BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The first Discworld novel follows the adventures of Rincewind the Wizzard and Twoflowers, the Disc’s first tourist.
PROS: Great characters, interesting setting, humorous writing.
CONS: Very disjointed, not up to par with later books.
BOTTOM LINE: A good intro to Discworld, but there are better books out there.
(The main Pratchett Reading Project page can be found here.)
I think that John’s review is a bit on the low side. Then again, he his a fantasy and humorous writing hater. He even says so in his review. Now, I’ll agree that the hype that surrounds Pratchett is quite large. And by that standard, The Color Of Magic is a letdown. It is the first book afterall and you can see that Pratchett is trying to feel his way around the Disc. Yes, the stories are uneven, but I did enjoy them all. And yes, there aren’t that many laugh out loud moments here. Those come later. And maybe you have to have a feel for British humor to ‘get’ some of the comedy. As I said, things do get better, but there are flashes of the wordplay Pratchett is well-versed in, as well as the use of footnotes to make a joke.
The main draw in this first book is the Disc itself, with the characters coming in close behind. We are introduced to Rincewind, the Wizzard who only knows one spell (and does use it, only not in this book, but in The Light Fantastic), Twoflowers, the Disc’s first tourist (who introduces economic theory and insurance to the citizens of Ankh-Morpork, only to have the proprietor of The Broken Drum burn his bar down to collect on his policy) and, perhaps, the most interesting character, certainly the most entertaining piece of luggage, the Luggage. Who knows how much room, or other dimensions, reside within the Luggage. That’s something only it, and the people it has eaten, know for sure. We also get to meet several minor characters, notable Death, and the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, and one of my favorite minor characters ever, the hydrophobes. They hate water so much, their revulsion is used to power a levitation field that allows for flight over the water. They hate water so much, they can’t even look at themselves in the mirror.
The Color Of Magic isn’t the best Discworld novel. However, you can see the flashes of Pratchett’s wit peeking out through the pages. Still, this is a good introduction to the weird and funny world that is the Disc, and you certainly should read it before reading any of the other Rincewind novels. If you want to hook someone on Discworld immediately, Guards! Guards! may be a better bet. A bit of personal history on that point. My first Discworld novel was The Light Fantastic. I picked it up not realizing it was the sequel The Color Of Magic. While a bit confusing at first, it is a much funnier book and I immediately bought the few Discworld books that were then available. And that’s saying something as I am somewhat of a ‘fantasy’ hater as well, although that is geared more toward the Tolkein rip-offs and endless tome fantasy series. None of which apply to Pratchett.