The Color of Magic, published in 1983, is the first book in Sir Terry Pratchett’s enormously popular DISCWORLD series. The Disworld is a flat world which rides on the back of four elephants which ride on the back of a giant turtle named Great A’Tuin. The DISCWORLD novels are humorous, satirical and spoofy, often making fun of their own genre and various real-world cultural and political issues and institutions. Before HARRY POTTER, Terry Pratchett was the UK’s top selling author.
The Color of Magic introduces Rincewind who is technically a wizard because one dangerous spell attached itself to his brain when Rincewind opened a forbidden book. Rincewind doesn’t know what the spell does or how to cast it, and he doesn’t remember any of the other things he was supposed to learn at the Unseen University but, nonetheless, he’s a wizard. He’s also a coward — a really lucky coward because, though he’s unaware of it, Lady Luck is his patron.
One day Twoflower, a rich insurance salesman from a far-off land, comes to Ankh-Morpor to vacation and asks Rincewind to show him around because Rincewind is the only person who can speak his language. Twoflower is curious, fearless, and completely ignorant of the dangers in Ankh-Morpor. Rincewind tries to safely show him the sights, but the two of them end up needing to escape from one disaster after another. During their adventures we meet a barbarian hero who loves to pose for pictures, fratricidal dragonlords with unpronounceable names (K!sdra and Lio!rt), dryads, a troll from another world, a tentacled monster who lives in a temple in which everything is octagonal but you may not say the word “eight,” a terrorist on an airplane, a drowning frog, and a group of scientifically-minded wizards who want to push somebody off the edge of the world.
The Color of Magic is non-stop quirky adventure with lots of laughs. Pratchett’s British humor is silly, clever and witty and it’s fun to see him salute, and sometimes mock, well-known fantasy works, characters, or clichés. I think I recognized Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Conan the Barbarian, and Red Sonja. In this first DISCWORD novel, transitions between scenes are a bit rough and sometimes the humor tries too hard, but Terry Pratchett’s genius is clearly visible. The DISCWORD books are fun stand-alone reads that make a great break from heavier works.
I listened to the 1995 audio production by ISIS Audio Books. This is not the clearest of productions — there is a noticeable background hum (you can hear it on the sample at Amazon or Audible). However, Nigel Planer’s narration was so brilliant that I will be listening to the rest of the DISCWORD audiobooks that he narrates. I loved his interpretation of all of Pratchett’s characters. You should hear him pronounce K!sdra and Lio!rt.