Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wings - Terry Pratchett

    1990; 224 pages.  New Author? : No.  Book #3 of the Bromeliad Trilogy.  Genre : Comedic Fantasy.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    It’s time for the nomes to go home. In this case, "home" means their un-nomed spaceship, which has been circling earth for thousands of years waiting for them to contact/board it again.

   A human might see that as quite the challenge, but for the nomes the plan is simple.  Steal aboard a plane to Florida, then steal aboard a space shuttle and fly up to the spaceship.  Nomes are small and incredibly fast; humans won’t notice them.

    Ah, but then there’s Angalo.  If something can be driven or flown, he just has to try his nomish hand at piloting it.  And humans will notice a nome at the controls of a Concorde jet.

What’s To Like...
    The storyline in Wings runs concurrent with the previous book in the trilogy, Diggers.  For most authors, it would be more coherent (and presumably easier to write) to just jump back and forth between the two plotlines in a single book, but Terry Pratchett makes it work here.  Of course, I wish I had known that when I was reading Diggers and wondering what the heck Masklin was up to. 

    The Prologue gives a brief backstory for those who aren’t reading the books in order.  There are four footnotes in the Kindle version, which are easily accessed.  You never want to skip any Pratchett footnotes.

    Wings is a nice closing volume to the Bromeliad Trilogy.  Its tone is lighter than that in Diggers, and it is more story-driven than either of the other books.  The “Bromeliad frogs” get a lot more ink here, and there is even some interaction between the nomes and the humans.  All the plotline threads are tied up tidily by the end.

    The target audience is Juveniles to YA, and those readers will be enthralled.  There are only a few new characters to keep track of; the storyline is generally straightforward; and the plot twists are more like “plot wrinkles”.  Nevertheless, Pratchett has a gift of making his books entertaining for adult readers as well, and that is again true here.

    Since the timeline runs parallel to that of Diggers, there isn’t much mystery about how everything ends up.  A sequel story or trilogy could possibly be squeezed out of this, but Pratchett hasn’t done that so far, and frankly, The Bromeliad Trilogy doesn’t suffer without it.

    Nomes live ten times faster than humans.  They’re harder to see than a high-speed mouse.
    That’s one reason why most humans hardly ever see them.
    The other is that humans are very good at not seeing things they know aren’t there.  And since sensible humans know that there are no such things as people four inches high, a nome who doesn’t want to be seen probably won’t be seen.  (loc. 148)

    There was a polite beeping from the Thing.
    “You may be interested to know,” it said, “that we’ve broken the sound barrier.”
    Masklin turned wearily to the others.
    “All right, own up,” he said.  “Who broke it?”
    “Don’t look at me,” said Angalo.  “I didn’t touch anything.”    (loc. 328)

Kindle Details...
    Wings sells for $5.69 at Amazon, as does the second book in this trilogy, Diggers.  For some reason, Book #1, Truckers, is slightly higher, selling for $6.64.  I borrowed this book through my local digital library for free.

Flexible?  My mind’s got so flexible I could pull it out of my ears and tie it under my chin!”  (loc. 2008)
    For me, there were three main themes in The Bromeliad Trilogy, one Religious, one Scientific, and one Sociological.  They are :
1.) Faith vs. Reason
2.) Are we alone in the Universe?
3.) Nomes vs. Humans – Flight, Fight, or Communicate

    Terry Pratchett expertly steers a neutral course on the first theme, pointing out the assets and drawbacks of both sides of the issue.

    For the second theme, the tongue-in-cheek answer is “Of course not.  There are nomes here”.  But I suspect Pratchett is also intimating that the serious answer is “no” as well.

    Those themes are marvelously addressed, but Pratchett’s treatment of Theme #3 is perhaps the most intriguing.  If Book 1 (Truckers) highlights the Flight option; then Book 2 (Diggers) presents the Fight alternative.  The nomes eventually must choose between those two in Wings,  but via the Masklin's musings, Pratchett cunningly leaves the door open for considering Communication.

    Heady stuff to think about in a world where we see Arabs/Israelis, Irish Protestants/Catholics, and Ukranians/Russians all hellbent on killing each other, with no thought given to just talking things out.

    8½ Stars.  Highly recommended for readers of all ages.  The whole trilogy is a light, delightful read.

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