I finally put my finger on what it is about the Discworld books that makes them seem to be missing something. So this review is about Pyramids but also about the issues with it that are the same across the first seven Discworld books.
As far as the book itself goes, it was significantly less irritating than Wyrd Sisters
and actually a lot of fun in places. Teppic is the crown prince of Djelibeybi (pronounced “jelly baby”), which is a tiny country filled to the brim with pyramids and quite obviously the Discworld’s version of ancient Egypt – except it’s in modern types, it just seems ancient because they keep strictly to tradition. Teppic’s mother was not from Djelibeybi, and his father honored her wish to send Teppic to be educated in Ankh-Morpok. He went to the assassin school there, until his father died and he had to return to Djelibeybi to become king. There, his newfangled ideas from his time in Ankh-Morpok start conflicting with Djelibeybi’s slavish devotion to “the way we’ve always done it.” Plus now the god-king is a trained assassin, which was a ton of fun.
The part that rankled me was that the story could have been so much more. Yes, it was a fun adventure about an assassin-king who really doesn’t want to be king, a high priest who is way too old for his own good, and time-space continuum shenanigans. But there was also so much potential. There was a very strong theme of the tension of tradition and modernity, not only with Teppic and his desire for indoor plumbing, but even with side characters like the pyramid-builder and his sons, but nothing ever happens with it. The story says, “Hey, tradition and modernity sure seem to be at odds, don’t they?” and then that idea is never explored.
I don’t think this would have bothered me so much if I had started at book one and read in order. But I’ve read a bunch of the later books, and even The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
, the weakest of the later books I’ve read so far, actually comments on the theme of instinct versus sentience instead of saying it exists and leaving it at that.
All that said, Pyramids isn’t a bad book. The new king being a trained assassin and also a clueless teenager made for some hilarious moments, the side characters were fun, I loved the bits of Djelibeybi religion that were included, there was a twist with the true identity of the high priest, and the main plot was some delightfully wacky space-time shenanigans. Plus it’s full of Sir Terry’s signature witticisms and one-liners and I finally understand where the “Sir Pterry” joke comes from. Taken on its own merits, it’s not spectacular but is a perfectly enjoyable and entertaining read.
I think my opinion of Pyramids would be a lot higher if I hadn’t previously read any of the later Discworld books. It is a good story. I just can’t help seeing how it could have been so much more.
Graphic: Death and Death of parent
Moderate: Animal cruelty
Minor: Animal death, Vomit, Alcohol, Body horror, and Trafficking