Book Review: The Color of Magic (Or The Colour of Magic if you prefer)

The Color of MagicThe Color of Magic is the first in the extremely long but now sadly finite (R.I.P., Sir Terry) Discworld series. In the first novel, the central character is Rincewind, a failed wizard with a craven nature. Rincewind meets up with the Discworld’s first tourist, an insurance salesman named Twoflower from a far-off continent. They pair up because Rincewind seems to be the only person in the city who can speak a common language with Twoflower. Together, they maneuver themselves through various situations, manipulated by the gods who sit above and move them like game pieces in some contest only they understand. And Twoflower’s luggage, made of sapient pearwood, loyally follows along with them wherever they go.

Through this premise, they encounter a series of adventures that parody the fantasy genre. They run afoul of a dragonrider enclave, a reference to Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series, and a fairly amusing one. There were a few other obvious tributes for veterans of the genre. Bravd and the Weasel were clear references to Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. Hrun the Barbarian is a standard Conan type. We are introduced to various aspects of the Discworld itself. The physics of the seasons of a flat world with an orbiting sun, and the terminology resulting from its nature, detailed in an early footnote, were interesting.

The problem with the story is that it’s just a little … dull. I did like the book, but not as much as the other Discworld books I’ve read. I’d read this one years ago, and the disappointment I’d felt in it after hearing so much about Discworld put me off reading any other Discworld books for a long time. But constant raving by the loyal fan base caused me to abandon my misgivings and read more of the seires. And I’m glad I did. But even after rereading the first one with a little more of the series under my belt, I decided it wasn’t just a first impression. This is just not as good as some others in the series. The series can’t be judged by its beginning.

This story was a little too much of a revolving door of other stories and characters. I’m not that fond of Rincewind, the main character in this one. He’s not very interesting, and after a while I found him a little annoying. The tourist character, Twoflower, wasn’t really consistent. Throughout most of the book, he’s a sort of blissfully ignorant, cheery rube, blundering on protected from harm by his own inability to understand the danger he’s in. But at a couple points in the book he becomes uncharacteristically angry or wise. Also the first time he’s described, the writer says he has four eyes, but it’s not really clear that this is because the person viewing him has never seen eyeglasses before. And also somehow Twoflower at some point becomes able to converse with people besides Rincewind without having a common language.

There are a few good funny lines in the book, but not enough to really say the book was funny cover to cover. There were a couple parts where I did really laugh out loud, but not enough to call this pure comedy. Pratchett is often called the “Douglas Adams of Fantasy,” but I feel the comparison to Douglas Adams isn’t really accurate. The sense of humor is vaguely similar, but The Hitchhiker series had something funny on almost every page, sometimes at the expense of the storytelling, which suffered a little bit with the side-conversations that went nowhere just for the sake of a laugh. For the most part, The Color of Magic was pure parody of the fantasy genre, and the humor is more subtle. Expecting a quotable “joke” as often as in the Hitchhiker series is bound to lead to a disappointment.

The other Discworld books I’ve read are better than this. Fortunately, one doesn’t need to read all the books sequentially to get the most enjoyment out of the series. Although there are over 30 books already, there are several smaller subseries focusing on various characters. I’ll probably skip all the ones that focus on Rincewind, but I plan to read several more in the series. If this is the first Discworld book you read, you may also be put off the series, but I assure you, it gets better.

Chris’s Rating: 3 Gold Pieces

This review originally appeared on Amazon here, dated September 26, 2005, but has been edited to reflect Sir Terry’s passing)

Get your own copy!

Book Review: Anansi Boys

Anansi Boys Cover

Anansi Boys was widely promoted before its release as a sequel to Gaiman’s novel American Gods. But it has little relation to that earlier work. Anansi does appear briefly, and some stories are told about him, both in dialogue and in the narration. However, this novel focuses principally on Fat Charlie Nancy, Anansi’s mortal (and oblivious to his heritage) son.

At first, the story comes across as very similar in structure to Gaiman’s earlier novel, Neverwhere. Fat Charlie (like Richard from Neverwhere) is a luckless loser, who starts out the story in what is clearly the wrong job, with a girl he is clearly not meant to be with, until he finds himself drawn into an unbelievable world he never knew existed.To summarize the novel would be to give too much away, and the book really thrives on the freshness of its surprises and twists. And to summarize it wouldn’t do it justice. All that ought to be said is that Fat Charlie lives a relatively safe and comfortably boring existence until his estranged and embarrassing father dies in a spectacularly embarrassing way. Returning to the United States from his home in London to put his late father’s affairs in order, Fat Charlie finds his world thrown into turmoil by the twin revelation that, not only was his father a god, but that Fat Charlie has a brother he never knew about. His troubles truly begin in earnest when he casually invites Spider, his brother, into his life, and then finds he is unable to make him leave it. Spider causes havoc with Charlie’s life at home and at work. Desperate to get his life back, the steps Fat Charlie takes to get rid of Spider lead to their own problems for everyone, and what follows is a high-speed adventure to control the damage, save some lives, and maybe bring Charlie out of his shell a little.

Perhaps popular trend and the market right now are flooded with “modern fantasy” and Anansi Boys isn’t really breaking any totally unexplored ground in that regard. But this is a genre that Gaiman himself helped to pioneer and popularize, and this novel is far from the worst of its kind. Gaiman employs the premise that the old gods walk among us, as he did in American Gods, and in this book we find that a few mortals know a little bit about it.

Gaiman uses very abstract mechanics for his ideas of the nature and power of divinity. The methods are very iconic and primitive. His use of totemic or archetypical animal beings, otherworldly creatures who are simultaneously wholly human and wholly animal in appearance, is very well-described. As he writes, “It all depends on how you look at it.” The exact details of How Things Are Done (capitals for significance, of course) are loosely defined, and in the course of the storytelling, they don’t really matter that much. Reality is flexible for certain people, and that’s all you really need to know.

The characters are mostly well-developed without being described in endless detail. For example, Gaiman never once says that Fat Charlie is black, but he describes some people as being white, such as “She was a white woman who…” It’s all in how you look at it. This technique works, but a few characters could be described in more detail. We never really get into the head of Rosie, Fat Charlie’s fiancée, even though we occasionally get the narration from her point of view. Likewise, the role for Daisy, another girl with a flower name, whom Fat Charlie meets after a night on the town, is never really in doubt, and we sort of accept the inevitable, unlikely or loosely founded as it is. One could guess by their names their relative significance to Fat Charlie. Nevertheless, they, and all the other characters, take their parts in the drama in their own unique styles. There are no boring characters. The book is far too short, and flows too quickly to ever be boring.

And this is the book’s true strength. Gaiman’s writing style is very enjoyable, and this novel fairly flies by. If a book about a spider god can be said to fly. The tale is fast-paced, and once into it, the reader is very reluctant to put it down. Gaiman’s wit, humor, and storytelling skill entertain and educate, the latter with the use of the various legends of Anansi, which he tells through dialogue and narration. The tone is humorous, and almost conversational, as if this is your buddy Neil telling you a story at a party about a guy he knows.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and though I rarely reread novels, I will probably give this one another reading after a few months. It was a fun time, and the worst part about the ending was that it arrived too quickly.

This review initially appeared on Amazon.com in 2005

Get your copy:

Episode 8 – Mythica: A Quest for Heroes

Mythica movie posterMythica: A Quest for Heroes(2014)

The young magician Marek dreams of exciting adventures. When she meets the help-seeking priestess Teela she offers her assistance and provides a motley troupe. Together they go in search of Teela’s sister, who was kidnapped by a wild ogre. (IMDB)

This is officiallythe freshest movie we’ve reviewed yet! Brian is back to talk about this one with us. He’s close to the people who made it. We can’t wait to see this one!

Thanks for sticking with us through our inconsiderate hacking incident. I hope everyone is back and psyched up for this one.

Update: I think iTunes was failing to find this because of the “Dread UTF-7” error. I fixed that and would love to hear back if anyone got this from their iTunes or their Stitcher feed.

 

How do YOU rate Mythica: A Quest for Heroes?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Get Mythica: A Quest for Heroes:

Episode 7 – Stardust

Stardust (2007)

In a countryside town bordering on a magical land, a young man makes a promise to his beloved that he’ll retrieve a fallen star by venturing into the magical realm. (IMDB)

We’re looking forward to doing this one. We all loved the book and were delighted when the film came out. Join us and see how it stands up to a fourth or fifth viewing and some in-depth examination.

 

 

 

How do YOU rate Stardust?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Get the movie:

Episode 6 – Conan the Barbarian


Conan movie posterConan the Barbarian (1982)

A vengeful barbarian warrior sets off to avenge his tribe and his parents whom were slain by an evil sorcerer and his warriors when he was a boy. (IMDB)

So far our most requested movie, Conan gets the DragonReel treatment, with help from our special guest, Mike Shea of @SlyFloursih, to discuss this groundbreaking and trendsetting beefcake Sword & Sorcery epic.

Also a big shout out to our friends at the Fantasy Movie Podcast!

 

 

How do YOU rate Conan the Barbarian?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Get the movie:

Episode 5 – Dungeons & Dragons

DnDMovieDungeons & Dragons (2000)

Profion, a tyrant, attempts to overthrow a peaceful kingdom ruled by a tough empress. (IMDB)

Although you would think that an empress would rule an empire. Something tells me they didn’t think this through. If that’s the worst of the holes in the movie we’ll enjoy this one a lot more than we expect.

Chris, Sharon, Pete, and our new guest host Brian tear into this movie with the vengeance of a great movie-tearing beast. We had a really good discussion into what went wrong, and what went right with this movie. We were harsh but fair.

Enjoy the show. We had a lot of fun recording it.

How do YOU rate Dungeons & Dragons?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Don’t have the movie? Get it here:

Episode 4 – Highlander

Highlander movie posterHighlander (1986)

An immortal Scottish swordsman must confront the last of his immortal opponents, a murderously brutal barbarian who lusts for the fabled “Prize”.

This movie redefines both “a Highlander” and “Immortal”.

This piece of 80s nostalgia is going to be put to the test of time. Like its hero, Connor MacLeod, it will be tried by combat. Expect amazing things.

 

 

How do YOU rate Highlander?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Haven’t seen the movie? Get it here!

Episode 3 – The Princess Bride

The Princess BriThe Princess Bridede (1987)

While home sick in bed, a young boy’s grandfather reads him a story called The Princess Bride. (IMDB)

A quotable classic, we felt we couldn’t rightly consider ourselves a fantasy movie podcast if we didn’t cover this film early on.

Chris (that’s me!), Sharon, and Pete talk about the movie as it appeals to us, how it fits into film history, and what it means to us. Every single one of us had a different perspective coming into the movie, and we get to talk about all of our observations in a conversation that went a bit long.

Let us know what you think of the movie! Did we miss anything? We’d love to hear from you!

How do YOU rate THE PRINCESS BRIDE?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Haven’t seen the movie? Get it here!

Episode 2 – Dragonslayer

Dragonslayer movie poster, a painting of a dragon in the background, a man holding a spear in the foreground, with a woman beside him holding a shield

Dragonslayer (1981)

Our second episode, and our second dragon movie. In this one, the dragon is the villain. In Dragonslayer:

A young wizarding apprentice is sent to kill a dragon which has been devouring girls from a nearby kingdom. (IMDB)

This one is actually pretty significant to me (Chris), since it was in theaters when I started playing D&D, and I had the Marvel Comics adaptation on hand when making up my first ever D&D character, who happened to be a magic-user named Galen. Will the sentimental place it holds color my ability to critique it? Has time been kind to this masterpiece of personal history?

A word of warning on this episode. I messed up the recording a little bit on my voice. I had it recording from the laptop mic instead of the headphone mic. I cleaned up the sound as much as I could, but it still has a bit of ambient reverb to it that I couldn’t quite get rid of. I apologize in advance, and we’ll have much better quality next time.

How do YOU rate DRAGONSLAYER?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Didn’t catch the movie? You can find it here:

Episode 1 – Eragon

eragon

Thanks for discovering us here at DragonReel. We’ve just finished our first podcast and we want to share it with you. Follow us at dragonreel.com, email us at dragonreelpodcast@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/dragonreel, facebook.com/Dragonreel

Welcome to the show!

How do YOU rate ERAGON?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

One on the Way

We’ve recorded our first podcast episode, and we think it went well. We’re editing it and fixing up the sound to make it suitable for public consumption. Now to add a  link in the iTunes store, and set up the podcast feed here. Once I get this suitably edited, we’ll put it up live! It’s nearly done now.

Watch this space for the episode release!

Coming soon

For our first episode we’ll be talking about:

ERAGON

eragon

 

A young man bonds with a little dragon, who rapidly becomes a big dragon. Join us here in two weeks for the first podcast episode. Please feel free to watch the movie beforehand so you can follow along with us as we talk about it. We will blaze ahead full speed with the spoilers, so if you don’t want it spoiled, you better get yourself a copy and watch it now!

[AMAZONPRODUCTS asin=”B000NA28I4″]