Nation by Terry Pratchett
In what can really only be called a tour de force by an author who is arguably the greatest living English novelist, Terry Pratchett has pulled out all the stops for his latest book, Nation. Pratchett is best known for his Discworld series of books, which stretch across a monstrous 36 books (of which the majority does well to score below 7 out of 10). However this time around, Pratchett has stepped off the Disc and into a parallel universe to our own, with honorable mentions to Einstein and Isaac Newton.
To say that I am a Terry Pratchett fan is to really not grasp the picture. It is like saying that the ocean is marginally damp, or that George Bush might have made a mistake stepping into Iraq.
I say this so that you will be able to temper my review with the knowledge that I might be a little biased. That’s not to say you should disbelieve anything I say. In fact… let’s just get on with it.
Written with Pratchett’s inimitable wit and humor, Nation is one of the best books I have read this year. It is right up there with Pratchett’s best Discworld novels like Night Watch and Making Money. But this time around we are gifted the opportunity to see Pratchett’s attention to detail and love of his craft.
Nation tells the story of Mau, a young member of the Nation, an island not even large enough to be credited on a world map, located in the South Pelagic Ocean. Africa and England both exist, but anomalies – apart from the Great Pelagic Ocean – include the Reunited States and The Russias. We find out immediately that a plague has killed the King of England, and that the next in line has to be acquired as soon as possible so that the French don’t get any funny ideas (not that they’d want too).
However while patriotic Englishmen carry on behind the scenes, desperately searching for their new King, and only appearing randomly, our focus is always drawn to Mau, and to Ermintude, preferably called Daphne.
I review a lot of material and am constantly confronted with the issue of just how much to spoil. When it comes to some of the poorer written work, spoiling often comes as a relief to those who have not yet placed themselves in a place to read said material. But with Pratchett’s work, each moment of the book is like the perfect quarter chicken and chips meal (I’m not obsessed); each mouthful worth savoring. The same is for Nation, thus I am just unsure of how much to reveal.
In short, using Pratchett’s own blurb as a reference, Mau is the last survivor of his people, left alone on an island with only a ghost girl as company (Ermi… Daphne). The Nation will regrow, as other survivors of the catastrophe seek a measure of shelter, but for young Mau, who is no longer a boy but not yet a man, the battle is just beginning. He must become chief to survivors while trying to work out who he is.
What starts off being a two-person show is soon remedied with the arrival of Milo and Pilu, which, after some rather embarrassing moments between Mau and Daphne concerning the nature of gender, sees Daphne come into her own as a powerful woman.
But in this book, hidden beneath character development that is nothing short of breathtaking and amidst a story that will at times make you laugh out loud (SHOW US YER DRAWERS!) and at times shed a tear, exists such a revelation that you will begin to question our own history. Pratchett has not just settled for telling a story of people, but has provided an answer to the beginning of human civilization (if not our own, then one of them).
Written from varying perspective’s that never take you out of the story when switched, Nation tells a story that will at once bring you joy and tear your heart out (well, it will if you’re a romantic). You will live every day with these characters as if they were your own, never becoming annoyed at a persistent flaw that some authors write into their characters.
Pratchett knows how to write a story that people do not want to put down, and if you were to have seen my father over the last weekend you would understand my point (silence would more often than not be broken by an outrageous laugh from the family room).
Terry Pratchett’s Nation gets 10 out of 10 for me. Only Pratchett, Robin Hobb, James Barclay and J.R.R. Tolkien have ever received such a mark from me, and not for everything they have ever written. Nation will make you feel good for a week (hopefully more, we’ll see) and will remind you once again that humanity is not totally doomed (just probably doomed).
This Nation book review was written by Joshua S Hill
Have you read Nation?
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Nation reader reviews
Jennifer from England
If I could give it a zero I would it’s so boring and complicated and I do not recommend this for teens who are in school and want to read something fun this is the definition of hell and it’s so much work to try to read and understand what it’s trying to say.
Dom from England
What does one look for in a novel? A plot that grips from cover to cover; engaging multi-dimensional characters with developmental arcs; action; drama; humour; wonder; mysticism; deep philosophical ideas; resonating implications? Nation is a tour de force of wit, compassion, humanity and understanding and I thank whatever providence gave the world a person with the capability to commit it to paper. This goes straight into the upper echelons of my favourite books and now I'm torn between I desire to cherish it and a need to pass it on.
Charles from New Jersey, US
It really depends when you ask me, Sir Terry's best book is either Nation, Wee Free Men, or Night Watch (especially around the Glorious 25th of May.) It is far too late to foist this book upon my grown daughters (although I would still recommend it to them) but I have an 11 year old niece who I would hope would benefit from the book. Just finishing a listen to Stephen Briggs reading the audiobook version of Nation again. Sublime. GNU Terry Pratchett.
Aliroz from Sweden
Totally agree that this is Pratchett's finest work, and that that is saying everything. I do think that Cox is an alternate version of Carcer from Night watch, like how Doctor Rijnswand is an alternate version of Rincewind in The Color Of Magic. And, Laura, I'd rate A Song Of Ice And Fire as zero out of ten, but that is just me.
Mehreen from England
The best book Terry Pratchett has ever written! ( and that's saying something ) I love the way this book makes you laugh, shed a tear or two, laugh yet AGAIN and make you THINK, really think. A book for everyone. It thinks dolphins are awesome. How can a book like that be bad?!
Jacqueline from England
A magnificent book! But, Pat, books take months to write (even for Terry) and more months to publish, so it cannot be a response to his diagnosis late in 2007. He told the Daily Mail last July that he was thinking of what his mother told him when he was a child, about two families wiped out (all but one young man) in the Blitz. This is the moral and spiritual heart of the book.
Pat from England
A great book. I believe that Terry is using it to question his own beliefs about the universe following his own diagnosis, it resonnates beautifully between science and faith. I read it twice in three days and passed it on to my fantastic step-son who "is a man of science, but not of faith". A comic version of the Prophet. Thank you Terry for how much you have enriched my life and Nation is your best work to date. God bless you (and I think that both you and I think he has done). This is a book to share.
Laura from Indiana, US
It was a beautiful, extremely moving book. Not really of the same flavor as the Discworld novels, which threw me a little at first, but I LOVED it. Nation is now one of my fave Pratchett books, along with Hogfather and Thud! I noticed that your list of 10/10 authors doesn't include George R. R. Martin. If you haven't read A Song of Ice and Fire, you should. It's brilliant high fantasy with gritty characters, deftly handled political intrigue, a fascinating setting and...it's just amazing and depressing.
Katya from Sydney
I agree with your review, and am glad you didn't do too much spoilage (which is more than can be said for the major press). As an outlier ancillary member of Team Pratchett, I've had Nation for nearly six months now, and have re-read it a dozen times. I think it's one of the most important fiction books ever written, and consider it to be 'for young readers of *all* ages'.
8.9/10 from 10 reviews
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