The second in the monumental Discworld series is a true sequel to The Colour of Magic, which ends with our fav Failed Wizard and the world’s first Tourist going over the edge of the world to certain death. But the death is not to be. The Spell that our wizard Rincewind carries inside his head, which had jumped in unbidden when he opened the forbidden spell book of The Eight Great Spells, seems to want to keep him alive, and he catches on some branches, and is saved. His traveling buddy, Twoflower and the intrepid Luggage also are saved, and they meet up again heading hubward together. And that spell?
The spell wasn’t a demanding lodger. It just sat there like an old toad at the bottom of a pond. But whenever Rincewind was feeling really tired or very afraid it tried to get itself said. No one knew what would happen if one of the Eight Great Spells was said by itself, but the general agreement was that the best place from which to watch the effects would be the next universe.
As the three head toward Rincewind’s home city, they look for shelter in a forest, where they meet up with a gnome living in a toadstool.
Twoflower says: “But there’s some big mushrooms under it. Can you eat them?” There was nothing for it but to go out in the rain and look at them. He knelt down in the leafmold and peered under the cap. After a while, he said weakly, “No, no good to eat at all.” “Why?” called Twoflower. Rincewind coughed. “It’s the little doors and windows,” he said wretchedly. “It’s a dead giveaway”
He wanted to say:”The life of gnomes and goblins is nasty, brutish and short. So are they.”
This is one of the things I love about Pratchett’s books: they are filled with allusions to other literary works and cultural references. This one alludes to Thomas Hobbes writing in Leviathan: “… every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.’
The gnome shows them a cottage where they can shelter from the rain.
Twoflower touched a wall gingerly. “It’s all sticky!” “Nougat,” said Swires [the gnome]. “Good grief! A real gingerbread cottage! Rincewind, a real –” Rincwind nodded glumly. “Yeah, the Confectionary School of Architecture,” he said. “It never caught on.” Swires said, “Marvelous, really. You just don’t get this sort of place nowadays, you just can’t get the gingerbread.”
Further on, we learn of the library of the Unseen University,
Like many other parts of the Unseen University the library occupied rather more space than its outside dimensions would suggest, because magic distorts space in strange ways, and it was probably the only library in the universe with Mobius shelves.
The basic plot is that a star of some sort is moving on a direct collision course with Discworld, and the legend is that all 8 of the Eight Great Spells must be said in order to avert the ending of the world. As Rincewind and friend (and Luggage) travel to his city to give up that eighth spell, they come upon a mysterious shop. It comes and goes, a spell because the shop keeper didn’t keep something special in stock for a wizard customer. The shopkeeper calls the world of Rincewind
Ah, here we are. This is your universe. Very bijou, I always think. A sort of universette….
They also meet up with Cohen the Barbarian, a toothless, aging hero, and Bethan, a sacrificial virgin saved by Cohen, with assistance from Rincewind and Twoflower. And off they go, hopefully to save the world.
Just another wonderful, fun and funny book. I think I am addicted to Rincewind, the Tourist and the Luggage, and to Discworld.