Pyramids by Terry Pratchett is the seventh book in the Discworld series, which my son is reading me as his school reading books.
Pyramids tells the story of the small kingdom of Djelebeybi, which is very Egyptian in nature, mainly due to the pyramids that litter the landscape. It focuses on the character of Teppic, son of the pharaoh, who is finishing his education in Ankh Morpork, courtesy of the Assassin’s Guild, before returning to his kingdom on the death of his father. It deals with ideas of kingship, of the nature of the Gods, and particularly the link between belief and the power of the Gods, and it also contains a fair amount of maths.
Pyramids is one of the few Discworld novels that is a standalone novel. Pratchett tended to come back to characters and create sub-series around them. On re-reading this I can see why he never really bothered to develop it further. It is not one of his finest books. It would be wonderful to say that an author’s output is stellar all the way through, but it is simply not true for any author, no matter how gifted. Some are better than others, some you have more affection for than others, some you feel that the author wrote simply because they had a deadline to hit.
In this case I didn’t find myself warming to any of the characters, and I didn’t feel Pratchett did either. There are themes here that are very ‘Pratchettian’ and which appear again in other novels, particularly Small Gods, another of the standalone novels. The ideas are better developed in Small Gods. You feel he had to write Pyramids for Small Gods to happen, but both Oscar and I were glad to finish this.
Oscar enjoyed it more than me. He identified with the Egyptian leanings of the book. They do the Egyptians a lot in primary school. He liked the main character, Teppic, and particularly the beginning chapters in which Teppic is finishing his schooling with the assassins guild in Ankh Morpork. He also enjoyed the fact that the camel that Teppic adopts is named after a particularly fruity swearword, which he thoroughly made the most of saying on every occasion it appeared in the text.
There are, as I say, quite a few mathematical references, as well as ideas about quantum universes, time slips and an entire sub section about philosophy, all of which are quite tricky to get a grip on, and which, for the most part Oscar struggled to engage with. This is fair enough. He’s nine, and I struggle to engage with some of the ideas and I’m 43. In later books, Pratchett finds a better, more seamless way of introducing complex ideas. Here they kind of slam into the narrative in fairly ungainly clumps and can leave younger readers a bit bewildered.
It is, as I always recommend for the Pratchett books, probably best left to teen/YA readers unless your child is particularly precocious, or like me, you are a mean mother who likes to give their children something to really sink their teeth into.