The Carpet People
by Terry Pratchett
To start with, I didn’t even know this book existed until I started looking up debut novels by popular authors for a reading challenge. I figured I’d get to re-read the first Discworld book or something. Instead, I found that Sir Terry published his first novel at the age of seventeen and it had nothing to do with Discworld. So of course I had to read it, if for no other reason than to see how his writing style evolved.
After I read the book, I read a few reviews of it, and was a bit surprised by some of them. They complain that the book feels like someone trying to copy Pratchett’s style, except that it’s actually him. Well, duh. Did you not see the publication date, or the note in the introduction that says he was seventeen when it was published? He *was* trying to copy his style. He was trying to figure out exactly what that style was, I suspect. And yes, the version I read was not the first edition, so it had been revised a bit by the author later in life, once he’d figured out his writing style.
Anyway, about The Carpet People: it is an amusing book, as you would expect. It has Pratchett’s typical puns, and though they may not be quite the same as the Discworld puns, they are still enjoyable. I got an impression that there were more puns that I wasn’t aware of, due either to American vs. British pronunciation or due to contextual references that we don’t usually get on this side of the pond. This didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the story, however. It was still a quick, fun read. (I read the ebook version, and have no idea how long the book would be in paper format.)
I enjoyed trying to figure out the references to human objects. Sometimes it was easier than others. “Achairleg”, for instance, was an easy one. Others were more difficult – and I’m not going to describe them here, in case you want to read the book yourself. It’s certainly worth checking out, and half the fun is in the discovery.
The illustrations included are also a lot of fun. They were drawn by Pratchett at the same time the book was written. Very silly drawings, and they did add to the story. Speaking of adding to – the ebook version I read also had the very first published appearance of the Carpet People at the back, after the story was over. It was published in serial form, and while it’s not the same story, it has the same character names and basic ideas. Even as it was fun to see how Pratchett’s style evolved from The Carpet People to Discworld, it was also fun to see how the Carpet People themselves evolved.
So, yes: this book is worth checking out. Granted, I think you will enjoy it most if you read it as what it is: the debut novel of a very popular and prolific author, written when he was a teenager. But if you enjoy Pratchett’s style at all, I do think you will enjoy this story.
Rating: 4 stars