by Lawrence Watt-Evans



296pp/$14.95/August 2008

The Turtle Moves

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

In The Turtle Moves, Lawrence Watt-Evans provides a clever introduction to Terry Pratchett’s long-running Discworld series, beginning with his own explanation of the purpose of the book, first for himself, then for those who haven’t read the series, and finally for those who have. The book itself looks at each of Pratchett’s Discworld tales and also contains chapters which allow Watt-Evans to consider the various sub-series of the whole or concepts and themes which run through the books.

One of the primary points Watt-Evans makes is that while Pratchett is indulging in parody in the earliest books in the series, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, the series underwent a sea change and became satire, which provided it with the legs to become a long running series that tackled serious topics in the real world.

When describing a series in as much detail as Watt-Evans does, it is difficult to avoid giving away key plot points.  Watt-Evans manages to stay out of this trap by not actually providing a plot summary of any of the novels or stories he describes.  Instead, he tells what the stories are about, and does so in a manner which makes them interesting.  Discussing Pratchett’s work, he also has a problem that it is too easy to give away the humor, not jokes or puns, that fill Pratchett’s novels.  Watt-Evans is less successful in this endeavor, but doesn’t give too much away.

Perhaps more importantly, Watt-Evans infuses his descriptions and discussions with his own wit, which is reminiscent of Pratchett’s.  These notes, and often footnotes, bring an added layer to his discussion of the Discworld series, and also, at times, allows him to talk directly to the reader to explain his reasoning for writing The Turtle Moves in the manner he has chosen.

Watt-Evans also uses his footnotes to explain what The Turtle Moves is not.  Most definitely, it is not a spoiler-ridden annotation of the novels.  For that, he correctly points the reader to any number of websites or to Pratchett’s officially sanctioned The Discworld Companion, co-written with Pratchett’s some-time collaborator Stephen Briggs.

The Turtle Moves is essentially is a guide to help readers long in their approach to Pratchett’s writing.  With thirty novels already written, and more promised, it is difficult for a novice to approach the series, especially since, as Watt-Evans points out, the general consensus is not to start at the beginning. Instead Watt-Evans divides the series into eight sub-series (the experienced reader may disagree with his distinctions, but he can successfully argue each of the eight) and walks the reader through, looking at their strengths and weaknesses.

For the most part, The Turtle Moves is successful.  Granted, Watt-Evans has a higher opinion of Moving Pictures than I do, but he’s allowed to be wrong on occasion, especially when so much of what he says, such as his suggestion of starting people with either Guards! Guards! or Small Gods, is so on target.

Like the Discworld novels The Turtle Moves describes, the book is entertaining.  Also like the Discworld novels, Watt-Evans’s book makes the reader think. Not as much about the world around them, but about ways of looking at Pratchett’s novels.

Purchase this book from Amazon Books 

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