Terry Pratchett,
The Carpet People
(Colin Smythe Ltd., 1971; Corgi, 1993)

It's enough to make you want to vacuum more often.

The Carpet People describes a highly evolved and extremely varied population of humanoid species and other assorted critters, all of whom live deep in the pile of someone's carpet. Entire cultures live and war on each other beneath the surface, where the tiniest of objects take on major proportions. A cigarette burn, for instance, is a vast charred wasteland. A mysterious geographical feature known with some awe as achairleg is a source for the highly prized "varnish," which can be smelted and molded into countless useful products -- including weapons. A lost and forgotten penny is the basis for an entire society, which lives on and mines the massive copper platform. Dust is like foliage to the people, who travel through it like South American explorers might cut through a thick rainforest.

And we're never quite sure, but readers may come to suspect that someone in the heavens above is wielding a vacuum cleaner with a ruthless lack of concern for the populations below.

The Carpet People reads like someone trying to be Terry Pratchett, and indeed, someone is. The culprit is Pratchett himself, who wrote this book when he was 17. Although the slim volume went out of print eons ago, there was enough hullaballoo for its re-release that it's back on the shelves. However, don't expect to read pure teen Pratchett. As he explains in his note at the beginning, at age 43 he had a few different ideas how the story should progress. So the modern text has been revised somewhat, blending the two Pratchetts together in a package which is fun to read. If you know Pratchett's "voice" from any number of Discworld novels, I think you'll have fun picking out elements which read as young or, um, experienced.

As is often the case on the Discworld, you'll find a few morals buried in the tale -- lessons about leadership and fighting and the value of things and whatnot. You'll also find a quick and easy tale which opens up a new side of the beloved British humorist.

[ by Tom Knapp ]



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