These are reviews originally posted to Amazon as customer reviews. They're intended for entertainment and informational purposes only. (Apologies for any typos, bad grammar, or offensive language.) This isn't sponsored by Amazon or represent them in any way, although they do have a very nice site and I recommend checking it out for your next book purchase. Feel free to comment on the books if you've read them or tell me how much my reviews suck or whatever.
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009


by Terry Pratchett
(3/5 stars)

This is a book by Terry Pratchett and it is about a disc-shaped world, but it is NOT a Discworld book. That's an important note. Strata was first published two years before the first Discworld book, The Color of Magic, so you can think of it as sort of a precursor to the series.

Kin Arad wrote the book on terraforming--literally. Thanks to gene engineering and other stuff she's lived over two hundred years, most of it for The Company, which is in the business of terraforming planets to make them habitable for humans. The idea is for humanity to spread out as much as possible to ensure the continuation of the species. The technology for the terraforming comes from artifacts left behind by a dead species known as the Spindle Kings. Another interesting side note is that in this universe Rome was founded by Remus and called Reme and Vikings colonized North America (called Valhalla), mating with Native Americans (or Native Valhallans I suppose) and eventually taking over Europe.

Then one day Kin is paid a visit by a supposedly lost space pilot called Jago Jalo, who shows her a cloak of invisibility and tells her there's more goodies to be found on a mysterious planet. She decides to travel with him to this planet, along with a Kung (a four-armed paranoid alien who sees violence as the first and best solution) named Marco and a Shandi (a big bear-like alien with walrus tusks who eat a very specialized diet--mainly each other) called Silver. Jago soon dies of a heart attack, but the other three go on to find a planet that is completely flat and contained in a sort of bubble with its own stars and planets. (Unlike the Discworld, this flat disc-shaped world is not carried by four elephants on the back of a giant turtle.)

Unfortunately, their ship crashes on this planet, where they soon bump into Vikings who are searching for North America, which doesn't exist here. Not long after that they come under attack from dragons. Demons, genies, flying carpets, and even the Grim Reaper also call this strange place home. But who built it and why? That is the question.

This was an OK book, but not really great. I read somewhere that it's a parody of "Ringworld" by Larry Niven, which I've never read; if I had I might have understood this better. That Kin's "real" Earth is an alternate history just makes things more confusing than they already are. Some of the action scenes were a little confusing as well. Having read all the Discworld books, I know Pratchett is capable of better, but then this was one of his earliest works, so it's not right to punish him just for setting a higher standard for himself later on.

Really there are some books, including a few of the Discworld books, that should be shorter, but this is a case where a little more length might have been helpful. I felt like I didn't really get to see enough of this flat world with all its magical inhabitants. As well Kin and the other characters felt a little flat--pun intended--so a little exposition might have been nice. (But character development has never been Pratchett's strong suit, even in the Discworld books.)

Another thing to note here is that while the Discworld books are fantasy, this is aimed more at science-fiction readers with space travel and aliens and whatnot. Of course there is some fantasy as well, just not as much of it.

Overall I'd say there's no reason to read this unless you're a big Discworld fan, or like me you got it in a box of other books and had a couple hours to kill.

That is all.

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