Long term readers will know that my son and I are working our way steadily through the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett as part of his reading journey for school. We have just finished the tenth book in the series, Moving Pictures.
Moving Pictures is a standalone book. There are a few characters here who crop up in other books, Detritus the troll, Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler and some of the wizards, but nobody in a starring role here makes it through to another book.
I can kind of see why.
I didn’t like Moving Pictures when it first came out. In fact it was the first Discworld book I didn’t devour on the day I got it. It took me a few days as I recall. I found myself losing interest in it. I think there was too much of our world in it, and not enough Disc. The allusions and references come thick and fast in this book as Pratchett celebrates the magic of the movies in the way only he knows how. The main characters, Ginger and Victor, don’t really have enough about them to make them stand out, lovable characters. They simply do their job, and it’s not enough to make you care that much about them. You find yourself caring about the peripheral characters more.
I found that on this re-read with Oscar I enjoyed it more. It’s cleverer than I remember (I think I’m cleverer than I was, to be fair). It still isn’t subtle though, and the warmth and empathy that goes alongside the poking fun in the later books is kind of lost here amongst a welter of jokes.
The book tells the story of Holy Wood, a place of sunshine, sea and sand outside of Ankh Morpork where the magic of films really does become magic, a magic that wants to mesmerise people into letting demons from the dungeon dimension into the world, hypnotising them into acquiescence through the power of what Pratchett calls ‘the clicks’.
The clicks are invented by alchemists, thrilled at last they have something the wizards don’t. They take Ankh Morpork by storm, and soon move their base of operations to Holy Wood, where things start to get very strange, very quickly. The main characters here are Victor, a perpetual student wizard, and Ginger, a young woman with big dreams, none of which are being fulfilled in Ankh.
Oscar’s favourite character, and mine too, is Gaspode the Wonder Dog, a sharp witted Ankh mongrel who suddenly finds he can speak, infected with the magic of Holy Wood. He is the voice of reason amongst all the madness.
Oscar enjoyed the jokes and because he is interested in and understands the world of films, found himself much more au fait with what was going on than say in Pyramids, where the jokes often flew over his head. It is actually one of the more satisfactory Discworld novels to read with a child. It is also less violent and has fewer sexual allusions and jokes which was a bit of a relief in terms of having to explain everything. It remains though, fundamentally a book for teens rather than younger children.