Moving Pictures


When Sir Terry Pratchett passed away earlier this year, I made a vow to reread his entire Discworld set of books as a homage to the author who I started reading when I was a teenager looking for my next fun read. I also planned to create a Terry Pratchett page with reviews and readalong updates on the blog.

I can’t say that I got very far in the actual implementation though. The thing with Discworld books is that when you read them in quick succession, they all sort of merge into one in your mind, and so a couple of weeks after reading a book (which is generally how long I take to get to writing a review), I couldn’t think of anything specific to say. In addition, tons of activity in my real-life (a new job, a new fitness schedule, summer weekends outdoors), means that I’ve hardly been able to spend quality time on the blog. I mean, yeah, sure, I’ve been doing the occasional review, but I haven’t been able to (and will not be able to) devote significant quality time to the blog.

So my goal of featuring Pratchett on my blog was a big fat flop. But I do want to talk about at least one of his books, and the book I choose to feature is Moving Pictures.

There are a couple of reasons for this, this book, to me encapsulates both the best and worst of Pratchett in one book, and so allows me to talk about what I like and dislike about the Discworld series .

Book Synopsis

Discworld’s pesky alchemists are up to their old tricks again. This time, they’ve discovered how to get gold from silver—the silver screen that is. Hearing the siren call of Holy Wood is one Victor Tugelbend, a would-be wizard turned extra. He can’t sing, he can’t dance, but he can handle a sword (sort of), and now he wants to be a star. So does Theda Withel, an ambitious ingénue from a little town you’ve probably never heard of.

But the click of moving pictures isn’t just stirring up dreams inside Discworld.Holy Wood’s magic is drifting out into the boundaries of the universes, where raw realities, the could-have-beens, the might-bes, the never-weres, and the wild ideas are beginning to ferment into a really stinky brew. It’s up to Victor and Gaspode the Wonder Dog to rein in the chaos and bring order back to a starstruck Discworld. And they’re definitely not ready for their close-up!

Synopsis from Amazon

Pratchett is the go-to guy if you want a few rib tickles along with your Fantasy. In his books, he takes regular real-life people and plots, mixes it in a mad blender, and then dumps them all into the most bizarre world called Discworld.

A world carried by four elephants on the back of a turtle flying across the Universe. What?

A world carried by four elephants on the back of a turtle flying across the Universe. What?

Sometimes this mix works, sometimes it doesn’t. Some of his books are crazy, brilliant, funny, some are so-so, and some just fall flat.

Making Pictures falls somewhere between so-so and fab. Some of the reasons for that are main characters who don’t have the required spark, and a plot that doesn’t quite make sense.

But this is Terry Pratchett – the master weaver of words and worlds, and so in spite of the flaws, the book just shines in places. There are crazy references to Old Hollywood, the silent movie era, Gone with the Wind, and if you are a movie buff you will love all the jokes. If you are not that into Hollywood, or movie history, this book won’t appeal as much to you.

Another bummer is that the book moves quite slowly, especially the beginning, and some of the characters and plotlines seem unrelated to each other at first. Of course, the connections are eventually made, but a couple of them happen quite late in the book, and so subsequently certain sections of the book (the University sections), while funny, seemed unrelated to the main plot.

The wackiness though is trademark Pratchett, and ultimately that’s why I time and again revisit his world. Here are a couple of zany quotes to illustrate my point:

A dog’s wet nose is not strictly speaking the worst of the bunch, but it has its own peculiar dreadfulness which connoisseurs of the ghastly and dog owners everywhere have come to know and dread. It’s like having a small piece of defrosting liver pressed lovingly against you.

Oh and yes, if you are a dog lover, this book is a must read. Some of the best characters in the book are Gaspode the wonder dog, and Lassie the dumb dog. Seriously, Gaspode has the best lines in the book, and steals the show in every page he is on.

And here’s another hilarious dialog, that had me chuckling:

Make him a star? What’d he want a star for?’ ‘I didn’t know you could make stars…I thought they were like, you know, stuck to the sky…’
‘I think he meant make him a star. You know, him himself. Turn him into a star.’
‘How can you make anyone into a star?’
‘I dunno. I suppose you compress them right up small and they burst into this mass of flaming hydrogen?

Overall, a hilariously funny read, which amuses in spite of the vague plot. I can’t quite say this is the best of Pratchett, but it definitely gave me a lot of laughs.

You can also purchase a copy of this book from Amazon

  • I have not read any of the Discworld books yet but they have been on my list for a long time. I cannot imagine reading about 40 books from the same series and yet it’s super exciting to be lost in such a long series.

    • Nishita

      @athirac:disqus if you do want to venture in, be sure to pick and choose the right ones. Like I said, this series is pretty up and down. Also, these books don’t have to be read in the right order, there is a timeline, but it’s all pretty vague, and you don’t have to worry about continuity too much.

  • I’m always eager to read musings on Discworld. My book club recently had a Going Postal meetup and I do feel like the “industrial revoluion” books of Discworld are the most accessible. But Moving Pictures is hardly Pratchett’s best. I like your choice of Moving Pictures as showcasing both the good and the bad of the series. The plot does somewhat lose its way in this book. Then again, Gaspode is a delight. I am curious to know which other books from the series don’t quite “work” according to you…

    • Nishita

      @tabularasa94:disqus Another book that was a little off to me was Soul Music, it was fun for a while, but overall didn’t quite gel for me. My favorite Pratchett novels are the ones with the witches. I love Granny Weatherwax!

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