As a relatively new Discworld fan, I am still getting to know Pratchett’s world and the way the series operates, but after nine books I can say that I have noticed a recurring theme: Pratchett loves to take an invention/development from our own world and introduce it to the Discworld, often with hilarious results that reflect our own response back to us. Sometimes these books tie in wonderfully with the overarching plot of its respective subseries (like Men At Arms – review coming soon!), but they can also be little more than amusing filler (like Soul Music – review here).
Moving Pictures falls in the second category: witty and quotable, but ultimately skippable.
As was the case with Soul Music, your enjoyment of this book will partially depend on how familiar you are with the subject at hand. If you know nothing about old Hollywood, many of Pratchett’s references to movies like Gone With the Wind or the Conan the Barbarian series will go completely over your head – a bit like the movie Hail Caesar. I would imagine that it is a fun enough read even if you do not get these very specific jokes, but even so, you would miss out on a lot the humour.
Pratchett’s trademark philosophy is also present, like when its heroine Ginger sighs:
You know what the greatest tragedy is in the whole world?… It’s all the people who never find out what it is they really want to do or what it is they’re really good at. It’s all the sons who become blacksmiths because their fathers were blacksmiths. It’s all the people who could be really fantastic flute players who grow old and die without ever seeing a musical instrument, so they become bad plowmen instead. It’s all the people with talents who never even find out. Maybe they are never even born in a time when it’s even possible to find out. It’s all the people who never get to know what it is that they can really be. It’s all the wasted chances.
It is even hidden away in tiny throwaway lines like this one:
Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.
There are also some thoughts on the effect of film on society, but this is something many have already written about and Pratchett does not really add anything new to the conversation.
Which is fine.
The Discworld counts forty-one novels written over the course of three decades – they cannot all be winners. As filler goes, Moving Pictures is a perfectly entertaining, perfectly adequate book to spend a few hours giggling at, and maybe that’s all it needs to be. If you are still wondering where to tackle the Discworld series first, I would recommend leaving this one until later and taking a look at this helpful diagram instead.
Note: This is the shortest review I have written in a long time, but there is really not much more to say. Oh well. I promise I’ll have a good rant for you next time!