Study Guide

Nation Introduction

By Terry Pratchett

Nation Introduction

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?

What is Nation About and 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.

Nation Resources


Made in the U.K.
Hankering for more Pratchett? Sir Terry's very own website has the freshest scoop about the fantastic Discworld series and Nation, of course, including different (U.K.) book covers, an excerpt, and an audio clip.

Extra Credit
If we're not providing you with enough information (like that would happen) Harper Collins, Nation's U.S. Publisher has a note from the author and a broken link to a Reader's Guide. Don't worry about getting 404'd, we're all the guide you need! (But the note is a fun behind-the-scenes look that you need to check out.)

Articles and Interviews

Here's Spit in Your Beer
Can you make beer with some weird island juices and human spit? Sir Terry says you can... kind of. Once you turn 21, try it and let us know how it is.

The Play's Not the Thing
Pratchett says that Nation is the best book he's even written. The play... not so much.

The Guardian's Angle
Do you agree with this U.K. newspaper's review of Nation calling it "one of his finest books yet"?

Author Agenda
This reviewer thinks Nation is what happens when an "author with an agenda just happens to have written a children's book." Does Pratchett have an agenda? What is it? (And doesn't everyone have an agenda of some sort?) This reviewer has a lot more to say on his blog, Asking the Wrong Questions.


Sir Terry Speaks
In this video, the author tells us the plot of Nation. It sounds extra classy with a British accent!

The Turtle Moves
Curious about Sir Terry's Discworld series, set on a flat planet resting on the back of four elephants standing on a giant turtle swimming through space? Check out this interview.

Playing Hut
Missed the official play? This might be the next best thing. Some young fans re-enact scenes from Nation the play in this video.


Sounds of a Nation
Grab your earbuds and listen to a free snippet of Nation on, narrated by long-time Pratchett narrator Stephen Briggs.


A Starry Nation
This beautiful fan art shows the Sunrise Islands after sunset. Makes you want to visit there, preferably on a boat that doesn't sink.

A British Nation
The U.K. cover of Nation is a little different. How does it compare to the U.S. Edition?

A Sticky Nation
This person seems to have made a scene from Nation out of popsicle sticks or something. We're not sure what's going on, but it's so darn cute whatever it is!

A Furry Nation
For some reason this fan has drawn Daphne and Mau as small lions... in Victorian garb and a loin cloth. It's definitely a unique perspective!