Monday, July 13, 2009

Nation...random thoughts

Nation by Terry Pratchett.

Where does one begin?!! Yeah, it's a gushfest book for sure. Definitely straight to the favorites list.

Okay, since I've given up on stressing so much over this book babbling thing, and writing a brief, non-spoiler glimpse at the book is always so hard for me, I'm just stealing these lines from the jacket flap:

Mau is the Only one left after a giant wave sweeps his island village away. But when much is taken, something is returned, and somewhere in the jungle Daphne--a girl from the other side of the globe--is the sole survivor of a ship destroyed by the same wave.

Together the two confront the aftermath of catastrophe. Drawn by the smoke of Mau and Daphne's sheltering fire, other refugees slowly arrive...

A few of the many things I loved:

*The questioning. This aspect of the book spoke to me so much. I loved watching Mau deal with matters of faith he'd always taken for granted. I think this must be a fairly universal process when one is raised in a faith, whatever the beliefs might be. It seems everyone must reach a point where they need to question the things they've been taught as fact. For many their faith stands up to their questioning, and for others, like me, it just doesn't. But what I think is important, no matter which outcome is reached, is that the questions were asked in the first place. Due to the abrupt and catastrophic events that completely change his life, Mau is almost forced to deal with these questions. And yet his questioning never feels rushed. It feels so authentic. At first, the questions, and doubts, pop into his mind unbidden. But soon they become a second tidal wave to Mau. I won't tell you how things play out there, but I just had to say how very much I loved this part of the story.

*The writing. Okay, I admit it...I don't notice "writing" as much as I think many people do. I'm more of a tell-me-a-good-story-with-good-characters type of gal. There are exceptions...I think I could happily drown in a sea of Ray Bradbury's words. But for the most part, I'm pretty oblivious. So what was it about Terry Pratchett's writing in this book that made me take notice? I'm not sure I know exactly how to answer that. There was a simplicity that somehow managed to contain such power. He made me feel so deeply with so few words. I could literally pick out dozens and dozens of little snippets that did this to me. Just a few examples:

It rained. It was heavy rain, muddy rain, full of ash and sadness.

There were two dogs, too, and that almost broke him. The people, well, the horror was so great that his mind went blank, but the twisted bodies of the dogs twisted his soul.

They didn't know why these things were funny. Sometimes you laugh because you've got no more room for crying. Sometimes you laugh because table manners on a beach are funny. And sometimes you laugh because you're alive, when you really shouldn't be.

...And now it was two weeks later, and a lot had happened. The most important thing was that time had passed, pouring thousands of soothing seconds across the island. People need time to deal with the now before it runs away and becomes the then.

*The world. This is my first experience with a story in such a setting. It is set in the 1800s on Earth, and yet Earth is not really Earth. A parallel universe. I realize that most of you are quite familiar with this type of setting, but still being new to fantasy and science fiction, this was a fun new adventure in reading for me. The island is in the Great Southern Pelagic Ocean, which seems as if it must be in the area in which the Pacific Ocean lies. But it is not the Pacific that we know. But we are, it seems, at the same time really on Earth, because before the tragic shipwreck, Daphne went to meetings of the Royal Society with her father and met people such as Charles Darwin. As I said, I realize that many of you are probably quite used to this kind of merging of realities, but for me it was quite new. And I absolutely loved it.

*The science. And if you haven't read it, and aren't big on science, please don't let that scare you. No, this wasn't full of scientific facts and figures. But without beating one over the head, it beautifully emphasized the importance of science. And that's just something I feel passionate about. (Brief unimportant note: Though I thoroughly love Daphne, I am going to have to disagree with her a bit on her ranking of scientists. ;) )

*The humor. My goodness, but Sir Pratchett is a gifted man. Understatement, I know. As I was reading this, Rich asked me if it was a funny book. (He still has the experience of his first Terry Pratchett book to look forward to.) I tried to explain to him that, yes, it definitely was, but at the same time it was so deeply meaningful. He said, "So he's like Vonnegut?" I hadn't linked those two in my mind before that, and while they are very different writers, I was immediately drawn to the comparison. I know my reading experience is not nearly as broad as it is for many, but there are no two other authors I've read who so effectively use humor to express the most profound truths, to dig through the layers and get to what matters in this life.

*The depth. Yes, I found myself smiling, even giggling, throughout this book, I also found myself awed. I don't want to say too much and give anything away, but wow...this book just gets to the heart of being human. And while I smiled, I also cried. Sometimes over things so big it's hard to shrink them into mere words. Other times, what I cried over was easier to grasp. There was one short passage that so simply, and yet so heartbreakingly, conveyed the tragedy of colonialism that I just had tears streaming down my face. I guess what I mean to say is that if you read this book, be prepared to feel.

Hmmm...I just read over what I've written here. And while I stand by everything I've said, I know I haven't conveyed the sheer awesomeness of this book. Know that that is my fault, not the fault of the book itself.

And for other perspectives:

*Nymeth at Things Mean A Lot
*Valentina at Valentina's Room
*Chris at Stuff As Dreams Are Made On
*Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf
*Kailana at The Written World
*Bart from Bart's Bookshelf
*Shelley at ChainReading
*Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog
*Melissa at Book Nut
*Darla D at Books & Other Thoughts

If I missed your review, accept my sincere apologies. And then leave me a link in the comments, and I'll add it above. Thanks.


Ana S. said...

I knew you'd love it <3 I really liked those passages you picked too, and re-reading the second one in particular had me teary-eyed all over again.

Didn't you just love the ending? I read the final chapter like 4 times, I loved it so much.

You are SO right about him and Vonnegut. And I think they have another thing in common: a similar kind of sensibility, or worldview, or whatever the appropriate word is. They seem to come from similar places. Another author I'd link to the two of them is Douglas Adams. Have you read him?

Anonymous said...

wow! double wow! So, if I had not read any Pratchett, would this be a good place to start?

==>"But what I think is important, no matter which outcome is reached, is that the questions were asked in the first place" reminds me of "Sometimes the answers are not what's important, only the questions..."

Debi said...


When I getting the links to the other reviews, I reread yours. I had totally forgotten you'd chosen that passage about Mau dealing with the dead bodies. Then again, I'm not at all surprised I picked it, really was such a powerful scene. And I love how posted so much of it. The part about the piglet tore me up almost as much as the dogs.

Oh, and the ending was so dead-on perfect! You know, I fully admit that a part of me wanted something different (don't want to say more in case someone has read it, but I know you'll know what I mean). But what I'm talking about would have definitely been the wrong ending.

And :D ... I suspect one of the reasons we love them so much is because we share that worldview. I haven't read anything by Douglas Adams. That whole "I'm not smart enough to understand" mentality (which I am working very hard to abandon!), has always steered me away from him. I'd already decided that I needed to change that, but after you grouping him with those two, I know I need to read him more sooner than later!

I'm probably not the best judge of that, as this is only the second book of his I've read. Still, I'm going to say YES! YES! YES! YES!

serendipity_viv said...

I definitely want to read this one now. What a gushing review - fabulous! You could have sold me a copy there and then if you had a pile of them. I am quite new to Terry Pratchett, my only adventures had involved Tiffany Aching, so I am now ready to delve in Pratchett's world again.

Care said...

Debi, I'll send you the Little Bighorn book after I've read it - can you wait until August (I assume, yes, since you likely have a tbr pile as big as mine!) oh - and the Creative Lit teacher in our book club HATED it, just sayin'.

Melody said...

Great review, Debi! This book is already onto my wishlist ever since I read Nymeth's review!!! I'm glad you enjoyed it too! :D

Staci said...

i loved your thoughts on this one!! I have it in my stack to read all because of Nymeth and now I can blame you too!!!

Kim L said...

I haven't had the pleasure of reading Terry Pratchett either, but this review lets me know that I'm totally missing out. And you just mentioned Vonnegut, who is totally like my favorite. Ever.

Okay, must add to tbr pile :-)

kreed said...

You always make every book you blog about sound so interesting! My TBR list just keeps growing and growing thanks to you!

chrisa511 said...

You know what? The Vonnegut comparison fits perfectly. I had never thought about that before, but it works.

Oh Debi, I loved your review of this so made me want to go get it right off of my bookshelf and read it all over again. It was such a special book for all of the reasons that you mentioned. It was such a touching book, a perfect book, a humorous book, a meaningful book.

And I had forgotten how much I really loved it until you posted those short passages. Like Nymeth, I felt choked up again just hearing the quote about the dogs. Such a sad scene.

Has Annie read this one yet? I bet she'd love it! And I definitely think Rich needs to read this one! He'd like it I'm sure and it's about time he discovered Pratchett ;)

Kailana said...

I really enjoyed this book, too! I am so happy you loved it.

Unknown said...

I know I'm repeating what others have already said, but that second qoute, still brings a huge lump to my throat.

This is such a good book, I'm so glad that you enjoyed reading it.

Debi said...

I'm a newbie to Terry Pratchett's writing, too...but man, am I glad that I finally got around to reading him! I think the Tiffany Aching books are probably where I'll head next.

You are toooooo sweet, my dear!!! Maybe the creative lit teacher was just having an off-day when she read it. ;) Hope that's the case, because I really hope you enjoy it!

I can almost guarantee that you're going to love it!

I have Nymeth to blame for this one, too. But in this case, I can wholeheartedly say "thank" instead of "blame"...of course that always seems to be the case with her!

How did I not know you were a huge Vonnegut fan?!! I probably did, but my pathetic excuse for a brain forgot. I've read (and loved) almost all of his books...but that was like 20+ years ago. I really, really, really need to do some rereading!

That was a mighty sweet thing to say! And I'm sure the same could be said in reverse if you reviewed all the books you read. I don't think there's a single one that you have reviewed that I haven't wanted to go right out and buy. ;)

You know I think I'm ready to reread it again, too! :D And don't worry, I put it on Rich's nightstand already. And I plan on pestering the poor guy until he just gives in and reads it. And I won't feel the slightest bit guilty for doing so, because I believe with all my heart that he is going to LOVE it!!!! And actually Annie hasn't read it yet either. I hope she will soon. The poor girl...she just hasn't gotten much reading done this year. (Combination of a tough school year and her innate ability to waste time. ;) ) But despite a pretty busy summer she's finally savoring some fun reading time. This is one she really needs to indulge herself with for sure!

Thanks. :D

That's deserves repeating. :) That really is one incredibly powerful, moving scene.

christina said...

Everyone, and really, it seems like *everyone* has read a Pratchett novel except me. I don't know. I mean, I keep hearing how fabulous his novels and characters are but I just haven't found the __________ (whatever it is that draws us to books) to pick one up.

Maybe one day!

Thanks for the awesome review.

Amanda said...

Another book I just can't wait to read...

Debi said...

If you do, I highly suggest this one!!!

I honestly hope you love it as much I did!

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

Isn't that frustrating when you feel you can't convey the sheer awesomeness of a book? I think you did a marvelous job, Debi. Every single time I go to the bookstore (the used one), I keep my eye open for Pratchett and John Green. I've never had any luck. Maybe I should just break down and buy a new copy so I can experience the awesomeness also.

Geez--need to read Vonnegut. For some reason he's one of those guys that intimidates me (probably for no good reason).