Pyramids: A Meandering Stroll through the Desert

“He was attached to rivers, which he felt were designed to have water lilies on top and crocodiles underneath, and the Ankh always depressed him because if you put a water lily in it, it would dissolve.” ~ Terry Pratchett, Pyramids

Pyramids (Discworld #7) by Terry Pratchett
323 pages
Published by Harper, 1989
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Re-readability: I would not revisit this one, even if I did a Discworld reread.

Reviewed by Pete

Spoiler-free review

This Discworld book is distinct in that it isn’t a part of any of the major arcs. If you’re unfamiliar with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, here’s the gist: It’s a fantasy satire series set in a bizarre world that is a giant disc on the back of a celestial turtle sailing through space. The book features a colorful cast of characters who often bump into each other in different books. The books can really be read in any order, but it’s best to at least read the individual character arcs in order.

Pyramids follows Teppic, heir to the throne of Djelibeybi, a country that is essentially a cartoonized Egypt. At the start of the story, Teppic spends years training as an assassin in an academy in Ankh-Morpork. Then, his father (the current king) passes away, and Teppic must return home to rule over a kingdom he knows little about. Naturally, a massive and expensive pyramid must be built for his father — whose ghost resents the idea of a pyramid, but no one seems to care.

As always, Pratchett’s humor is consistently wonderful and his writing is vivid and unusual. Discworld books might be light in theme and story, but I have always struggled through Pratchett’s writing, but he has a tendency to leave out speech tags or deliberately throw the reader off during conversations. I find myself rereading passages to get a grip on what’s happening and who’s speaking. This can be frustrating, but it’s something I’ve found in every Pratchett book I’ve read, which is a good handful by this point.

After the first 150 pages, the plot seems to tumble apart and slow down significantly. I never understood what the characters wanted, and I don’t think the characters did either. There was a lot of wandering through deserts and talking about camels and quantum physics.

There’s a forgettable female character who, as with many of Pratchett’s female sidekicks, is a strong-willed, vaguely romantic object. I’m pretty tired of sexual tension in his books, but as long as the protagonist is male, they will be clueless and awkward and some girl will fill the role of the witty and intelligent love interest. The jokes are the same and the characters just have different names.

This is my least favorite of the Discworld books so far—I’ve been reading them in publication order. I was completely lost and uninterested by the story’s predictable end.

The next book in the series is Guards! Guards!, which is a fan favorite. I’m going to read it, but at this point, I need a convincing reason to trudge onward.

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