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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures
(A Discworld Novel)
by Terry Pratchett
(3/5 stars)

I'm going to be lazy here and borrow heavily from the review of the last Discworld book I read recently because really, it's about the same thing.

When it comes to some airplane/beach reading, Terry Pratchett's Discworld books are definitely not a bad choice if you're a sci-fi/fantasy fan. They're light, not too long, and funny in that British kind of way. They'll make you think a little bit, but not too much to make your head hurt. The mixture of comedy, action, and a little romance is just right for when you want an enjoyable book that isn't too heavy and overbearing.

That said, "Moving Pictures" is the fifth of Pratchett's Discworld novels I've read and it didn't really make much of an impact on me. It killed a couple hours at the airport, on the plane, and later at work but that was really about it. Mostly, this felt the same as the other Discworld books I'd read where some seemingly innocuous thing created by some fringe character threatens to destroy the universe until a ragtag bunch of non-heroes band together to stop it.

In this case an alchemist is conducting one of his idiotic experiments when he lo and behold SUCCEEDS at making something useful! What he invents is the Discworld equivalent of film. Before long he and his fellow alchemists head off to an abandoned place called Holy Wood and begin shooting silent movies that are made by imps quickly painting images onto the film while one of the alchemists turns a handle that "motivates" the imps to keep working.

Meanwhile, Victor is a wizard student at Unseen University who because of his uncle's will doesn't want to graduate and doesn't want to drop out either; he just wants to coast along like a less wild "Van Wilder." But when he sees a "click" as the silent films are known as, he heads off to Holy Wood along with thousands of other starstruck humans, trolls, and even dogs. Victor becomes a moving picture star along with a woman named Ginger.

Before long a former sausage salesman becomes a big-time movie producer and endeavors to put on the mother of all clicks--with a thousand elephants! But all this meddling with mysterious forces in abandoned places is bound to lead to trouble--trouble fit for a click!

All these different plot threads come together fairly well in the end as all our non-heroes battle weird Things for the fate of the Discworld. Still, as I said, even though I've only read four of these it felt like I'd read most of this before with only the specifics changed. I suppose when you write as many of these as Pratchett has it's easy to fall into a formula, albeit an enjoyable formula.

I did enjoy this one slightly more than the previous one I read if only because it was fun to play "spot the reference" in terms of real movies like "Gone With the Wind," "King Kong," "Lassie," and "Casablanca" among others. The real film industry was about as primitive as the Holy Wood version early on, only without the imps and trolls.

As I said at the beginning though, if you want some light reading that is a little more substantial and enjoyable than the latest Nicholas Sparks or James Patterson rag, Pratchett is your man. It just probably doesn't matter WHICH one you read.

That is all.

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