Author: Terry Pratchett
Series: Discworld #10
Genre: Fantasy, Humour
Review Copy: Paperback bought new
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
Discworld’s pesky alchemists are up to their old tricks again. This time, they’ve discovered how to get gold from silver — the silver screen that is. Hearing the siren call of Holy Wood is one Victor Tugelbend, a would-be wizard turned extra. He can’t sing, he can’t dance, but he can handle a sword (sort of), and now he wants to be a star. So does Theda Withel, an ambitious ingenue from a little town (where else?) you’ve probably never heard of. But the click click of moving pictures isn’t just stirring up dreams inside Discworld. Holy Wood’s magic is drifting out into the boundaries of the universes, where raw realities, the could-have-beens, the might-bes, the never-weres, the wild ideas are beginning to ferment into a really stinky brew. It’s up to Victor and Gaspode the Wonder Dog (a star if ever one was born!) to rein in the chaos and bring order back to a starstruck Discworld. And they’re definitely not ready for their close-up!
Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett is a very obvious parody of the Hollywood movie industry, particularly the early years. This is the tenth Discworld book in the series, and the tenth I’ve read.
The characters are a very interesting bunch this time. It centres around Victor Tugelbend, a wizard in training at Unseen University who also happens to be an expert slacker. He becomes the unlikely hero of the story, and is a pretty likeable character. As a mashup of several Hollywood actors, in my mind, he looks mostly like Clark Gable. Then there’s Theda Withel, or Ginger as she’s best known in the book, a small town girl who becomes a movie star. She starts out stuck up and unlikeable, but I warmed to her as the story went on. She’s a kind of mix of several Hollywood actresses, though there’s quite a bit of Marilyn Monroe going on. Gaspode is also a major character, but he’s a dog that can talk. He provides a lot of the humour. Other major players are Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler, who is a greasy businessman who seems to be able to sell anything. Not a very nice character, but he’s well-known in Ankh-Morpork. Thomas Silverfish is the President of the Alchemists Guild, who ends up becoming the first movie executive. He’s pretty aggressive at first, but he’s a bit of a pushover. There’s also a lot of other characters, including the Librarian, several wizards from Unseen University, trolls, and more. It is a pretty funny group, though.
The story presents a big mystery that Victor must try to solve. Although this is a fantasy satire, it has a bit of mystery He has to find the secret of Holy Wood. Throughout the book, there are a lot of gags, especially involving stereotyped movie characters and Hollywood people, but I think the most impressive and funniest has to do with the Librarian toward the end. It spoofs a very well-known movie very well and turns it on its head. I thought that was very funny.
As with all of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, many things are parodied. The most obvious are silent movies, guy-gets-the-girl-in-the-end movies, miraculous last minute heroics, Lassie, and even one of Marilyn Monroe’s most iconic photos. See if you can spot all of these and more.
The setting is an interesting one. Holy Wood is where most of the story takes place, though also sometimes in Ankh-Morpork and Klatch. But Holy Wood is the star. The whole town is kind of like a Hollywood set, everything showy on the front, but look behind the facades and you see rickety wood supports. It reminded me of the wild west, but Hollywood style. It’s cheap, hastily built, and not very impressive-looking. But there was a buzz about it, and although of crappy quality, it was exciting.
Moving Pictures was a fun book. Not Terry Pratchett’s best, but it was very enjoyable. It’s definitely recommended to Discworld fans. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.