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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pyramids

Pyramids pratchett book reviewPyramids
by
Terry Pratchett

Pyramids is the seventh book in Pratchett's Discworld series, one of his early works, considering there are about three dozen books published so far.

Imagine an old kingdom, not much unlike Egypt, where time stands still because of... Pyramids. Yes, these imposing yet seemingly innocuous structures actually act as huge dams in the flow of time, accumulating and recycling it in the ancient desert kingdom of Djelibeybi.

Now, suppose that the four-dimensional space-time of the universe as we know it allows for the interchange of these dimensions - viz., length, width, height, time - and somehow, the pyramids manage to rotate the kingdom of Djel by 90° in space-time.

This premise, combined with our introduction to some of the most interesting characters like - the greatest mathematician (a camel named You Bastard) in the world, Dios the High Priest who really rules the kingdom, the Ephebians with Copolymer the greatest storyteller, as well as the inscrutable Sphinx - along with our hero Teppic who, at the threshold of assuming his crown yearns for some trade and enrolls in the Assassins Guild in Ankh-Morpork and successfully graduates to become one... all make for one entertaining read.

I must admit, this is not one of my favorite Pratchett books, having read many others that fall in the first category, as discussed in an earlier post. The narration has bright spots, but meanders and languishes a bit, making us wonder which way we are headed with all this.

My favorite part of the book, which I re-read at least half-a-dozen times, even made D read it, is the scene where Teppic encounters The Sphinx. It is side-splittingly hilarious thanks to the terribly logical reasoning that is explored there.

The book starts out beautifully... the narration about Teppic's Exam that he needs to pass to be certified by the Guild sets the heart racing, and foreshadows the chaotic events to unfold - esp., hinting at the grass growing under Teppic's feet mysteriously wherever he stepped. Briefly.

In the kingdom of Djel, gods are gods and men are men, except for the king who is both. (P)Teppic's father, Pteppicymon XXVII, who makes the sun rise and the winds blow, dies suddenly before he can decree that no pyramid should be built for his afterlife. Of course, even if he had managed the decree, Dios the High Priest would have interpreted it as the king's directive to build the biggest most imposing pyramid ever. Dios is like that. His insanity and delusion are far beyond the known spectrum.

If we come out of this liking You Bastard almost as much as, if not more than, Teppic, it is perfectly natural. The ghost king trying to dissuade the pyramid builder and watching his own body being embalmed reminded me a little of the king of Lancre who was murdered early on in Wyrd Sisters.

During his brief stint on the throne, Teppic does try to change the way things are done, hopefully for the better as he sees it, but, Dios appropriates every word out of Teppic's mouth and wraps it in diametrically opposing meaning that advances his own agenda.

Teppic eventually manages to box himself in a corner and has no way out except to fake his own death and flee. Thus starts a series of events that lead to a satisfactory ending to one and all.


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