“I just want to go home! I want to go back to where—’ a trace of moisture appeared in Rincewind’s eye—‘to where there’s cobbles under your feet and some of the beer isn’t too bad and you can get quite a good piece of fried fish of an evening, with maybe a couple of big green gherkins, and even an eel pie and a dish of whelks, and there’s always a warm stable somewhere to sleep in and in the morning you are always in the same place as you were the night before and there wasn’t all this weather all over the place. I mean, I don’t mind about the magic, I’m probably not, you know, the right sort of material for a wizard, I just want to go home!—” – Rincewind
The Light Fantastic is the second book in the Discworld series. In the first book – The Colour of Magic – the hapless pairing of Rincewind the failed wizard and Twoflower, the Disc’s first tourist, are left plunging over the rim of the Disc and out in to space.
This is where we pick up the story – with our unlucky duo plunging over the edge. Rincewind can hardly believe his luck when he finds himself snagged by the branch of a tree growing out of the edge. An unpleasant conversation ensues when Death appears, waiting for him to fall to his mortal end. Unfortunately for Rincewind, the branch snaps. But more on this a little later.
In this book, Pratchett adds to some of the richness of this pairing of characters, while also introducing a few more locations and groups that feature heavily in the series. One such location is the Unseen University – an educational establishment for wizards in the city of Ankh-Morpork. We also get to meet a handful of its resident wizards. As you might expect in any other university, UU has a senior faculty member, in this case Archchancellor Galder Weatherwax. Beneath him sit the heads of the eight magical orders, and their orders of wizards beneath them. Unlike any other university, promotion is not earned on merit, but through acquisition of dead men’s pointy shoes. Or to put it another way, kill the wizard above you in the ranks, and take his place (and his shoes).
The ambitious, power-hungry and ordered young wizard works his way up through the levels capitalising on the turmoil currently gripping the inhabitants of the Disc. A large part of this turmoil is due to a rather large, red star that seems to be getting closer to the Disc. But there’s turmoil deep inside Unseen University, too. In the basement is a cell, designed to contain magic. And inside this cell is one of the most magic of all books – the Octavo. This book holds the eight great spells that helped create the world. Well, seven of them – the eighth spell resides inside the mind of Rincewind, who is currently falling off the Disc. Because of this, the Octavo is not happy.
Back to Rincewind, who is currently falling off of the Disc. He lands on solid ground, against all expectations, in the forest of Skund – back on the Discworld. In a bid to save the eighth spell, the Octavo casts a change spell, altering reality and causing Rincewind, Twoflower and the luggage to land back on the Disc. Unfortunately this causes other things to take place, chiefly a change in the state of the University’s librarian. Formerly of the human persuasion, the librarian now finds himself to be an orang-utan.
Now reunited, Rincewind and Twoflower set off out of the forest and in to an adventure filled with trolls, swords people and wizards all trying to get Rincewind back to the university, in the belief that when spoken, all eight spells will save the Disc from the ever-growing red star. Along the way they encounter a druid ritual, and along with the legendary barbarian, Cohen, manage to save the would-be sacrifice.
Along the way, Twoflower falls unconscious, and it falls to Rincewind to rescue him from the home of Death himself. All of this drama is too much for Rincewind, and for all its faults and his constant bemoaning of it, Rincewind becomes homesick for Ankh-Morpork.
Further adventure ensues as the band of not-so merry men, woman and luggage attempt to reach Ankh-Morpork. Along the way, in another town they encounter the deranged Star People – citizens who believe Magic to be the cause of the great star, and its now visible moons. They manage to escape, and return to Ankh-Morpork, where they break into the under-siege Unseen University. Here, Rincewind finds Trymon has ascended to the roll of Archchancellor, locked up the other heads of the eight magical orders, and taken the Octavo.
At the top of the Tower of Art, Trymon intends to speak the eight great spells and become all-powerful. He manages to recite seven, just as Rincewind reaches the top of the tower. After a scuffle and a trip to the dungeon dimensions, Rincewind defeats Trymon, throwing him down the tower. To save the Disc, he recites the eight spells. Having mispronounced one, nothing happens, until Twoflower stumbles upon the correct pronunciation.
This time something happens. The moons circling the star begin to fracture, revealing baby world turtles, with four elephant calves upon each of their shells, and a small, relatively unformed disc on their shoulders. With the last one hatched, Great A’Tuin turns away from the star, to lead its offspring out in to the depths of space. With the world saved, Twoflower decides it is time to return to his homeland, and bequeaths the luggage to his friend, Rincewind.
In this book, Pratchett really adds depth to some of the characters introduced in The Colour of Magic, such as Rincewind, Twoflower and Death. I like how more locations and characters that feature a lot more in the series are introduced, including Cohen and the Librarian. This book shows the development in ideas Pratchett has for the series, as well as giving more background on to the formation of the Discworld and how the Librarian came to be an orang-utan.
The next book in my run through of the series is Equal Rites. This is the first book in the series to leave Rincewind for now, and follow a new thread with all-new characters.