Just finished Nation by Terry Pratchett. I read a lot of his stuff when I was a teenager, but fell behind as he was writing books faster than I was reading them, and each new novel became an increasingly intimidating proposition; thinking how many books I’d have to re-read simply to catch up. But I bought The Amazing Maurice a couple of years ago, it was the get-one-free in a buy-two, and my missus recommended Terry’s latest novel, Nation, so I thought I’d give it a go. In it’s favour is that it isn’t a Discworld novel; not there’s anything wrong with that, I just don’t like not reading a range of books in the correct order.
It concerns a young boy, Mau, who lives on an island in the middle of an ocean, who finds himself suddenly and terribly alone when the rest of his tribe is swept away by a tsunami. However, he’s not alone for long, as a girl, Daphne, has been shipwrecked on the island.
It’s not really about that though. That’s what happens, but what it’s about is, well, mans relationship with his gods, the gods that man creates in order to make sense of the universe. There’s also stuff about the nature of what constitutes civilisation, that whole comparative post-colonial area; that technological superiority does not mean the same thing as cultural superiority or greater wisdom, or compassion.
It’s written in a gently humorous, action-adventure style; the characterisation takes priority over slipping in amusing footnotes, which always feel a bit glib; the sort of thing a lesser author would do. From what I can remember of his other books, if it’s not considered his best work I would be very surprised, because I found it to be his most moving, engrossing and thoughtful.