By Terry Pratchett
Unabridged edition published by Isis Publishing Ltd.
Read by Stephen Briggs
I’ve reviewed enough of Terry Pratchett’s stories by now that readers will be expecting a favorable review, right? So no surprises this week, maybe.
The Bromeliad might have been a hack job. It starts out with a rather time-worn concept; a bunch of “little people,” that humans do not believe are real. Sound familiar? It should, from the leprechauns of Ireland, the kobolds of Germany, the pukwudgies of the Wampanoags to Tinkerbell of Disneyland, we have all grown up in a world in which there were mythical little people just out of our sight.
Furthermore, small people have been used by authors for centuries; some common fairy tales have been traced back 2600 years and more and across the the entirety of Eurasia and Africa. Similar sorts of stories are common among various Native American tribes. Then we have more modern authors, like Jonathan Swift and his Lilliputians, so the whole concept of tiny little people is one we have all encountered throughout our lives.
Pratchett’s unique style, however, makes it fresh and entertaining. These little people call themselves “Nomes” and are only four inches tall. They live at a speed ten times faster than full-sized humans. This means that not only is it rare for a nome to reach the age of ten, but their time sense makes each day seem like ten. They are fast and hard to see. They need to stand very still for a human to see them as more than an indistinct blur, but since they do not normally want to be seen by humans and since humans are very good and not seeing things they do not believe in, this works out very well indeed.
So the story starts out with a small band of nomes and specifically a young hunter named Masklin. One day Masklin and his band, thinking they are the only nomes left in the world, find their way inside a large department store, Arnold Bros. (est 1905) where they encounter thousands of other nomes who have been happily living there for so many generations that they have come to believe that Arnold Bros. (est. 1905) is the name of God, who built the store just for them to live in. The Store nomes have taken the names of the departments they live in; de Haberdasheri, del Icatessen, the bandits of Corsetri, and the priests of Stationeri, to name just a few. Just what all those humans are doing around the Store is beyond them, but humans are slow and stupid and incomprehensible, or so the nomes think.
Soon after Masklin and his band arrive at “The Store” Arnold Bros. (est. 1905) built for nomes to live in, they learn The Store is due for demolition. According to the nomes who lived in the store, the seasons had always been “Spring into Savings,” “Christmas Faire” and so forth, now the Signs of Arnold Bros. (est 1905) said, “Final Clearance.” Most store nomes don’t believe in the Outside because according to Arnold Bros. (est. 1905) everything was under one roof, but soon even they come to understand Arnold Bros. (est. 1905’s) final commandment, “Everything Must Go!”
Truckers is the story of how Masklin and the other nomes managed to get safely out of The Store and to a new home, a closed quarry. Diggers involves what happens when it turns out the humans are about to re-open the quarry. Wings mostly takes place concurrently with Diggers when Masklin and two others must follow the heir to Arnold Bros. (est. 1905), Grandson Richard, 39, on a quest to finally find a way that the names can be safe.
Where does the bromeliad of the title come in? Well that is a long story and I would not want to ruin it for anyone. This is Pratchett at his whimsical best and while I think these stories were written primarily for children, people of all ages should be able to enjoy them. Think of it as a sort of British “Rocky and Bulwinkle.” There are lots jokes our young people can understand, but there’s enough humor only an adult will get. However, it’s all good, clean stuff so don’t worry if your young reader gets his or her hands on these books.
I have said before that Stephen Briggs is one of my favorite readers to listen to. His performances are very even – more so than most other actors who make a quick buck narrating audiobooks - and seem to naturally match the stories he reads. He is not the only one who reads Prachett’s works. Nigel Paner (who may be recognized by Pratchett fans as having appeared in the Sky 1 adaptations of Hogfather and The Colour of Magic) and Tony Robinson (who played Baldrick on the Blackadder series. He also appeared in Hogfather) are both very talented actors and are enjoyable to listen to, but my favorite is still Mister Briggs.
Suffice to say that once again he brings us an excellent reading and regardless of how he may personally feel about the stories, he sounds like he really is enjoying them as much as the listener. Perhaps he is. I would like to think so.
Once again, this is a fun set of stories and they are read well. If you like humorous satire, these should be right up your alley!