So I just idly picked up Pyramids and read through the start (because there’s only so long one can learn endless lists of Latin vocab before their mind starts wondering and I thought it’d be nice as a little quick break-)
And h o l y f u c k i n g c r a p.
That use of language, ye gods - Terry Pratchett creates a cinema screen in our mind and fills it with cosmos and comets and stars upon stars - and then smashes through it with pickaxe and unapologetically announces it is really merely just “what will charitably be called civilisation”.
And then we zoom out like someone’s picked us up by our collar and yanked us backwards through time and space and we find we’re staring at something huge and un-understandable and, frankly, absurd - yet it is intricate enough to be “dusted with the frost of dead comets” - it is intricate enough to be real.
Cue an explanation for every surreal/fantastical element of this 380 page long book summarised in one line:
“Much that is weird could happen on a world on the back of a turtle like that.”
Cue a three word temptation the size of a mountain:
“It’s happening already.”
How could anyone possibly not turn over the page after that? On the very first page alone he has created an image of the Creator’s windscreen - funny, relatable, novel, and yet somehow epic at the same time - which he then mercilessly smashes, like the glass of windscreen itself suddenly hit by a truck of Pratchettian rhetoric, before jumping us backward so fast we instantly, almost accidentally, accept the fact that a giant space turtle actually exists, and through accepting that fact, we accept everything else in the book to come, before he leaves us teetering on a knife’s edge -
And that’s not even mentioning how in the midst of it all we also have the wonderful line “No one knows the reason for all this, but it is probably quantum.”
A literary critic named Lodge once described the opening of a novel as a “threshold” to the action within - the opening to Pyramids isn’t so much a threshold as it is us having an entire house dropped on our heads, being smiled at mischievously by a grinning face in a black hat, then having the house built up around us with a mere click of Terry Pratchett’s fingers, and looking up to see another house above us ready to be dropped-
And yet, somehow, that’s just the first page…