Newsgroups: rec.arts.sf.written
Subject: Review: _The Carpet People_
Date: Wed, 8 Sep 2004 20:39:32 +0000 (UTC) Message-ID: <chnqm4$183$>

_The Carpet People_, by Terry Pratchett (age 17) and Terry Pratchett (age 43). Copyright 1971 and 1992. There's a 4 year gap somewhere, there.

I've read this novel 3 or 4 times, with no diminishing of pleasure. Just re-read it yesterday, before reading The Postman.

Excerpt from the Author's Note:
"And the publishers got so fed up with telling people that there was no demand for it that they decided it was time for a new edition[1].

Which was read by Terry Pratchett, aged forty-three, who said: hang on. I wrote that in the days when I thought fantasy was all about battles and kings. Now I'm inclined to think that the real concerns of fantasy ought to be about not having battles, and doing without kings."

That conveniently sums up a major theme of later Pratchett, on a 'world' with a certain resemblance to the later Discworld juggernaut. For one thing, it's flat: The Carpet People are People who live in a carpet. Yes, the one you walk on.

Essentially this small village on the edge of the Dumii[2] Empire get their lives uprooted, and find that something bad's happening, and end up getting to the center of it all. Compassionately wacky hijinks tag along, including a riff on the basilisk legend. Lots of subtle or not so subtle commentary on kinging, laws, getting along, and politics also tag along. I'm actually having trouble reviewing it without summarizing it, which would be non-trivial even at the less-than-200 page length. Suffice to say that the world of the Carpet is fairly well outlined; it's a rather good fantasy world stuffed onto a carpet.

One thing which has struck me is how the Dumii Empire comes across as basically a good thing. This contrasts with "Xena", which shows Roman imperalism as, well, brutal imperialism; also with recents rec.arts.sf.written discussion of the Chinese imperalism implicit in "Hero". However, I realize now that the Dumii are actually rather idealized Romans: they ban slavery, discourage mass slaughter (contrast with post-Mel Gibson discussions of Pontius Pilate and the "kill them all" approach to unruly mobs), and only went to hereditary Emperors in the past generation, which turned out to be a bad idea. They also spread peace and currency and free trade, but that -- or at least the first two -- are standard imperial benefits. "The Dumii had built their empire with swords, but they kept it with money."

The Pratchett theme of "myths we live by" also shows up; it's noted how the otherwise unimaginative Dumii came up with concepts such as "law" and "justice" and "better ways of doing things than hittig each other over the head" and spread them to most of the world, even to parts they didn't actually conquer.

I used to think Fray was a vacuum cleaner; now I think it might be someone walking across the carpet. It's in a straight line, but the people seem able to get ahead of it. And if the nomes were a lot faster than humans, the Carpet People should live really fast.

Stars: Chritina Ricci, Mrs. Who, Yvaine, and Mizar out of 4.
Damien Sullivan

[1] (Reviewer's note, not Terry's): I think the style of that sentence is what Pratchett has so much in common with Douglas Adams. I say this as someone who use to think of the two as members of a pair set, then one day wondered exactly why. Though Gaiman could probably pull it off too. Maybe it's British. And the first page, "If only they'd think up a name like Some More True Human Beings, it'd save a lot of trouble later on" bears a resemblance to "a guy got nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be if we were nice to each other for a change."

[2] Roman. But not quite.