Pratchett, Terry: (05) Sourcery

I remembered exactly three things about Terry Pratchett’s Sourcery, which was up next in the Discworld re-read (it was a brain-rest between reads of The Sacred Band, the last Acacia book): it was a Rincewind book, it was about the eighth son of a wizard, and it was a Dungeon Dimensions plot. Which is to say, almost nothing.

Turns out, I’d even forgot that we didn’t own it; I must’ve thought so poorly of it that I didn’t pick up a UK paperback when I was building my library on a London study-abroad. (For those buying Pratchett in ebook now: the edition I bought is by Transworld Digital, is apparently a re-issue, and is definitely nicer than the HarperCollins ones that the NYPL has.)

At any rate. My memory was accurate enough as far as it went, though there wasn’t very much Dungeon Dimensions relative to the rest of the book (which is good because as mentioned before, not my thing). But there were four things I hadn’t remembered which it seems worth noting now:

First: holy cliffhanger, Batman. How did I forget that?!

Second: Lord Vetinari is named as the Patrician here, and is basically himself though not present very much.

Third: the portrait of the wizards here is kind of peculiar. On one hand, here is our introduction to Unseen University:

A kind of spring had even come to the ancient University itself. Tonight would be the Eve of Small Gods, and a new Archchancellor would be elected.

Well, not exactly elected, because wizards didn’t have any truck with all this undignified voting business, and it was well known that Archchancellors were selected by the will of the gods, and this year it was a pretty good bet that the gods would see their way clear to selecting old Virrid Wayzygoose, who was a decent old boy and had been patiently waiting his turn for years.

The Archchancellor of Unseen University was the official leader of all the wizards on the Disc. Once upon a time it had meant that he would be the most powerful in the handling of magic, but times were a lot quieter now and, to be honest, senior wizards tended to look upon actual magic as a bit beneath them. They tended to prefer administration, which was safer and nearly as much fun, and also big dinners.

And then there’s the first time we see a group of wizards:

Another reason for the general conviviality was the fact that no one was trying to kill anyone else. This is an unusual state of affairs in magical circles.

The higher levels of wizardry are a perilous place. Every wizard is trying to dislodge the wizards above him while stamping on the fingers of those below; to say that wizards are healthily competitive by nature is like saying that piranhas are naturally a little peckish. However, ever since the great Mage Wars left whole areas of the Disc uninhabitable, wizards have been forbidden to settle their differences by magical means, because it caused a lot of trouble for the population at large and in any case it was often difficult to tell which of the resultant patches of smoking fat had been the winner. So they traditionally resort to knives, subtle poisons, scorpions in shoes and hilarious booby traps involving razor-sharp pendulums.

At which point I made a “huh?” face, because while these are not strictly, literally inconsistent, well, they really sit very oddly together.

(Becca suggests, in a post with book-destroying spoilers, that this tension is deliberate, which I think is plausible yet poorly-managed if so.)

Fourth: the narrative travels to Klatch, which at this point is fantasy cliche Arabia (caliphs, evil viziers, magic carpets, slave markets, etc. etc.). It didn’t strike me as awful as opposed to eyebrow-raising, but this is an area where my antennae for problematic things here are not as finely tuned. In any event, I look forward to Jingo, which has to be an improvement.

Anyway. Has some good bits, but very minor Discworld.

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