The Carpet People
By Terry Pratchett and Terry Pratchett
With illustrations by Terry Pratchett
Published (this time) by Doubleday 2009 (UK) / Clarion Books, 2013 (US)
In 1971, Terry Pratchett published a book called The Carpet People. It wasn't, apparently, a very good book (but he was only 17 at the time, so what do you expect). It did not go into reprint, and is now very hard to find. But as he continued to get more and more popular people continued to show interest in reading his first book, and were often annoyed when it was nearly impossible to find. Finally, he took the time to look it over, fix it up a bit, and release a new edition.
The carpet people are very, very small people. An entire city would fit on a speck of dust, and the entire world is defined by the carpet which they inhabit. Fallen salt and sugar crystals are mined for food and building materials, fortifications are carved into mountainous bits of grit, and a chair leg provides a valuable source of varnish, carefully worked into a multitude of useful objects.
Our hero, Snibril, is the younger son of a chieftain of one of the outlying tribes, the Munrungs, nomads that survive by hunting wild beasts far beyond the realm of the ruling city. Snibril, being the younger son, was excused from the fighting and hunting duties, and allowed to learn to read and write and do a bit of math from the tribe's shaman. And then, afterwards, learn about hunting and fighting. Life was fairly uneventful, aside from hunting monsters, until one day the Fray comes, a tremendous and awful roaring wind that leaves destruction in its wake.
The Munrung village is severely damaged by the Fray, but before they can recover they are attacked by ferocious Snargs, larger and more cunning than any Snargs they had ever encountered while hunting. The Munrungs pack up and head out to find a safe place to recover, only to find that the entire carpet is experiencing the Fray and Snarg attacks. Soon Snibril and a ragtag bunch of companions are on a quest to save the Carpet from complete chaos.
Overall, this is a pretty good story, but not a great one, and not really what most Pratchett fans will be looking from in a 'new' Pratchett book. But that's okay, because this isn't a new Pratchett book, it's an old one that has indeed been fixed up to be a bit better than most of his earlier works. It includes a forward and an afterward, and perhaps more interestingly, the original set of very short tales that appeared in the Children's Circle section of the Bucks Free Press, upon which the original book was based. There are also color plates of all of the original illustrations, some additional promotional illustrations, and a youthful photograph of Terry Pratchett in 1971, all of which are rather nice.
As far as the actual story goes, this is a fairly standard classic fantasy adventure with heroes and barbarians and quests and magic... Lots of made up words and silly names, grand palaces and deep dangerous caverns, wars and revolutions, all of the makings of an epic adventure. With, of course, the added twist that it is happening on a carpet. There is enough of Pratchett's writing and humor that you don't forget who the author is, but the primary feeling is that of a fairly-well-written-but-tritely-plotted swords and sorcery quest. I wouldn't particularly recommend this book to anyone, but at the same time, most Pratchett fans, if they really are fans, will want this book just for its historical interest.
For some reason, this book was in the Children's section of my local bookstore. There is nothing in it that would make it inappropriate for children, but I would not recommend it to any young readers. There are just so many better books out there, including Terry Pratchett's Johnny books for children and his Tiffany Aching books for young adults.