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The Wee Free Men
Terry Pratchett
Harper Collins, 272 pages

The Wee Free Men
Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett lives in Somerset, England, where he spends all his time, and more, writing his rigorously naturalistic, curiously entertaining, shamelessly popular Discworld novels which have earned him extravagant acclaim and puzzled stares from millions of readers around the world.

SF Site Reading List: Terry Pratchett
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The New Discworld Companion
SF Site Review: Night Watch
SF Site Review: The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents
SF Site Review: Thief of Time
SF Site Review: Nanny Ogg's Cookbook
SF Site Review: The Truth
SF Site Review: City Watch Trilogy
SF Site Review: The Fifth Elephant
SF Site Review: The Discworld Assassins' Guild Yearbook and Diary 2000
SF Site Review: The Science of Discworld
SF Site Review: The Last Continent
SF Site Review: Hogfather
SF Site Review: Jingo
SF Site Review: Feet of Clay
SF Site Review: Maskerade
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alma A. Hromic

Terry Pratchett's Discworld books are a publishing phenomenon -- the blurb for The Wee Free Men mentions the staggering number of more than 27 million copies of Pratchett's works sold worldwide to date. With good reason -- the man writes good solid entertainment. That he frequently succeeds in exploring deeper and more important issues while his characters are having what seems to be an endless series of pun-filled pratfalls is a tribute to his abilities as a writer.

I haven't read all the Discworld books, but I do know enough about the place to find my way around Ankh-Morpork without a map. I know all about Rincewind, Death, the Luggage, Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax and the hosts of lesser characters who accompany them. Two of those, in fact, make a cameo appearance at the tail end of The Wee Free Men, a nominally Discworld novel positively sparkling in every shade of octarine, the colour of magic. It's an old, old story -- the Quest, and its achievement through spunk and courage and wit and faith. And yet, such is the freshness of Pratchett's take on it, due in large part to his feisty, rash, loyal and incredibly funny clan of the Wee Free Men, that it all assumes quite a different shape and form. It's advertised as a young adult book, but I am celebrating my 40th birthday very soon and I found nothing in this book that I could not enjoy at my own level. Instead of talking down to his young readers, which is a fault all too commonly encountered in so-called children's literature, Pratchett teases them up to a higher level; I doubt that the average fourteen-year-old who might pick up this book will know the meaning of the word susurrus before they've encountered it here, but they will find it hard to forget it from this moment on. The Wee Free Men is in fact, in Pratchett's own words, "a whole egg's worth of education" (read the book and you will understand). It's a rare kind of writer who can make the adult understand the child, the child learn about the adult, teach vocabulary, give lessons of heroic virtues without making the heroes into simpering goody-goodies, give come-uppance to the villains while leaving the reader with pangs of sympathy for them, and have real genuine fun while doing all this -- but Pratchett is that kind of writer.

The Wee Free Men is a funny, funny book. It brims with memorable visuals. It's full of all the elements of a life well-lived -- a sense of right and wrong (even when reinterpreted by the Wee Free Men), imagination, courage, love, the ability to dream and the ability to know when it's time to stop dreaming and open one's eyes (and then open one's eyes again -- once more, read the book and you'll understand). Wholeheartedly recommended for readers of all ages.

Copyright © 2003 Alma A. Hromic

Alma A. Hromic, addicted (in random order) to coffee, chocolate and books, has a constant and chronic problem of "too many books, not enough bookshelves". When not collecting more books and avidly reading them (with a cup of coffee at hand), she keeps busy writing her own. Following her successful two-volume fantasy series, Changer of Days, her latest novel, Jin-shei, is due out from Harper San Francisco in the spring of 2004.

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