four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
37-Nov-Dec-2008
user_rating: 
0
Award Year: 
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A-NationTerry Pratchett, an English fantasy and science fiction author, is best known for the 30+ novels in his Discworld series. In this imaginative, stand-alone novel, he uses an alternate reality setting to tell an age-old story.

The Story: In a parallel universe during the height of the British Empire, a tsunami wipes out the entire culture of a small, South Sea island. Only the 13-year-old Mau survives; he becomes chief of his nation by proxy. Then a ship washes up on shore carrying its sole survivor, Daphne, the refined young daughter of a British governor. Together, after comic mishaps, Mau and Daphne learn to communicate with each other and guide the other refugees who slowly arrive on the island—all of them scared, hungry, and fleeing a group of hostile cannibals. Soon, Mau is leading their small community, engaging in survival tactics he never imagined, defying ancestral deities, and struggling to produce a just society.
HarperCollins. 384 pages. $16.99. ISBN: 0061433012

Washington Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Nation remains at heart a novel of ideas, a ferocious questioning of vested cultural attitudes and beliefs. … It is a thrilling story. And, as I said earlier, a deeply philosophical one, especially for a young adult novel." Michael Dirda

Guardian (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"Nation has profound, subtle and original things to say about the interplay between tradition and knowledge, faith and questioning. … Pratchett is, like Mark Twain, or Jonathan Swift, not just a great writer but also an original thinker." Frank Cottrell Boyce

Independent (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"Now, aged 60 but faced by a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s, he presents his all-age fans with one of his finest books yet. … Odd anthropological insights—sometimes backed up by jaunty footnotes—combine with fantasy as Pratchett introduces tree-climbing octopuses and beer that has to be spat in to make it potable." Nicholas Tucker

Sunday Times (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"Terry Pratchett’s Nation is both a story and a series of questions about big themes: notably the existence of God. … Thought-provoking as well as fun, this is Pratchett at his most philosophical, with characters and situations sprung from ideas and games with language." Nicolette Jones

Critical Summary

Critics praised Nation as a hybrid, deeply philosophical book aimed at young adults, but one likely to appeal to adults as well, much like Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy or J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. With echoes of William Defoe and William Golding, Nation takes the form of a "classic Robinsonade," notes the Washington Post—that is, a book in which characters on a desert island recreate civilization. As his characters grapple with questions of leadership, humanity, and survival, Pratchett explores fundamental ideas about religion and culture. This might all sound rather heavy, but there is plenty of originality and humor—and cannibals, spirits, and secret treasures—to go around. In the end, Pratchett offers a vision of a deeply humane world. "In some part of the multiverse there is probably a civilisation based on the thinking of Terry Pratchett," writes the Guardian, "and what a civilised civilisation that will be."