Not much to say: Terry Pratchett’s Pyramids
In looking back at my previous blog entries, I realized that the last three books I’ve read weren’t exactly, well, good. The Ronin’s Mistress was decent, at best, but it still didn’t quite impress me.
Luckily, I’ve gotten out of that slump- as I’ve been reading some Pratchett. Dude’s been knighted, so you know he’s classy.
Pyramids is a Discworld novel, the whacky fantasy pastiche setting that Pratchett has been writing about for over 30 years now. I’ve read a bunch of Discworld novels in the past (and even reviewed before), so I’m fairly familiar with the setting. Although, for someone new to the series, I wouldn’t really recommend Pyramids as anyone’s first Discworld novel, quite simply because there are other ones in the series that are much, much better.
The book centers around Teppic, the Prince of a small river kingdom who has been trained as an assassin. Of course, this being Pratchett, being an Assassin has more to do with dressing stylishly in black and looking properly dashing instead of killing people (though they do that too, on occasion). Shortly after graduating from Assassin’s school, Teppic is forced to return home when he learns his father has died, making him King of Not-Egypt, and thusly responsible for kingly duties like building his father a pyramid, maintaining the proper rituals, and making sure the sun rises every morning. No pressure. This being Pratchett, things soon spiral out of control, as they’re wont to do. Hijinks ensue.
Now, here’s the thing. Pyramids is a Discworld novel- but it’s also an early Discworld novel, the seventh in the series. For the most part, it’s disconnected from Discworld at large- only a brief time is spent in Ankh Morpork, and none of Pratchett’s recurring characters like Vimes or the Witches or Rincewind make an appearance. Death shows up, at least, but he’s mostly just got a walk-on role out of narrative necessity. And while I haven’t read every Discworld novel, it’s also worth noting that Teppic doesn’t really play a part (or even cameo) in any of the other one’s I’ve read.
Pratchett is one of those authors who gets better and better with each novel he writes- the early Discworld books start off as silly parodies of the typical fantasy tropes, but Pratchett’s later novels have a lot more substance to them. There really aren’t any great and heady truths explored in Pyramids. One could stretch a little, and say Pratchett’s exploring themes about tradition and heritage, and how they can drag a society down…but honestly, Pyramids mostly exists as a joke delivery vehicle.
This being Pratchett, these are very good jokes. Pratchett’s got a great way with words (to put it lightly). For example, one of the book’s major characters is a camel named You Bastard, and this little fact never failed to make me smile whenever You Bastard showed up. Even still, since the jokes (and your plot) hinge on the concept of “building pyramids is a silly thing to do,” they don’t quite resonate as much as a lot of Pratchett’s later work does.
The worst I can really say about Pyramids is that it’s not as good as his other novels. But since this is Pratchett we’re talking about, a mediocre novel of his is still a well crafted, joyous read. Not too much to say about it beyond that. And that, ultimately, is where I kind of hit a snag. Y’see, while it’s a lot of fun to read a good novel, it’s a lot easier to write about a bad one. I guess it’s just up to me to find the balance between.