A Two Minute Review: Nation by Terry Pratchett

NationI’ve never made a secret about my love of Terry Pratchett‘s writing. In the lottery of picking a good novel, choosing one with Pratchett’s name on the cover dramatically increases the odds of winning.

Nation is no exception.

Orphaned by a giant wave while on the way home from his coming of age ritual, Mau finds himself alone among the dead of his people, the wreckage of his village, and the flotsam left behind by the wave’s receding foam…including a “trouser man” canoe, stranded high above the shoreline where the wave deposited it, carrying but one living inhabitant: a girl, the off-spring of royalty from far of England.

As Mau begins to rebuild, he faces the specter of Death, his fallen (and often annoying) ancestors, cannibals, crises of faith, and, ultimately, both his and the Nation‘s future. Daphne, the English girl awaiting rescue, will help him, giving him tools, companionship, and guidance, and both will face the prejudices and misconceptions of their cultures and history, remaking the world anew.

And, of course, because it is Pratchett, it will be funny.

Set in a world that is somewhere parallel to our own (that’s Pratchett’s description), Nation is full of the wonderful twists and plays on language that set Pratchett’s writing apart. His characters and plots are full of the playful color and magic that leave you wondering if you just read a book of fantasy or have been enjoying the imagination of the characters themselves. In the end, it doesn’t matter, really, because the characters have progressed in tandem with the events, real or imagined, and Pratchett’s creative use of imagery, myth, fantasy, and conflict has become a well-woven fabric of the whole.

Nation is a fun read that felt targeted at a young adult audience, but can be easily enjoyed by the adult reader. The tone, even when dealing with difficult subjects, is never dark or depressing, but always seems calculated to bring the reader along with the characters. I can’t wait to reread it along with my teenagers (once I have some),and to enjoy their journey to a little island in the long chain of islands in a world somewhere just to the left, or perhaps the right, of our own.

Nation Book Cover Nation
Terry Pratchett
Young Adult - Fantasy
October 6, 2009

When a giant wave destroys his village, Mau is the only one left. Daphne—a traveler from the other side of the globe—is the sole survivor of a shipwreck. Separated by language and customs, the two are united by catastrophe. Slowly, they are joined by other refugees. And as they struggle to protect the small band, Mau and Daphne defy ancestral spirits, challenge death himself, and uncover a long-hidden secret that literally turns the world upside down.

About Daniel

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. He reads about history, politics, and current events, as well as more serious genres such as science fiction and fantasy. You can also follow him on his blog PubliusOnline.com where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas.

  • Kami Furr

    Confession: I have never read a Terry Pratchett book. He has a ton of books out, and I haven’t picked up one. I should though.

    • It’s never too late to start, Kami…Nation’s a stand alone, but almost all of Pratchett’s Discworld series could be read alone, also. If you DO want to start from the beginning, though, The Color of Magic is awesome.

      • Kami Furr

        Wow! There are a lot of Discworld books! I added the first on to my to-read list on Goodreads! I hope I love it!