Magic.

It’s also clear that something huge is happening amidst all the humor. Pratchett is quick to introduce new characters, all at the Unseen University, namely Galder Weatherwax, who has a lot of titles that I won’t repeat here. Please, please tell me there is fanart of the half-dozen wizards in nightshirts standing outside the door to the room that holds the Octavo. I particularly need to see Galder with his fluffy pompom slippers. THIS IS A GREAT NEED AND SHOULD THUS BE TAKEN VERY SERIOUSLY. I am guessing that because of Rincewind’s plunge and subsequent subconscious attempt to say the spell he holds within his mind, the other seven spells in the Octavo are getting… well, restless. That’s an understatement, of course, because they aren’t just restles.

THEY ARE LITERALLY CHANGING THE UNIVERSE IN ORDER TO SAVE RINCEWIND.

Which is only a technicality, though. As I understood it, as the that wave of potentiality swept upwards in the university, eventually spreading a massive Change spell that encompassed the entire known Discworld, it altered everything to keep it exactly the same, aside from two details: Rincewind was no longer plunging into space, and the Potent Voyager was now sitting at the bottom of the lake. There’s a lot that happens in between that, and I can’t ignore the hint that the seven remaining spells in the Octavo probably changed the Discworld just to prevent the eighth sibling spell of theirs from dying within a failed wizard’s head. Like, that’s probably what happened, right?

This magic of possibility had so much… possibility. (I can’t even avoid using wordplay when writing about this book, y’all.) I mean, think of it like this: As that ball of magic moved to a higher and higher form, it would “violently” reassembled any particles that it came in contact with, and that’s why we get hilarious things like a floor that is purple newts. Not made up of them: the floor just is that. The book? They just are pineapple custard. Not books made of custard! No, that’s not far enough. Each floor offers a new surreal adventure that amused the hell out of me, and then the tiny universe began to form, and then this clearly was going to be a lot bigger than just a few floors of wacky nonsense.

But this is how Pratchett’s humor works. He sets up this cataclysmic event, and then we find out that these volatile possibility particles reform the entire universe to save two people. Sure, it’s weird that Twoflower is at the bottom of a lake and doesn’t seem too put off by this. That speaks to Twoflower’s own personal philosophy, though, not the magic of the Octavo spells. So the joke here is that possibility magic Changes the entire universe by changing – percentage-wise – none of it. And now Twoflower’s own outlook on life is once again confirmed for him, and it’s kind of the funniest thing ever.

I’m a hyperbolic person by nature. I’ve always been that way, and I like speaking in extremes. It’s fun. And now Pratchett has given me existential terror for needing to question the poetic use of simile because I AM VERY AWARE OF HOW OFTEN I SAY THINGS THAT VERY RARELY ACCURATE AT ALL. Oh. OH THIS IS GOING TO HAUNT ME, ISN’T IT? And then Pratchett just moves on, making jokes about the pen being mightier than a sword and personnel and C-sharp, and I’m left to sit behind and ponder the purpose of my life on this earth. This is what you’ve done to me.

CAN WE GET A BOOK ABOUT THE ICE GIANTS? THANKS.

The set-up for this second book is just… lord, it’s so much fun, y’all. Rincewind has a conversation with a tree, goes into denial about said conversation, unknowingly sets in motion a revolution in tree faith, ignores many trees that try to talk to him, and then allows Pratchett to trick me with another pun AGAIN.

Trees can be bored of course, beetles do it all the time….

OH, GODDAMN IT. I FELL FOR IT. AGAIN.

And Twoflower, who viewed his magical transportation to the bottom of a lake as yet another fascinating chapter in his life as a tourist, is ready to continue his exploration of the Discworld. With Rincewind, of course, who just can’t seem to get rid of the guy anymore. There are some possible plot threads started here. Will we see the shaman again? What about Ymper Trymon? Will he eventually take Galder’s place? What about A’Tuin’s destination, whatever that is? The only reason I bring these up is because in these first twenty-odd pages, I’m actually given no real indication for where this story is headed next. I don’t know what the “light fantastic” is. I don’t know where on the Disc Twoflower and Rincewind ended up. And I don’t know if Galder and the rest of the wizards will do anything about the very strange Change spell that just got cast. I’d like to see Rincewind back at Unseen University because there’s no way that wouldn’t be funny. Otherwise? I AM VERY UNPREPARED FOR THIS.

The original text contains the word “mad.”

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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