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Nation by Terry Pratchett – Book Review by Saul, Teen Blogger

Nation - book coverNation by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett is one of my favourite authors, but I had never heard of this particular book. It is outside of the usual Discworld novels and one of the less fantasy-like stories that I have read from him (although it does have a splash of the magical). It can be best described as an alternate history novel, set on an earth much like ours in the 1860s. A small island known simply as 'The Nation' exists in the middle of the Great South Pelagic Ocean (the Pacific Ocean of this alternate world). It centers upon a boy called Mau, who is about to become a man, but then the wave comes. It destroys all of the nation. Left is only Mau and a shipwrecked girl from another land entirely.

The plot takes major twists and turns as it goes, many of which I had not expected in the slightest. It is an emotional rollercoaster, taking moments of happiness and then crushing them with disaster, only to have joy rise up from the ashes again. My major complaint about the book’s plotline is the slow period between the beginning and the rising action. I can tell it was supposed to be a moment of calm for the two main characters to get to know each other (and understand each other’s languages), but it felt like an episode of frustration for me. I am glad to say that it picks up again soon after and the fifty or so pages of boredom are more than worth it for the stunning climax.

Pratchett’s style of writing is very obvious in this book. I saw plenty of subtle comedy moments that constantly remind the reader this is one of his books. It is layered with satire, almost poking fun at clichés used in other stories. There is a particular point in which the character contemplates whether he is already dead or not, a classic trope that is often overused.  This is used to great comedic effect.

Other than the occasionally uninteresting plotline there is one other large disappointment I find with this book. I use the word disappointment because it is not necessarily a problem, but more of a missed opportunity. Throughout the first half of the story there are many things that could be considered fantasy, but they can also be explained using logical thinking. I assumed that it was to be left up to the reader to decide what these phenomenon were. Instead, about half way through the book it throws the concept of logic out of the window and makes it pure fantasy. I have no problem with fantasy, it is my favourite genre of story, but I feel that I was rather let down by this sudden change in the story.

The themes of this book are very clear. It is very much about the relationship between science and religion, all about belief. What I like most about this is that the author is never taking a side in this debate, and more so suggests the debate is pointless. It builds on many levels of this theme, and it is one the strongest points I can make. Every character adds a new opinion to the mix.

Overall, this novel is a fantastic story, albeit with some specific issues. It is not for everybody, but it will probably make you think about topics relating to its central theme a bit more. If you want a book that is both interesting and exciting, I recommend giving Nation a look.


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