Monday, September 23, 2013

The Carpet People, Terry Pratchett

The Carpet PeopleThey called themselves the Munrungs. It meant The People, or The True Human Beings.

"In the beginning, there was nothing but endless flatness. Then came the Carpet . . . That’s the old story everyone knows and loves. But now the Carpet is home to many different tribes and peoples, and there’s a new story in the making. The story of Fray, sweeping a trail of destruction across the Carpet. The story of power-hungry mouls—and of two brothers who set out on an adventure to end all adventures when their village is flattened. It’s a story that will come to a terrible end—if someone doesn't do something about it. If everyone doesn’t do something about it . . . First published in 1971, this hilarious and wise novel marked the debut of the phenomenal Sir Terry Pratchett. Years later, Sir Terry revised the work, and this special collectable edition includes the updated text, his original color and black-and-white illustrations, and an exclusive story—a forerunner to The Carpet People created by the seventeen-year-old nascent writer who would become one of the world's most beloved storytellers."

The Carpet People was an incredibly weird little book, first published in 1971 when Terry Pratchett was a little known seventeen year old. Now, he revised it a bit, and it's coming out in November from Clarion Books, which sent me a review copy. I didn't love The Carpet People, that's for sure, and it was rather confusing at times, but there were a lot of interesting creations, and even then, Terry Pratchett knew how to write funny stories (although I haven't really read much of his work). I particularly liked the wights, who can see the past and the future (a conversation with them is rather disconcerting) and the temagant, whose gaze turns everyone to stone. But he only wants a friend. A lot of the other creatures Pratchett creates in this book are really great too, like the pones, large animals with a brain the size of a pea who are still surprisingly intelligent, with their own form of language. They also only stay around if they think you're interesting. 

The idea of the Carpet is really interesting and funny too, although it could have been fleshed out a bit more. Like, is the Carpet actually a huge realm? Is it located in a carpet in someone's home or what? If so, then how come people never get stepped on by feet? All that and more made the book very confusing as I read. So this definitely wasn't an amazing fantasy novel, although I'm sure the revisions that Pratchett put in made it better than it originally was. Still, what the reader does learn about the Carpet is pretty cool, about all the different colored-hairs and the strange creatures. I also liked the drawings that accompanied the text. They really brought the story to life. There were also a lot of very funny sequences, such as the one when the characters storm Jeopard to take it over from the mouls with only half a dozen people, when five thousand couldn't take down the city earlier. 

One thing I find lacking in many fantasy novels is the characters' lack of inclination to question what exists beyond their known world, far away and up above. In The Carpet People, they do do that, to a certain extent, wondering what's above the Carpet, and whether it ever ends. I loved that that so often left out element was included, acknowledging how humans (and other creatures) are always curious about unknown places. It's just unrealistic that in a fantasy realm where not a lot is known that a person wouldn't care at all about uncharted territories. 

Character development was a bit thin, but I ended up enjoying the book more than I thought initially. It starts out pretty slowly and confusingly, but gradually things become clearer and one is able to enjoy this rather silly story. Once I got into it, the book was a pretty quick read; at least in the ARC, the font is very big and the age range is listed as 8+ (although you should never trust those). I would recommend The Carpet People to fans of odd but good fantasy; I'm glad that a new edition was issued. I might try reading some more of Terry Pratchett's more famous works, which I've heard are very good and humorous. I have read The Wee Free Men, but I don't remember much about it except that it was weird, and not necessarily in a good way. The Carpet People was also weird...but in a good way.

289 pages. 

Rating: ****

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