Review: Sourcery by Terry Pratchett
|Pratchett moves at the speed of wit, simply put. Sometimes to a disorientating degree.
In this fourth novel of the Discworld series, he unabashedly expresses cosmically shattering principles as though they were a cupcake recipe. Nothing about this novel is conventional, nor does it aim to be: Pratchett knew exactly what form and content he was expected to follow in writing fantasy, and went out of his way to acknowledge them, direct the reader somewhere else entirely, and develop his story into something unexpected. I would say that it’s refreshing, but that sentiment is so cliché that I risk ruining the image.
But I do feel like Pratchett was still developing the ideas and style that would soon turn into tours de force like Hogfather, especially in regards to themes of belief, which hadn’t reached fruition as of yet. Sourcery proved a testing ground for some of these, it seems, where he could calibrate the perfect balance of witty remark and insightful storytelling. Here, the tone is trying too hard to be comical. The writing and pacing are a little erratic and disorganised as they try to jump from one thing to another at full speed. And some of the most interesting details about the Dungeons Dimensions or Conina are glossed over in favour of distracted observations or quips about one thing or another.
And yet, Pratchett still managed to pull it off in an almost earnestly sweet finale. He even produced a memorable character arc for a character whose only goal was to never get involved in anything at all.
My feelings are conflicted about this novel, if only because many of Pratchett’s later works mean so much to me. At once, so much feels familiar yet different, caught in snapshot of the Discworld’s imaginative infancy. But, some time after I’ve finished the novel, any reticence about the content or execution of this one story is replaced by the familiar joy that accompanies Pratchett’s wit and fantastical humour. And that’s what will remain, I think.