by Terry Pratchett
In a Nutshell
We're obsessed with deserted islands. Need proof? How about … Survivor. Lost. Cast Away. Gilligan's Island. And that's not to mention Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, Island of the Blue Dolphins, or even Lord of the Flies.
Convinced? So here's the question: What's this fascination all about? Is it the solitude, the freedom to do what you want—or just the hope that you'll just get to spend the rest of your days sipping yummy drinks out of coconuts?
Sadly, no. At least, no to the fruity drinks. What most of these tales—or reality shows—have in common is survival. How do people cope when they're wrenched away from everything they've known and everyone they know?
Terry Pratchett's Nation explores just these questions, with nary a fruity drink in sight. Teenager Daphne is shipwrecked in the 1860s in a world that looks a lot, but not quite, like ours. On her deserted island, she's surprised to meet Mau, whose entire tribe has just been wiped out by a tsunami. Sounds like a set up for some hijinks, right?
Not so much. It's less about fun and romance than about survival, togetherness, and possibly even changing the world.
Although Pratchett is best known for fantasy, particularly his long-running Discworld series, Nation hits a little closer to home. Sure, there are differences—but Daphne and Mau's world that looks a lot like ours, including tragic tsunamis.
Still, it's not all heavy stuff. Nation is less about the tragedy and more about hope and the prospect for growing and rebuilding afterward. Plus, it's told with a brilliant wit and hilarious sense of humor that keep things from getting too bleak.
How brilliant? Nation was published in 2008, the same year that plain old Terry Pratchett became Sir Terry Pratchett. That's right: his books are so awesome that the Queen of England knighted him. Like Lancelot. Or Paul McCartney. How many authors do you know who are knights?
Why Should I Care?
Stop us if this sounds familiar: you're taking the same classes, working the same job, eating the same PB&J for lunch, hanging out with the same people, watching the same reruns. When one day blends seamlessly into the other, your brain turns off and shifts into autopilot without you even realizing it.
This is how mid-life (quarter-life, eighth-life, etc.) crises begin. But you don't need to drop out of school, quit your job, or buy a fancy sports car to change your life. You just have to change your thinking.
Nation is a book about thinking. Terry Pratchett wants to inspire you to think outside the box, broaden your horizons, turn your world upside down, and even wonder just who came up with all these silly sayings in the first place. In the end, you might realize that what you have might not be so boring after all.
And unlike the characters in the book, you don't even have to get shipwrecked and survive poisonous creatures and cannibals to do it. Sounds like a good deal to us.