Review of NATION by Terry Pratchett (see his website)
HarperCollins, September 2008
Mau has just visited the Boy's Island when a huge wave rolls through, destroying that island and killing everyone who was a part of the Nation--his home. Mau washes up to discover dead bodies, ruined homes, and angry ghosts who demand that he carry on the nation's traditions.
Mau's first task is to return the bodies of his people to the sea--where their souls can become dolphins. By the time he's done with that, he's ready to commit his own body to the sea. One person--caught between boy and man--is simply a person alone. When he saves the ghost girl who washed up on the island, though, he realizes he must continue. One person is just a person but two people, a nation.
Mau and Daphne (the ghost girl is an English girl who is the only survivor of an English ship carried halfway into the island) work together--and are soon joined by survivors from other islands. Although Mau is the youngest man, his presence and the fact that he is the sole survivor of the Nation's original population, puts him in position to be chief. This also means added responsibility--both for the increasing population and for the old ghosts. When rumors arrive that canibalistic raiders are approaching, Mau's responsibilities grow even more.
Author Terry Pratchett (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Pratchett) creates an unusual fantasy set in a world very similar to our own, but with some key differences (obviously including the ghosts of the old men who talk to Mau). The semi-romance between Mau and Daphne is charming and the adventure well designed and plausible.
NATION is a thoughtful and thought-provoking story. Mau and Daphne deal with learning about others, with responsibility to themselves and their people, with loss, and with their own coming of age in a time and world when the old rules seem both doubly important and completely impractical. Pratchett fans should not expect the laugh-out-loud funny that they find in some of his stories, but if you're looking for a story that makes you think, as well as a solid adventure, NATION definitely delivers.
Too generous? Too stingy. Or did I miss the whole point? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll publish the best letters I get so let me know if I can use your name.
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