The colour of Magic, by Terry Pratchett
It is said that when a wizard is about to die Death himself turns up to claim him (instead of delegating the task to a subordinate, such as Disease or Famine, as is usually the case).
Paperback: 273 pages
Series: Discworld (book 1)
I have to confess, I didn’t much like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Its particular kind of absurdist humor does not appeal to me. Having heard so much about the Discworld series, I was afraid I would be disappointed, as I was with Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide. I am happy to report that my fears were unfounded. The colour of Magic, first book of the Discworld series (in publication order) is really fun, quite hilarious at times.
Rincewind, a wizards academy dropout who only knows one spell is given the task of protecting and acting as a guide to Twoflower, the first tourist to ever visit the city of Ankh Morpork. Upon some grave … mishappenings, the two are forced to leave town and start a perilous expedition that will take them, literally, to the edge of the world. For, you see, Discworld is actually a giant disc, carried on the back of four gigantic elephants, themselves resting on the back of an even larger turtle, lazily swimming through space and time. All the while, Rincewind and Twoflower are followed by Twoflower’s Luggage – a large, wooden chest that walks on hundreds of little legs.
You are probably already beginning to suspect on the absurd nature of our intrepid heroes’ adventures, and you are correct. These range from encounters with dragons that only exist if you believe in them, to temples where one must never say the number eight, to briefly being teleported in a strange parallel universe where people fly in the belly of silver dragons (*cough* planes).
Although I am not normally attracted to absurdism, The colour of Magic is filled with high quality humor and, unlike The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it actually feels a little bit consistent and seems to have a general plot. Also, I am a sucker for puns, and this book is full of them. For example, the rope fence that spans the entire circumference of Discworld is called the Circumfence. I laughed all the way to the predictable ending. Yes, predictable, what do you think will eventually happen on a world that has an edge?
The colour of Magic is a parody of serious fantasy works, and it mocks a considerable number of established clichés of the genre. At one point, Gods appear to be playing some sort of Dungeons and Dragons, using our poor heroes as their in-game characters and placing them in all sorts of deadly situations. For further reading into the clichés and tropes used in the book, the TVTropes.com website has a great page filled with them (attention: the page contains a lot of spoilers).
Definitely not a book to be read while eating or drinking, as accidents may occur on account of laughing fits.
“Let’s just say that if complete and utter chaos was lightning, he’d be the sort to stand on a hilltop in a thunderstorm wearing wet copper armour and shouting ‘All gods are bastards’.”