Last modified on 28 February 2012, at 20:56

The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

The Light Fantastic (1986) by Terry Pratchett is the second Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett, again featuring Rincewind and Twoflower. The character Cohen makes his first appearance.

  • When light encounters a strong magical field it loses all sense of urgency. It slows right down. And on the Discworld the magic was embarrassingly strong, which meant that the soft yellow light of dawn flowed over the sleeping landscape like the caress of a gentle lover or, as some would have it, like golden syrup.
  • …fake fossil bones put there by a Creator with nothing better to do than upset archeologists and give them silly ideas.
  • It looked the sort of book described in library catalogues as ‘slightly foxed’, although it would be more honest to admit that it looked as though it had been badgered, wolved and possibly beared as well.
  • It is said that the opposite of noise is silence. This isn’t true. Silence is only the absence of noise.
  • It is well known that things from undesirable universes are always seeking an entrance into this one…
  • He could, though, just make out a miniature replica of Cori Celesti, upon whose utter peak the world’s quarrelsome and somewhat bourgeois gods lived in a palace of marble, alabaster and uncut moquette three piece suites they had chosen to call Dunmanifestin. It was always a considerable annoyance to any Disc citizen with pretensions to culture that they were ruled by gods whose idea of an uplifting artistic experience was a musical doorbell.
  • The Disc, being flat, has no real horizon. Any adventurous sailors who got funny ideas from staring at eggs and oranges for too long and set out for the antipodes soon learned that the reason why distant ships sometimes looked as though they were disappearing over the edge of the world was that they were disappearing over the edge of the world.
  • Besides, there was something disquieting about young Trymon. He didn’t smoke, only drank boiled water, and Galder had a nasty suspicion that he was clever. He didn’t smile often enough, and he liked figures and the sort of organisation charts that show lots of squares with arrows pointing to other squares. In short, he was the sort of man who could use the word ‘personnel’ and mean it.
  • Rincewind had generally been reckoned by his tutors to be a natural wizard in the same way that fish are natural mountaineers.
  • Twoflower was a tourist, the first of the species to evolve on the Disc, and fundamental to his very existence was the rock-hard belief that nothing bad could really happen to him because he was not involved; he also believed that anyone could understand anything he said provided he spoke loudly and slowly, that people were basically trustworthy, and that anything could be sorted out among men of goodwill if they just acted sensibly.
On the face of it this gave him a survival value marginally less than, say, a soap herring, but to Rincewind’s amazement it all seemed to work and the little man’s total obliviousness to all forms of danger somehow made danger so discouraged that it gave up and went away.
  • …Trymon knew all about rules and had always considered they were for making, not obeying.
  • Many of the books were magical, and the important thing to remember about grimoires is that they are deadly in the hands of any librarian who cares about order, because he’s bound to stick them all on the same shelf. This is not a good idea with books that tend to leak magic, because more than one or two of them together form a critical Black Mass.
  • The job of magical librarian, who has to spend his working days in this sort of highly charged atmosphere, is a high-risk occupation.
  • …the life of gnomes and goblins is nasty, brutish and short. So are they.
  • A Thaum is the basic unit of magical strength. It has been universally established as the amount of magic needed to create one small white pigeon or three normal sized billiard balls.
  • ‘What shall we do?’ said Twoflower.
‘Panic?’ said Rincewind hopefully. He always held that panic was the best means of survival…
  • ‘Persuasion is what keeps the whole universe together…’
  • Of course, like druids everywhere they believed in the essential unity of all life, the healing power of plants, the natural rhythm of the seasons and the burning alive of anyone who didn’t approach all this in the right frame of mind...
  • The universe, they said, depended for its operation on the balance of four forces which they identified as charm, persuasion, uncertainty and bloody-mindedness.
  • “Early to rise, early to bed, makes a man healthy, wealthy and dead…”
  • …the trouble with unimaginable horrors was that they were only too easy to imagine.
  • ‘You run away a lot,’ said one of the voices. ‘That is good. You are a survivor.’
‘Survivor? I’ve nearly been killed dozens of times!’
‘Exactly.’
  • Horse dung made a good fuel, but the Horse People had a lot to learn about air conditioning, starting with what it meant.
  • ‘…wise men do what the times demand.’
  • It is a well known fact that warriors and wizards do not get along, because one side considers the other side to be a collection of bloodthirsty idiots who can’t walk and think at the same time, while the other side is naturally suspicious of a body of men who mumble a lot and wear long dresses.
  • …any woman setting out to make a living by the sword isn’t about to go around looking like something off the cover of the more advanced kind of lingerie catalogue for the specialised buyer.
  • The Death of the Disc was a traditionalist who prided himself on his personal service and spent most of the time being depressed because this was not appreciated. He would point out that no-one feared death itself, just pain and separation and oblivion, and that it was quite unreasonable to take against someone just because he had empty eye-sockets and a quiet pride in his work.
  • He believed, against all experience, that the world was fundamentally understandable, and that if he could only equip himself with the right mental toolbox he could take the back off and see how it worked. He was, of course, dead wrong.
  • Mention has already been made of an attempt to inject a little honesty into reporting on the Disc, and how poets and bards were banned on pain of - well, pain - from going on about babbling brooks and rosy-fingered dawn and could only say for example, that a face had launched a thousand ships if they were able to produce certified dockyard accounts.
  • …Rincewind had in any case seen his past life flash in front of his eyes so many times that he could sleep through the boring bits…
  • Not for the first time she reflected that there were many drawbacks to being a swordswoman, not least of which was that men didn’t take you seriously until you’d actually killed them, by which time it didn’t really matter anyway.
  • Rincewind would be the first to call himself a rat, but even rats fight in a corner.
  • There was a pattering of feet from several alleyways and suddenly a dozen star people were advancing on them.
Bethan grabbed Rincewind’s limp hand and held it up threateningly.
‘That’s far enough!’ she screamed.
‘Right!’ shouted Twoflower. ‘We’ve got a wizard and we’re not afraid to use him!’
  • ‘I often don’t know where my Luggage is, that’s what being a tourist is all about...’
  • Against the whole of human experience Twoflower believed that if only people would talk to each other, have a few drinks, exchange pictures of their grandchildren, maybe take in a show or something, then everything could be sorted out.
  • Cohen had heard of fair fighting, and had long ago decided he wanted no part of it.
  • ‘Bonfires of books?’
‘Yes. Horrible, isn’t it?’
‘Right,’ said Cohen. He thought it was appalling. Someone who spent his life living rough under the sky knew the value of a good thick book, which ought to outlast at least a season of cooking fires if you were careful how you tore the pages out. Many a life had been saved on a snowy night by a handful of sodden kindling and a really dry book. If you felt like a smoke and couldn’t find a pipe, a book was your man every time.
Cohen realised people wrote things in books. It has always seemed to him to be a frivolous waste of paper.
  • ‘If you kill me a thousand will take my place,’ said the man, who was now backed against the wall.
‘Yes,’ said Cohen, in a reasonable tone of voice, ‘but that isn’t the point is it? The point is, you’ll be dead.’
  • Rincewind opened his eyes and lay for a moment looking up at the stuffed reptile. It was not the best thing to see when awakening from troubled dreams…
  • Magic! So that’s what it felt like! No wonder wizards didn’t have much truck with sex!
  • Rincewind knew what orgasms were, of course, he’d had a few in his time, sometimes even in company…
  • Here is the blackness of space, the myriad stars gleaming like diamond dust or, as some people would say, like great balls of exploding hydrogen a very long way off. But then, some people would say anything.
  • …space is not really big, it is simply somewhere to be big in. Planets are big, but planets are meant to be big and there is nothing clever about being the right size.
  • Ankh-Morpork!
Pearl of cities!
This is not a completely accurate description, of course – it was not round and shiny – but even its worst enemies would agree that if you had to liken Ankh-Morpork to anything, then it might as well be a piece of rubbish covered with the diseased secretions of a dying mollusc.
  • ...if you haven’t smelled Ankh-Morpork on a hot day you haven’t smelled anything.
The citizens are proud of it. They carry chairs outside to enjoy it on a really good day. They puff out their cheeks and slap their chests and comment cheerfully on its little distinctive nuances. They have even put up a statue to it, to commemorate the time when the troops of a rival state tried to invade by stealth one dark night and managed to get to the top of the walls before, to their horror, their nose plugs gave out.
  • ‘No one goes mad quicker than a totally sane person.’
  • …darkness isn’t the opposite of light, it is simply its absence, and what was radiating from the book was the light that lies on the far side of darkness, the light fantastic.
  • Rincewind stared, and knew that there were far worse things than Evil. All the demons of Hell would torture your very soul, but that was precisely because they valued souls very highly; evil would always try to steal the universe, but at least it considered the universe worth stealing. But the grey world behind those empty eyes would trample and destroy without even according its victims the dignity of hatred. It wouldn’t even notice them.
  • ‘They do say if it’s summa cum laude, then the living is easy - '
  • ‘The important thing about having lots of things to remember is that you’ve got to go somewhere afterwards where you can remember them, you see? You’ve got to stop. You haven’t really been anywhere until you’ve got back home.’

For an extensive collection of Terry Pratchett quotes grouped by subject, novel and major characters see the link below.

Other Useful Pratchett Quote SourcesEdit

Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
Discworld
Terry Pratchett


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