Tuesday, November 18, 2008


NATION; Terry Pratchett; New York: HarperCollins, 2008. Young Adult.

One of the saddest bits of news I have heard in a long time is that the singular, peerless, irreplaceable Terry Pratchett has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. But if Nation becomes the last of his books to be published, it will be a powerful, fitting, and beautiful conclusion to a canon which has brought joy and laughter to many lives. In this story, Mau has left his island home to go to the Boys' Island where he must complete certain tasks before returning to his home island. As he goes back, a tidal wave sweeps under and over him, and then goes on to wash across the island drowning his family and friends as they wait to welcome him home as a man. At first Mau gives all the bodies to the sea, and is only saved from seeking the deep himself by the appearance on the island of a ghost girl, one of the trouser people whose ship has washed ashore with her the only survivor. Together Mau and Daphne reestablish a society, a culture, a village on the island, as other survivors find the place and need their care. A bare bones recounting of plot says nothing about the lovely pas de deux between science and religion that fills these pages, or the trademark Pratchett jokes and witticisms, or the deep understanding of human nature and the natural world with which the story is redolent. Nation is a powerful, unforgettable book with a bittersweet ending, in more ways than one.


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