We’ve waited two-and-a-half years for its 35th anniversary, but finally Joel Martin rejoins Liz and Ben to resolve the Disc’s first (and most literal) cliffhanger in The Light Fantastic, Terry Pratchett’s second Discworld novel, first published on the 2nd of June, 1986.
When we last saw them, failed wizard Rincewind, Twoflower the tourist and Twoflower’s magical Luggage – a living chest on legs – had fallen over the Rim of the Discworld. But instead of being lost in space, they mysteriously land back on the Disc in the Forest of Skund, surrounded by talking trees, gnomes and gingerbread cottages. The senior wizards of Unseen University – including Chancellor Galder Weatherwax, and scheming second-in-command Ymper Trymon – soon discover what’s happened: the Octavo, the Creator’s book of spells, wants to keep Rincewind alive. One of its spells is inside his head, and it’s needed to avert an impending apocalypse heralded by an ominous red star…
While the usual story is that Pratchett only returned to the Discworld because The Colour of Magic proved popular, he did set himself up for a sequel by dropping his protagonists off “THE EDGE”. Unlike its predecessor, The Light Fantastic has a pretty straightforward plot about averting the end of the world – but that doesn’t stop Pratchett from parodying everything from fairytales to druidic sacrifices and the conventions of fantasy writing. Plus this book introduces some concepts, and especially characters, who will come back later, including a now ex-human Librarian, Death’s adopted daughter Ysabell, and octogenarian barbarian Genghiz Cohen. (The rest of the supporting cast are less fortunate…)
Does this feel like a “real” Discworld book yet? How do we reconcile these versions of Death and Ysabell with the ones we come to love later? Is it really a bad idea to start with the early books – or is it fun to begin with the early versions of ideas Pratchett would later develop more fully? And what on the Disc happens to Rincewind between this book and Sourcery? Use the hashtag #Pratchat44 on social media to join the conversation!
Guest Joel Martin (he/him) is a podcaster and writer who has joined us twice before: way back in #Pratchat14 to discuss The Colour of Magic, and then again in #Pratchat31 for The Long Earth. He’ll be back for The Long Mars (#Pratchat57) and The Long Cosmos (in 2024). His speculative fiction writers festival, Speculate, wrapped up in 2022, and his podcast The Morning Bell is on hiatus, though you can find links to episodes where Liz and Ben appear at the bottom of our Episodes page. Find Joel online at thepenofjoel.com or on Twitter at @thepenofjoel.
As usual, you can find notes and errata for this episode on our web site.
Next episode we go back to another second book of a series, as we take a little break from the Discworld. Yes, it’s book two of Pratchett’s five novel collaboration with Stephen Baxter, The Long War! Send us your questions using the hashtag #Pratchat45, or get them in via email: firstname.lastname@example.org