Friday, February 12, 2010

What We're Reading: Nation

I am embarrassed to confess (considering that I am a frequent reader of science fiction and fantasy) that I have never before read anything by award-winning novelist Terry Pratchett. I think I have avoided him because his books are nearly all one giant series about a place called Discworld. Although I enjoy reading series, I didn’t discover this one early on, and I hate having to start from scratch when the author is already 35 books ahead of me! While I might have assayed that at age 21, there are now too many authors and too many books on my “must read” list to take on a project that herculean.

His latest stand-alone book for young adults, however, may change my mind. Nation is a story of apocalyptic adventure in an alternate world much like ours. Its protagonist, Mau, is woefully unprepared for the catastrophe that changes everything; he has been living alone on the Boys’ Island, preparing to leave his boy soul there and make his transition to manhood in the ways of his tribe. But on the morning he sets out in his canoe to return to the island and people he knows as the Nation, everything there is destroyed by a giant tidal wave. The wave does wash something up on his shore, though—a ship with a sole survivor, a girl from an empire halfway around the globe, who will help him work through both shattering doubts and confidence-building certainties about the new life they both must create.

This book is deeply philosophical, examining complex religious and cultural concepts, but Pratchett dresses the philosophy in a wardrobe of ghosts and gods, talking parrots and mutineers, cannibals and secret treasures, forming a seamless story that keeps you enthralled to the very last page. While this book is billed as a Young Adult novel (it was an honor book in 2009 for the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature) and will certainly appeal to teens, it is a wonderful story for all ages. I may have to use my three-day weekend to embark upon a Pratchett readathon…

No comments: