In Pyramids, the seventh book in the Discworld universe and the first in the gods/ancient civilizations subseries, Pratchett tackles ancient Egypt and the pseudoscientific “pyramid power” theory. It tells the story of a young prince-turned-assassin and the strange country of Djelibeybi (ha!), where pyramids dominate the landscape and the king is believed to be a god. Mummies come to life, deities wreak havoc, time and space are bent beyond all recognition, and Pratchett even manages to squeeze a few jabs at the ancient Greeks in there. While nothing earth-shattering, it is a solid entry in the Discworld series.
And yet, I am giving it five stars. You see, even though Pyramids is not a perfect novel, but it was the one I desperately needed to read and the reason I will be eternally grateful to Terry Pratchett.
(Warning: highly personal story ahead.)
Last week, out of nowhere, my father had a heart attack while out cycling in Belgium. It was a close one, but the ambulance got him to the hospital on time and he lived to tell the tale. My mother sent me a picture of him in the hospital bed, giving the camera a shaky thumbs up.
That following morning, I headed to the train station to travel to the hospital. Since I had left the house in a hurry without checking the train tables first, I had about twenty minutes to kill when I got there. I wandered around the hall, twitchy and restless, anxiety buzzing through my brain like a wasp trapped inside a glass. I was looking for something – anything – to take my mind off it all, to stop my own thoughts from driving me crazy. I bought a cup of tea, flicked through the songs on my iPod, nothing was working – until I went into the bookstore and found the shelf of Discworld novels in the back.
Yes. Yes, this will work. Pratchett will talk me through this.
And he did.
By the time I arrived at the hospital, I had read the first seventy pages of Pyramids, clinging on to every word and occasionally chuckling to myself. It was like Pratchett himself had stepped out of the pages, gently taken my hand, fixed his twinkly eyes on my face, and said: “there’s nothing you can do about that now. It’s okay. You can let go. Come with me, I’ll show you something interesting. You like mythology, yes? Will the Egyptians do? Here, I’ll even put in some Iliad jokes, I know how much you love Odysseus. It’s alright. I’ve got you.”
I was already heartbroken over Pratchett’s death a couple of weeks ago, but now I am positively gutted. He is gone, but his books still touch lives all over the world in ways he will never know. He will never see me or talk to me, and yet his words helped me through one of the most stressful train journeys of my life (and there have been far too many of those, let me tell you). Reading is its own special kind of magic and I will always be grateful for what Pratchett’s book has done for me. I just wish that I could thank him.
No one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away – until the clock he wound up winds down, until the wine she made has finished its ferment, until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of someone’s life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence. (Reaper Man)