The Dark Side of the Sun
By Terry Pratchett
Published by Ulverscroft Large Print
Read by Stephen Briggs
A relatively short review for a change! Actually it’s nice to not have to spend almost as much time to write a review as it did listen to the book or books.
What a marvelously eccentric story! I admit I was thoroughly confused for the first quarter of the book as to just what was going on. Normally that would be a strike against the book, but somehow Prachett manages to make confusion a pleasant feature rather than a bug in his construction. Some of the confusion was my fault of course. The Dark Side of the Sun was one of Mister Pratchett’s earlier works and while I have been a fan of his for decades, I had not previously encountered this story. In many ways this is a forerunner to his much better known Discworld series and there are a few terms sprinkled about within the story that show in those later stories; eg Hogswatch Night and Small Gods, I kept looking for Ankh Morpork, but of course, it was not in this book.
In many ways, this story reminded me of another of Pratchett’s early works, Nation. The situations are entirely different, but there is something about his writing style that makes these two books go well together and in both stories you need to cast aside any preconceptions about the world you have just entered. Many SF and fantasy authors, if they create a fictional world will base it on the real universe in some way. That gives the reader a foothold of sort on the situation. Others will explain their invented worlds right from the start, frequently in a prologue or foreword, so as not to have to worry about that while telling their story, but in this one Pratchett drops you in the deep end of the pool and you just have to figure it out as you go along. Well the journey is a worthwhile one.
In The Dark Side of the Sun we meet Dom Sabados, the heir to an entire planet named Widdershins. On the eve of his inheritance, someone attempts to assassinate him which results, eventually, on his going with this trusty robot servant, Isaac, on a voyage of discovery, not only for himself but for the identity of the Universe’s first intelligent race, a people known only as “The Jokers.”
This is Pratchett proving he can write science fiction as easily as fantasy and well worth the time for any of his fans.
The Audio Book:
It was read by Stephen Briggs. What more need I say? I can honestly say I have never encountered a reading of his I did not enjoy. There may be readers who are technically better in some individual recordings, but Mister Briggs brings us a good, consistent performance every time. He is a master of his craft and probably the best reader for Pratchett’s stories. I can’t even imagine them being read by an American performer, really.
Brigg’s voices for the characters are subtly varied and well-thought out. There were a few times I could not hear a difference between the characters, but that is because similar characters were endowed with similar voices and Pratchett’s writing would have differentiated them even had the reader spoken in a flat monotone. Once again, technical points that in another book might have counted as flaws, became intended features.
In all, I recommend The Dark Side of the Sun, both the book and the audio book. Fun to read or listen to.