Pyramids represents something of a detour in Pratchett's Discworld series. The principal action takes place in the heretofore unfamiliar land of Djelibeybi, located in northern Klatch across the Circle Sea from Anhk-Morpork. This is a unique realm of the Discworld, two miles wide and 150 miles long. It is often referred to as the Old Kingdom for a very good reason-it is quite old, over 7000 years old in fact. It is a desert land whose pharaohs are obsessed with pyramid-building; besides bankrupting the country, this obsession has also had the unforeseen consequence of keeping the country firmly entrenched in the past. Pyramids, you see, slow down time, and there are so many pyramids in Djelibeybi now that new time is continually sucked in by them and released nightly in flares. In a land where the same time is reused daily, it comes as something of a surprise when the pharaoh Teppicymon XXVII decides to send his son Teppic outside of the kingdom to get his education. Just after becoming a certified, guild-approved assassin, young Teppic is called upon to return home after his father suffers the unfortunate consequences attendant upon thinking he can fly. Three months into his reign, he basically loses his kingdom-literally. The Great Pyramid being built for his father's mummy is much too big, and eventually it causes the temporal dislocation of Djelibeybi from the face of the Discworld. Accompanied by the handmaiden Ptraci, whom he rescued from certain death, and a camel whose name would be edited were I to state it here, Teppic must find a way to restore his kingdom back to its proper place and time above the ground. The ordeal is only complicated further by the fact that all of the land's dead and thousands of gods suddenly have appeared in person, acting as if they own the place.
While its unusual setting and the fact that it features characters seen here and nowhere else makes this novel seem a little different from its fellow Discworld chronicles, I must admit it is quite an enjoyable read. Pratchett ingeniously incorporates ideas and practices from ancient Egypt and ancient Greece: pyramids, mummification, Greek philosophers, the Trojan War and its Horse in particular, etc. Teppic is an enjoyable enough character, but we never seem to delve deeply enough to understand him properly. I loved the brash handmaiden Ptraci and her fearless contempt for tradition. All of the dead pharaohs are quite funny, particularly in terms of their opinions on an afterlife spent shut inside a tomb inside an escape-proof pyramid. The subplot featuring the history of warfare between two neighboring kingdoms really helps make this novel a true winner. Perhaps the most interesting thing to be found in these pages, though, is the actual identity and thought processes of Discworld's greatest mathematician. There is also much to amuse and delight fans of temporal dislocation theories-the pyramid builders make many incredible discoveries in the process of building the Great Pyramid, not the least of which is a means of utilizing the structure's innate time loop to call forth several different selves to help make sure the job is finished in the allotted time.
Even though this book is funny and satisfying enough to stand on its own, I would not start my Discworld reading with it. Aside from Teppic's time spent in Anhk-Morpork learning to be an assassin, the action takes place outside the much more familiar lands we encounter time and again in the other novels. Of course, Pratchett devotees will want to read it for the very reason that it acquaints us with a strange, otherwise unfamiliar section of the Discworld.
on March 1, 2002
Pyramids is yet another Discworld novel from Terry Pratchett, though it doesn't take place in the same setting as the other novels in the series. Instead, it takes place in "The Old Kingdom," and is take-off on ancient Egypt. How does it fare?
Let's call it a triple. It's wonderfully funny, and definitely a 5-star book. It only suffers in comparison to the other Discworld books that I've read, in that it takes awhile before it's laugh out loud funny. The whole book is definitely worth reading though, and your patience will be rewarded in spades once things actually start happening.
The book is about Teppic, the son of the king, who has gone to Ankh-Morpork to learn to be an assassin. The first section of the book consists of scenes of his final examination intercut with scenes of his joining the assassins' school. This section has its amusing moments, but it didn't make me guffaw like the City Watch trilogy of books did. The section gives information on Teppic's character, which does inform the rest of the book, and is thus valuable. It was just missing something.
There are also scenes back in the Kingdom, where Teppic's father is going a bit insane. He ends up falling off of a balcony while identifying with the local seagulls. Thus, Teppic is drawn back home to take his place. When Teppic gets back, he finds most of the rituals and values that dominate the kingdom grate with the values that he learned while he was in Ankh-Morpork. Meanwhile, Teppic's dad is dead, and he's not liking it.
Things steamroll from there, and I won't give away any of the rest of the stuff. Once Teppic gets back home, things get a lot better in this book. The laughs come very frequently, and nothing is spared from Pratchett's wit. The take-off on the Trojan Horse story has to be seen to be believed, as well as the Philospher's Cafe. And next time you see a camel, you'll be wondering what's going through his head.
The main problem with the book is that it seems a bit detached from the situation. In the City Watch books, most of the humour comes directly out of what is happening, making the events that Pratchett is describing feel important, at least to the characters. Pyramids, though, seems different than that. The jokes are funny, but the events that they are coming out of seem very inconsequential when you think about it. And when the event in question is as big as it is in this book (can't say more without spoilers), inconsequential is the last thing it should feel like.
Still, that doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the book. Some people don't like the zany, madcap type of humour that Pratchett delivers, and they should stay away from it. But it's certainly worth a pick up for anybody with a funny bone.
on March 29, 1999
Probably the best of the Discworld series. Enjoyable, funny in places, and enough story to make the book an easy one to finish.
I've wondered on occasion why Pratchett (at his best) is never nearly as funny as Douglas Adams (at his best); now I think I know. "The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is genuine science fiction. The story drives itself. The Infinite Improbability Drive, is exactly the sort of thing a science fiction writer would invent, and the explanation for its existence exactly that which a science fiction writer would give. Someone with no sense of humour at all might not like Adams's book, but would at least understand it.
None of this is true of Pratchett. His books, as a rule, aren't fantasy: he usually gives the impression of wanting to write about something else. (This is most apparent in, say, "Moving Pictures", a book about Hollywood that would lose most of its humour if it was actually set *in* Hollywood.) Usually there's nothing to Pratchett except one liners and turns of phrase. He presents us with a plot he doesn't appear to care about, and then goes through the tedious motions of writing a novel to it, all the time keeping a sharp look-out for amusing comments to make. The amusing comments are what makes the otherwise tedious excercise worthwhile. They don't always succeed.
(This explains why Pratchett is seldom REALLY funny. Someone who has no particular axe to grind and is just looking for jokes, any jokes, is in the unenviable position of a a clown at the circus, or a court jester, whom everyone expects to be funny but no-one expects to be anything else. Such people produce dutiful chuckles. Humour needs passion.)
This is a generalisation. There are exceptions, and this book is one of them. Ankh-Morpork is about the only thing left in Discworld which is interesting in itself (and not just interesting as a result of the funny things that might be said about it); so, hurrah, we begin the novel in Ankh-Morpork. We get a story which has some merit as a fantasy story all by itself. The magic is for once genuine magic, and not a kind of ersatz technology. This book approaches the kind of thing Discworld as a whole ought to have been.
Another book worth reading for similar reasons is "Mort". Read it after or before "Pyramids". It won't hurt to read the other Discworld books, but there is really no need.
on October 9, 2001
As a relatively new fan of Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series, I was so impressed by what he wrote so far I started to believe that everything from the series will be brilliant and excellent. Therefore, despite the fact other books sounded better, I picked "Pyramids" at random. And also because
... All I can say is, even the best writers can make mistakes now and then - and that I will be more careful next time.
About the book: Pyramids is set in Djelibeibey, which is the Discworld equivalent of Ancient Egypt. The main character is Teppic, the son of the Pharaoh who gets sent to Assassin's school in Ankh-Morpork for a few years, only to come back exactly when his father dies and he becomes the new Pharoah of the kingdom. The plot gets complicated by the building of a pyramid which is bigger than any pyramid which has ever been built in the kingdom. This pyramid somehow twists the rules of space, time and belief to create a big mess.
Does this sound a big vague? To me it does - and the story feels confused and vague to the end. Many plot lines aren't fully explored, many characters aren't fully developed.. the plot is very thin, it feels as if it leads nowhere. Even the jokes in the book weren't as witty as the other Discworld novels I have read. It's a pity since the premise has a lot of potential, and Teppic is cool as the main character.
What can I say, I guess Pratchett is human after all, even great authors can do less than perfect every now and then. Was I disappointed? Yes. Will I continue to read more Pratchett novels? You bet! I guess I would recommend this book only to people who are absolutely die hard fans of Discworld.. for anybody else I would say, Skip this one.
on March 2, 2002
Recently I became a fan of Terry Pratchett, after having read The Color of Magic. I continued to read the series in order, and I just finished reading Pyramids. Immediately I liked this book, because I found the Assassins Guild fascinating, and I thought Teppic was an interesting and cool main character.
The plot goes something like this: Teppic was born in Djelibeybi (a sort of ancient Egypt-like country) and was sent to Ankh-Morpork when he was 12 to become an assassin. Just after Teppic passes the final test, his father dies and he has to return to Djelibeybi to be king. When he arrives, he realizes a pyramid has to be built for his father, and he orders that it be the biggest pyramid in the valley, with labyrinths and statues and so forth. But the pyramid is -so- big and powerful that it somehow alters the fabric of time and space, and puts Djelibeybi into its own little dimension, separate from the outside world. It's now Teppic's job as king (and a god) to make things right, even if the High Priest likes to twist everything he says.
Thrown into the mix is the mysteriously old High Priest named Dios; the best mathemetician in the world (a camel); a handmaiden named Ptraci; the gods coming to life and freaking everyone out; and thousands of dead 'ancestors' lurching around and complaining about their pyramids. The story is humorous, as are all of Pratchett's books, and the characters are very likeable. And for those of you who like romance, there is definitely some of that (which I was glad of).
Some reviewers complain that the plot is thin and the characters are under-developed, but I must disagree. So far this is my favorite Discworld book, and I'm pretty sure it will stay that way. This is well worth buying, even if you're not a huge Discworld fan!
Time to turn a sacred cow into hamburger--Terry Pratchett, having established wizards, witches, and cranky policemen in his famed, kooky "Discworld," turns his attention to ancient Egyptianesque surroudings, here the city of Djelibeybi (say it out loud) and its unfortunate pharaoh.
Teppic is an unusually educated young pharaoh-to-be, the crown prince of Djelibeybi ("Child of the Djel") whose father has a few seagulls in the attic, and overall is a harmless little guy. Teppic heads off to Ankh-Morpork to train to be an Assassin, but comes back home when his dad unexpectedly dies (it's unexpected because the poor guy thought he was a seagull and leaped off). Teppic is a relatively enlightening young man, who doesn't like feeding people to crocodiles, doesn't want to build a pyramid for his dad, isn't comfortable with being a living god, and doesn't relish the idea of marrying a close female relative.
Unfortunately, the high priest (who is clearly insane) is holding the reins and doesn't intend to give them up to an upstart pharaoh. Teppic isn't entirely sure what to do about Dios, but he's sure that Dios's age-old ways are not the best ways. It's the century of the fruitbat, and Djelibeybi should live it that way!
Among Dios's proclaimations is that the old pharaoh (who is hanging around with Death, and who wanted to be sent out to sea rather than sealed in a pyramid) be built a pyramid to end all pyramids. Enter some slightly deranged architects, who do their darndest to make it so. The problem is, the bigger the pyramid, the more likely it is to distort space-time ï¿½ and this one proceeds to mess up the fabric of all Djelibeybi. Soon Dios is siccing the guards on Teppic and rebellious handmaiden Ptraci, the gods have come to life and refuse to behave ï¿½ and over a thousand mummies are lurching out into Djelibeybi from their pyramids.
Terry Pratchett is at his best when he takes accepted history/events/fantasy and twists them into hilarity. He takes the most absurd aspects of Egyptian culture and makes them into the bizarre land of Djelibeybi. Not even the Egyptian gods are free from Pratchett's spoofery, running around creating havoc--not to mention the enormous dung beetle carrying the sun.
The teenage hero Teppic is an innocent bystander who just happens to be the sole legitimate heir of the old king, and his bewilderment at the various customs and traditions (which all date back centuries) is perfectly done. Ptraci is a typical Pratchett gal -- strong, independent, intelligent, and takes no guff from anyone, revealing handmaiden costume or none. The old king is also an enjoyable character, harmlessly nuts when he was alive, and when he died he ended up on a guided tour watching his own embalming (the poor guy has to watch his own organs being extracted, when all he wanted was to be sent out to sea), thus proving that Death is very willing to be nice. Accompanying them are Dios, the insane high priest who spends centuries controlling pharaohs, a bunch of freaked-out architects, a super-intelligent camel called "You B*******", and a lot of deceased pharaohs (whose dialogue is priceless).
This book, like many of Pratchett's, is acceptable for kids as there is minimal profanity, no sex, and not really any violence. Teens may identify with Teppic and Ptraci, but they are excellent characters to be read about for any age group.
One of Pratchett's best novels. Also recommended are "Jingo," "The Truth," and so forth...
on May 9, 2007
Terry Pratchett's first novel, "The Carpet People", appeared in 1971. "Pyramids" is the seventh novel in his hugely popular Discworld series and was first published in 1989. It's the first - and, to date, only - book to feature Teppic, and is largely set in his home country of Djelibeybi.
As the book opens, Teppic (or Pteppic) is approaching the end of his education at Ankh-Morpork's Guild of Assassins. (The final exam, if failed, tends to be very...<ahem>...final). However, there is more to Teppic than dressing very stylishly and inhuming only for vast amounts of money. With the very recent death of his father, he has also become King Pteppicymon XXVIII of Djelibeybi. Teppic's home country is very obviously based on Egypt : it's two miles wide, one hundred and fifty miles long and runs along the river Djel. It has driven itself bankrupt, having spent seven thousand years building pyramids for its monarchs - invariably on the country's most fertile soil. Having become the first Pharoh to be educated outside Djelibeybi, Teppic finds it difficult to re-adapt to the traditions of his home country. He is technically a God and although he is officially Head of State, it's Dios - the very aged High Priest - who actually runs the country. Teppic isn't entirely impressed about this - he wants to introduce proper plumbing and pillows, for example. However, in spite of the country's debt, he does agree to building a massive pyramid for his late father. (This isn't something his late father - still pottering around as a ghost - isn't too impressed with). The final straw comes when Dios decides to feed Ptraci - the late King's favourite handmaiden - to the crocodiles. Teppic decides to become a little more politically active - and, luckily, he has a helpful education to fall back on.
Like everything else I've read by Pratchett, this is an excellent book. It's easily read, features plenty of likeable characters and there are plenty of laughs. As it's one of Pratchett's stand-alone books, it's a good starting point if you've never read any of the Discworld books before. (In a way, I find that a pity : I'd love to have known what became of Teppic and Ptraci). Definitely recommended !
on March 6, 2001
"Pyramids" is an odd entry in the Discworld franchise. It is neither a knock-you-down laugh riot, nor an existential meandering. It has great dollops of both, though, and sometimes the two sides clash confusingly in the middle. Other times, they fit together perfectly, like the large blocks that when stacked together make up a pyramid.
There are some classic Pratchett moments here. Funny stuff. Like when a doctor (medicine being a new artform on the Discworld) declares a man's temperature so hot you could fry an egg on his forehead. Then, predicting the complicated medical jargon we all know and love, he pompously declares that the man is suffering from 'Pyrocerebrum ouerf culinaire'. A great and ridiculous moment. Even better is the scene near the middle of the book, where our hero, Teppic, encounters the legendary Sphinx, and ends up debunking the logic behind its famous riddle. It is a great scene, hardly integral to the plot, but wonderful to chomp on while it's playing.
As for that plot, well, Terry tries some complicated set pieces, and usually manages to pull them off with minimal explanation. He lets the reader figure out the merits of the Assassin's Guild, what it means to inhume a client, the concept of "flaring" off a pyramid, camel mathematics, and "quantum" architecture. Needless to say, none of these concepts are very useful in our world, but all make perfect sense on the Discworld.
I was somewhat disappointed that he returned to some tried and true devices. The ghost of the dead king, used so well in "Wyrd Sisters", here comes off as a tired rehash (although the king's afterlife companions turn out to be an interesting bunch). Also, the smart-mouth female sidekick has been done to death by this point. And our hero seems to be just an amalgamation of every Discworld hero so far, from Rincewind to Twoflower to Mort to Rincewind (again). Although Death returns, for a very brief but memorable appearance.
All told not the greatest entry in the series. Terry aims the bar quite high, which I commend him for, but he manages to knock it down more times than not.
on May 21, 2002
Despite not featuring Unseen University or the witches of the Ramtop Mountains, this is my favorite Discworld book.
After hinting at it in "Wyrd Sisters," Pratchett paints an engaging portrait of life in the Ankh-Morporkk Assassin's Guild. The suave, stylish, chic and, well, murderous life as an apprentice assassin is, against all logic, made sort of appealing and cool, like an academy for future James Bonds.
Then our protagonist, Teppic, is cruelly jerked back to his reality -- he's the son of the pharoah in the Kingdom of the Sun, and his father has just died. The cosmopolitan Teppic has to face what are, to him, backwards and outdated customs the rest of the world has left behind centuries ago. He's right, of course, and the mystery as to what's really happening in his kingdom spins out at Teppic tries to adapt himself to life as pharoah, and try to drag the kingdom into modern times.
Along the way, there is the ghost of his father, who mournfully watches his own body being prepared for the afterworld, a sassy handmaiden, and a mysterious and forbidding high priest. Toss in the greatest mathematician on Discworld -- not a biped, though -- a parody of Ancient Greece, and a graduate assassin turned pirate, and you've got a rollicking cast plunging towards a very local sort of doomsday.
The ending is a touch ambiguous for my tastes -- Pratchett was trying to use a light touch and went a touch TOO light for my tastes -- but overall, this is an engaging, amusing and even somewhat thoughtful Discworld novel, and one that stands alone even better than most.
By the order of the pharoah, this is strongly recommended.
on May 2, 2000
It is obvious from reading other reviews that readers of Terry Pratchett each have their own particular favourites, and these can vary wildly. `Pyramids' was the first of his books that I read and even though I have now read most of them it remains, in my opinion, one of the best. What did I like about it? Well, the concept of a king who was actually trained to be an assassin (rather than one who took on the role to get there) was a good start. A kingdom called Djelibeybi (you have to say it aloud) that remarkably resembles Egypt, but skewed in the way that only Pratchett's Discworld series can, was also clever. Add to that swipes at pyramidology, the way some of religions followers abuse the power they get from it, and a teenage hero concerned about all the normal things that teenagers are concerned about, and you get a funny book. Perhaps my favourite bit is that camels are the smartest creatures on the disc (maybe you have to have met some camels to really understand that). If you are a fan of Terry Pratchett, there is a fair chance you will like this book. If you've never read him before, buy `Pyramids' and prepare to laugh.