I’ve mentioned before that I’m a Terry Pratchett fan and am currently re-reading all the novels in his Discworld series. When I heard that his newest novel, Nation, was not set in Discworld, I was a little disappointed, mainly because Discworld is so much fun, not to mention addictive.
But Nation is an entirely fresh Pratchett, unlike any I’ve read before. It takes place on a round world, namely ours, but 150 years ago in a parallel universe, when a tidal wave, or tsunami, caused by a Krakatoa-like explosion, washes over parts of what we’d call Pacific Ocean islands, wiping out most of the inhabitants.
On one particular island, called Nation by its inhabitants, the sole survivor is a young boy who had been at sea in his canoe when the wave struck. The wave also washed a large wooden ship ashore and its only survivor is a young high-society Victorian-era girl. There’s an immediate tension between these two when they meet. They learn some of each other’s language, but they have no cultural references in common.
From this starting point the story unfolds and it is exactly what I would expect from Pratchett — an engaging, humorous, thoughtful, deeply-meaningful story told by a master storyteller. There is nothing Disneyish about the story, and its development and ending are totally appropriate to the two main characters.
It’s officially a Young Adult novel, like the Tiffany Aching Discworld novels, and like them it’s what I call one of Pratchett’s ‘wisdom’ novels. Through the plot and character, the novel plumbs philosophical depths that would be unexpected in most YA fiction.
By extraordinary luck, I had the very first hold on the novel from my local public library system. I finished it in the wee hours last night and can say with no hesitation that it’s a delight (except for the loss-of-sleep-reading-it part). Pratchett fans will love it. If you’re new to Pratchett, this would make a good first read — primarily because it’s not part of the complex Discworld series. It’s a wonderful standalone novel that I think will become known as one of his finest.
There are two very good short videos on YouTube in which Pratchett talks about Nation and its creation.
1. Terry Pratchett on Nation: 3:01