Terry Pratchett Book Club

Terry Pratchett Book Club: Sourcery, Part IV

It’s time to reshuffle the world back to the way it was. We’re here to complete Sourcery!

Summary

Rincewind goes into the Tower of Art and finds the Librarian, the Patrician, and Wuffles, along with most of the library’s books—they flew from the blaze. The Librarian is busy repairing the books that got a bit singed and damaged on their way out. Rincewind is determined to stay out of what’s going on, but the Librarian takes his hat and threatens to cut it up, and Rincewind is obliged to stop him and admit that he probably should do something about what’s going on. Conina, Nijel, and Creosote are dropped off a ways from Ankh-Morpork right outside a tavern. They give up on the lamp and steal three horses to make it the rest of the way. Those three horses happen to belong to War, Famine, and Pestilence, who are drinking in the tavern with Death. Coin and the wizards are channeling all their energy into stopping the hat and Abrim and his tower, and Carding is upset, knowing he should have listened to Spelter before. But while he’s working on getting past Abrim’s defenses, the Luggage arrives, distracting the grand vizier well enough to kill him. His tower and the Archchancellor’s hat are destroyed in the process. Carding realizes that what they’ve done has opened avenues for other things to come into their world and tries to smash Coin’s staff, but it kills him instead.

Death heads out on Binky insisting that the other Horsemen can’t ride on his horse because it messes with the aesthetic of the thing. War decides they should go back into the tavern and have another drink in that case. Coin is upset to find Carding dead, and wants to help him, but the staff takes over. Coin insists that they needn’t worry about the Dungeon Dimensions because they now run a world full of magic and nothing can stand against them—but it is pointed out that the gods could. Rincewind heads out of the Tower of Art to go face down Coin, who is busy imprisoning the gods in a thought that is now the size of a pearl. Rincewind arrives with half a brick in a sock and realizes this is all wrong, that Coin is at the mercy of the staff and he can’t fight a little boy. Death arrives, and Rincewind assumes he’s come for him, but he’s actually there for Ipslore. Coin tries to smash the staff, tries to toss it away, but it rolls back and demands to be picked up. Coin decides he didn’t throw it far enough. The wizards move to abandon the Tower, expecting everything to self-destruct at this point. Rincewind can’t leave the kid alone, so he returns to grab for the staff and they both vanish—leaving only Rincewind’s hat behind.

Conina, Nijel, and Creosote are riding through the sky on the horsemen’s pilfered horses and notice that there’s a terrible snowstorm coming. They call on the genie to figure out what’s happening, and he explains that the gods are gone—releasing the Ice Giants, whom they imprisoned ages hence. Then the genie liquidates this particular lamp and leaves them there. Nijel decides they should try to explain to the Ice Giants what’s going on and why they shouldn’t destroy the world. No one has a better idea, so they go for it. Rincewind wakes up in the Dungeon Dimensions next to Coin, who briefly roots around in his head to learn more about where they are. He realizes that the Things there are trying to break into their world, and he can’t use magic because that will strengthen them. So Rincewind decides he’s going to distract them with a sock full of sand. (Meanwhile in Al Khali the Luggage breaks free of the wreckage of Abrim’s tower.) Nijel tries to talk to an Ice Giant, but they’re not really interested in hearing reason, and Conina has to save him from an untimely death. Rincewind tells Coin to run toward the light while he distracts the Things; he requests that Coin tell people that he stayed there and write it down somewhere for posterity. He also tells Coin that he must remember who he really is and not let other people remember for him (which he’s also telling himself). Coin doesn’t run when he’s told, not until Rincewind quotes his father to him, and then he finally runs toward the light, emerging in Ankh-Morpork where the Librarian waits.

Coin wants to go back after Rincewind, but the Librarian isn’t going to the Dungeon Dimensions, and suddenly the Luggage appears and charges in after him. The Librarian then takes the small pearl from Coin’s hands and smashes it, freeing the Disc gods, who are none too happy. Nijel decides he is going to make a last stand against the Ice Giants, and Conina elects to make that stand with him, but before anything happens, the gods put the Ice Giants back. They head to the city, dropping off War’s horse at a livery stable. The books are busy flying back from the Tower of Art to the reconstructed Library—the city having basically reconstructed itself back to normal—and Conina and Nijel ask the Librarian if he can direct them to Rincewind. He brings them to Coin instead, who explains what happened, but then erases their memories and tells them to live happily ever after. Coin is panicked because he can’t stop affecting the world, until he realizes the solution: He creates his own pocket universe, steps into it, and seals himself away. Creosote steps into the Mended Drum and is given all the liquor he could ever want by the landlord’s daughter, who just happens to know hundreds of stories. The Patrician is back to normal, only vaguely remembering his time as a reptile. The Librarian checks the Library and goes to sleep beneath his desk, while Rincewind’s hat sits propped in a corner.

Book Club Chat

The thing that catches me up at the end of this book is the textbook abusive parenting we get from Ipslore the staff (I’ve taught you everything; I gave you everything; you’re so ungrateful), and honestly… I wish more of the book was devoted to this. Because we know that the staff is making Coin do all of this, we know that Coin is truly just a little boy with access to unimaginable power, and we have some background on what filled Ipslore with vengeance. But we don’t get a lot of detail. We don’t get anything from either of their perspectives really, and that seems like a missed opportunity to do some digging on this premise.

Because, really, the whole thing kind of hangs on this concept of knowing what you are, and being sure of that knowledge on your own terms. Rincewind is reminding himself of this at the end: He’s a wizard, he knows it because of the hat, the very same one the Librarian called his attention to and now keeps in a corner of the Library, awaiting Rincewind’s return. And while it’s nice to see Rincewind stick to himself, we don’t get to see this lesson as carefully applied to the person who needs to internalize it the most. Coin doesn’t get the chance to truly know himself because he spends his life being directed and filled up with knowledge by the staff that’s his dead dad. Additionally, Ipslore is a full-tilt villain who only gets the barest hint of nuance and character in his first pages. It would have been nice to get just a bit more of him, too, of their relationship and how it unfolded into this massive terrifying thing.

Which is really just another way of saying, this book has too many characters that need to be important, and really only enough time to focus on a couple of them. The machinations are still super fun to read, but I want a bit more of everyone. Even Conina and Nijel—the point at the end where they’re seemingly about to die and Nijel can tell that Conina was interested in them maybe being Mr and Mrs Harebut, and when she vaguely confirms that he asks “Which one did you intend to be?” Hey now, come on. Gimme just a little more of that.

That said, I do have a lot of respect for Rincewind doing the hero bit with all this usual groaning and dismay. It’s hard to do hero things when you’re not the Hero Type, even in fiction, which is supposed to make room for not-heroes becoming Hero Types.

Getting into this Good Omens angle is honestly a thing that will come up again, even after this book, because Pratchett has a few aspects within the Discworld series that he clearly just wanted on the page somewhere, but work much better in a story that is oriented toward specifically Christianized parody. This whole bit with the Horsemen (who were brought up before in Mort, of course) is just sort of awkwardly there? It’s fun, but it doesn’t make too much sense. The only thing about it that’s really enjoyable is the suggestion that Death left them all behind at the tavern because he knew that the world wasn’t ending today, and was just heading to pick up Ipslore as intended from the start. If we go from that assumption, at least it’s funny that he rides off without them because no, it just looks all wrong, sorry gang, you’re on your own.

But the idea of imposing a largely Christian conceit of apocalypse upon the Discworld is awkward to my mind, as it is in every place where the Disc gets a little extra Christian. (And before anyone asks, no, I don’t count Hogswatch or the Hogfather in that because Christmas itself has such deeply pagan roots as a holiday that it doesn’t imbue the same biblical sense on anything.) And I can’t help but suspect that Pratchett knows this and just does it anyway because the jokes are fun. He can sort of get away with it because he makes room for all beliefs on the Disc—this is made clear with the idea that when people die, they go wherever they believe they’re going. But there’s a difference between “you go to the afterlife you believe in” and “if the world ends, the Christian Horsemen will ride as their Apocalypse demands.” There’s no indication of why that would occur here, or whether other faiths are having their own doomsday groups triggered, as it were.

Of course some people are shouting “but they’re conceptual, they apply to all of humanity!” and sure… if they were more like the Endless and just always around, I’d give it to him. But they’re not. They’re the Four Horsemen of the Christian Apocalypse. Except Death isn’t, he’s Discworld’s Death. I just want some clear delineation, is what I’m saying. (Which I know we get a bit more of in The Thief of Time, but that’s way later in the game.) I’m picky like that.

Asides and little thoughts:

  • “Other things besides the cream floated to the top, he reflected sourly.” Aside from the fact that this is a great quote, it’s also a good chance to bring up Tom Swifties, reference to a series Pratchett has winked at before (namely in The Light Fantastic), using this particular sequence of word matching (in this case “sourly” is a reflection upon the content of the sentence itself). It’s all very silly.
  • Creosote saying that he thought snow came up from the ground like mushrooms just reminds me of Lucy shouting “It comes up, Charlie Brown, snow comes up!” in the song “Little Known Facts” in the musical You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.
  • Given how descriptive terms for white women’s skin so often angle toward unwarranted glorification (“ivory” and “alabaster” and “milk” are fine, I guess, but really?), there is something particularly enjoyable in having the landlord’s daughter of the Mended Drum described as the color and shape of “unbaked bread.”

Pratchettisms:

The interior of the tower smelled of antiquity, with a slight suspicion of raven droppings.

The particular thing nearest Rincewind was at least twenty feet high. It looked like a dead horse that had been dug up after three months and then introduced to a range of new experiences, at least one of which had included an octopus.

“Are you alive?” he said. “If you’re not, I’d prefer it if you didn’t answer.”

Sourcerers never become part of the world. They merely wear it for a while.

Night spread across the Disk like plum jam, or possibly blackberry preserve.

 

]Next week we’re getting into Wyrd Sisters! This one is a tad longer, so we’ll be doing it in five parts instead of our usual four. We’ll be reading up to:

And afterward, he told himself, I’ll get the armorer to send me up a file.

Until then!

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