Sunday, February 15, 2009

Book Review: Nation (by Terry Pratchett)

Published by HarperCollins 2008

Terry Pratchett is well-known for a series of books which take place on Discworld, which is a flat disc supported by four elephants which stand on the back of a giant turtle, which swims slowly through the cosmos. Magic is more reliable than science in this world where anything can, and usually does, happen. There are gods everywhere, most of which are flawed, but well-meaning in their flawed ways, just a bit more immortal and powerful than the rest of us.

This book is not set on Discworld.

It is, in fact, set on a world just a little different from our own, with magic and beliefs and physics very much like our own. In this world, in a place very much like our South Pacific, in a time very much like our Victorian age (but not quite) a volcano explodes and the resulting tidal wave devastates the surrounding islands. Afterwards, the survivors must survive further, tackling the issues of food, shelter, and rebuilding, as well as the bigger issues of why did this disaster happen in the first place, and how does one go on when has lost everything? The first order of business is finding the other survivors. The last order of business is taking the lessons they have learned forward into new lives.

This is not a whimsical or comical book, as so may of Terry Pratchett’s books are, but one that explores faith and belief, and how they shape a person’s world. Don’t get me wrong – Terry Pratchett is no fan of religion. But in this book he shows the difference between faith and religion, and why he considers the former to be the stronger of the two.

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