Books: Moving Pictures

…by the indomitable Terry Pratchett

In Moving Pictures, the denizens of Pratchett’s Discworld inadvertently find themselves awash in movie madness.  Yes, those scatterbrained alchemists have figured out how to transfer captured pictures (painted very quickly by captive demons in small camera-like boxes) to film.  They quickly find it necessary to move from the city of Ankh-Morpork to an arid outpost without much going for it but the everpresent sunshine (to avoid the wrath of the wizards at Unseen University).  That outpost’s name: Holy Wood.

Very soon people (and trolls and dwarves and talking animals) find themselves drawn to Holy Wood for unexplainable reasons.  It seems right.  They know they can make it.  And they want to be in the moving pictures. Among them are perennial student-wizard, Victor Tugelbend, a dude who can’t sing, can’t dance, but can handle a sword OK and looks great in front of the camera, Ginger, former milkmaid from the-little-town-you-never-heard-of, who looks great in an evening gown, and Gaspode the talking wonder-dog.  Soon Cut-me-own-throat Dibbler, Ankh-Morpork’s most celebrated salesman of sausages-0f-dubious-origin, arrives and proceeds to set himself up as the mogul.  A group of dwarves suddenly discover an overwhelming urge to sing the hi-ho-hi-ho song.  A troll changes his name to ‘Rock’ and whittles off bits of his nose to increase his appeal and versatility.  These folks literally find they have stars in their eyes.

It’s pure-grade Pratchett.   For readers of fantasy, the Discworld novels are a little like catnip.  They’re highly entertaining and little bit addictive; almost a guilty pleasure.  You always get zanyness and quirky dialogue, raucous caper-type scenes and an element of social commentary with your satire.  I’ve read about seven or eight of the novels now, and can always count on them for some good clever entertainment.

Moving Pictures, of course, pokes fun at the film industry in all its self-important splendor.  And it wouldn’t be a Discworld book without a mystery and crisis looming in the distance.  This time it’s the deterioration of the boundaries between worlds, and what the denizens of the Other Side have in store.  Fortunately Victor and Ginger and Gaspode have been taking pointers from their film careers.

While this book isn’t as complete as some in the series (I prefer the Night Watch books) it’s still highly recommended for the discerning fan of fantasy-humor.


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