Pratchett, Terry: Carpet People, The; The Bromeliad

Having finished with The Fiery Cross, for the first time in a month I didn’t know what I was reading next—and what’s worse, couldn’t decide what I felt like reading. (This is about level on my annoyance scale with, oh, being hungry but not wanting to eat anything that you can reasonably get your hands on.) Fortuitously, the day after my last post, I got a package from a friend abroad with Terry Pratchett’s The Carpet People (plus a couple of other books, including the aptly-named It Came From Schenectady). Perfect.

The Carpet People is Pratchett’s first novel, sort of. That is, it was originally published when he was seventeen (seventeen! I didn’t even have my one and only letter to the editor published by the time I was seventeen), and then re-written and republished when he was forty-three, after Discworld hit it big in the U.K. (It’s never been released in the U.S.) As Pratchett puts it in his Author’s Note,

This book had two authors, and they were both the same person. . . . It’s not exactly the book I wrote then. It’s not exactly the book I’d write now. It’s a joint effort, but, heh heh, I don’t have to give him half the royalties. He’d only waste them.

The Carpet People is the story of two brothers who lead their tribe away from the devastation caused by Fray and find that the Empire itself is threatened. It’s recognizably Pratchett in the themes and some of the characters, but was an odd read all the same. I enjoyed it, but I couldn’t help but feel that I was paying more attention to the patches (or what I imagine are the patches) than the actual story. (It may also have been even less subtle than usual about its Messages for Pratchett, but I can’t be sure.) I wouldn’t recommend that any but the most die-hard Pratchett fans import it, certainly.

One of my distractions was actually caused by having read a later Pratchett, The Bromeliad (Truckers, Diggers, Wings), which I picked up for the relevant bit [1] and got sucked into re-reading. This turned out to be a good thing, because I like the Bromeliad very much, probably the best of Pratchett’s non-Discworld books.

The Bromeliad is also about very small people, though not as small—about four inches high. For generations, nomes have lived in the Store, thinking the Outside was just a myth; then some strange nomes arrive with a mysterious Thing that claims the Store will be demolished soon. The Thing turns out to be a computer, the nomes turn out to be aliens, and one of the most wonderful things in the world turns out to be frogs living their whole lives in epiphytic bromeliads.

I really like these; the serious bits are well-balanced by the humor of the nomes’ reaction to the larger world, and I just love turning the pretentious names of some fantasy series on their heads by calling the trilogy after a flower. But what am I going to read now?

[1] Does anyone really care what bit it was? Okay, here it is—we’re told early in the Bromeliad that nomes live faster because they’re smaller, so ten years is a lifetime to nomes. Well, if I hadn’t read that before, I wouldn’t have said to myself, “Okay, if a Carpet People city is that big >.<, then they must live really fast, and that would explain why the matches, penny, etc., haven’t been picked up yet. Except they seem to have day and night, and then the scale’s all wrong—” and then we’re off to the races trying to justify things that are a) just magic b) nothing that would have bothered me if I hadn’t thought of the Bromeliad . . . 

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