Friday, October 25, 2013

The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett

In the beginning, there was nothing but endless flatness. Then came the Carpet . . . That’s the old story everyone knows and loves. But now the Carpet is home to many different tribes and peoples, and there’s a new story in the making. The story of Fray, sweeping a trail of destruction across the Carpet. The story of power-hungry mouls—and of two brothers who set out on an adventure to end all adventures when their village is flattened.

It’s a story that will come to a terrible end—if someone doesn't do something about it. If everyone doesn’t do something about it . . . (Goodreads).

So this was quite interesting.  Terry Pratchett wrote The Carpet People in 1971, before he was all famous.  It went out of print.  Now, it was decided it was time for a new edition, but it wasn't just republished.  Pratchett actually went back and reworked the book he wrote when he was 17.  In the author's note Pratchett says, "It's not exactly the book I wrote at seventeen.  It's not exactly the book I'd have written at forty-three."  So of course I spent the whole book wondering what was different from the original.  Could I get the original from the library so I could read and compare?  I'm quite curious.

It's an odd little book.  It's middle grade, and middle grade kids can enjoy it as a nice little story about the silly people who live in the carpet.  But there was actually a whole lot of philosophical musings going on. The meaning of war.  The meaning of evil.  The meaning of society.  The meaning of memory.  The power of knowledge.  The importance of preserving the past.  There was a lot going on!

But it was also about people who lived in a carpet.  A whole world of people!  I liked that there were different kinds of people.  There were the Mungrungs, who lived simple, nomadic lives and were hunters.  There were the Dumii, who created the empire and all the rules and laws and lived in the city and weren't all that interesting.  There were the Deftmene, half as tall as the Mungrungs and warlike.  There were wights, who remember the future, and there were mouls, who tried to pray on and take over all the others.

We understand that before the story really gets going, most these different kinds of peoples didn't spend much time together, didn't like each other, or weren't even aware of each other's existence.  Deftmene and Dumii were enemies, because the Deftmene didn't want the empires protection or pay taxes.  Wights didn't have much to do with anyone, and few had ever seen a moul.  But everyone must figure out how to work out their difference if they're going to have any hope of overcoming the mouls and surviving Fray, whatever Fray is and no one knows.  If they don't, no one is going to make it.

I liked working out what the objects they found and used and refereed to really were.  Like the disc they got metal from was a penny, and they got varnish from a chair.  Sometimes it was obvious what they used, but not always.  We never actually learn what Fray is.  My guess was a vacuum cleaner, but that doesn't totally make sense.  Why would it happen so far apart and only in certain areas?  Maybe time is felt differently in the Carpet.

The Carpet People comes out November 5, 2013.

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