Nation by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
So I finally got round to reading Nation.
It was intended to be filler/break so I could get round to doing the important stuff, like editing, but... I started... and well, I just had to finish it.
This isn't as all out crazy as most of Pratchett's Discworld books are, but his wit and humour is still evident in every single page. I think he delights in taking the stuff we've made commonplace, the words we've made normal and tearing them apart, making us ponder if we ever had things right in the first place.
I liked it. I liked the story of Mau, a young boy anticipating his welcome into the world of men, finding instead that he had to find his own way, rebuild his own nation, and discover if he really has a soul. I liked the story of Ermintrude (or Daphne as she starts calling herself), a girl alone and far away from home, finding that she did have what it takes to survive on her own, even if she had to learn from scratch. In a funny way, she reminded me of Charmain Baker in Diana Wynne Jones' House of Many Ways.
What struck me was something Mau says, stating why he had to save the ghost girl - "One person is nothing. Two people are a nation." And that's basically what it is. Nationhood is just something that people, living where you are, construct. And if all of you are the same, well and good. But even if some of you aren't, like Daphne was obviously not one of them, but for the good of the nation, you work together and you save each other.
In Nation, besides exploring the theme of nationhood (duh), he also goes over the whole thing about gods - whether they are real, whether they are worth praying to, whether they really mean anything. He seems to come to the conclusion that the gods are necessary to bring stability and comfort into people's lives.
Ataba the priest tells Mau: "Ha! But you don't believe in the gods, demon boy! Or do you? Don't you listen to yourself, boy? I do. You shout and stamp and yell that there are no gods, and then you shake your fist at the sky and revile them for not existing! You need them to exist so that the flames of your denial will warm you in your self-righteousness! That's not thinking, that's just a hurt child screaming in pain!"
And that, sometimes, is just too true.
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