The Carpet People is Terry Pratchett’s very first book – kinda. It was the first book he ever published but after he made it big – long after this was out of print – people started trying to find it. So he went back and reread it and then he rewrote it as a 40-ish successful writer. In the introduction, he says it is not the book he wrote at 20 but also not the book he would have written at 40. Which makes it a fascinating book to read, if you’re curious about his development as a writer.
Though the writing is unmistakably Pratchett’s, it doesn’t actually have many elements of a Pratchett book. Oh, you still find the humor and the occasional Pratchett funny truism, just on a much smaller scale. The plot is extremely straightforward and easy to follow, with no big surprises or moments where suddenly everything makes sense. The Pratchett-ism I really missed was the characters – those characters who really should be caricatures or even stereotypes but somehow end up being fully developed characters – Corporal Nobbs and Sergeant Colon, for instance. Or Lord Vetinari. There were none of them in this novel, though you can see the inklings of that development in a few of the characters.
That isn’t to say the characters aren’t good; they are. They’re pretty well-developed, given the simplicity of the story and the plot. It’s enjoyable and quick-paced and it doesn’t have the moral that most Discworld novels have, hidden deep inside, which makes it a little more escapism reading than Pratchett’s novels usually are. I mean, there are inklings of a moral here and there, but it didn’t make me think and laugh simultaneously the way most of the Discworld novels do.
It’s the story of the Munrung tribe, a people who live peacefully in the Carpet, and the troubles that suddenly beset them. Mostly, it follows their leader, Glurk, and his younger brother, Snibril, as they attempt to lead their people to safety after the coming of the Fray. Glurk is brave and Snibril is clever. There are other characters – wise, some, mysterious others, and a requisite few are evil. It is, now that I think of it, a little formulaic; not subversively so, either. That being said, it was easy to get caught up in the novel -it was a great adventure to go on!
The best thing about this novel was the world building. The implication is that the whole world is set in someone’s living room carpet. It was so much fun to think about! From the details to the overarching narrative, Pratchett did an excellent job of drawing the reader into the world – and maybe making them think twice before carelessly trodding on their living room floor. If you’ve got a vivid imagination or just love to revel in someone else’s, I would recommend this book in a heartbeat. It is not only a fairly quick read but engrossing and delightful to think about.
It’s also a children’s book, or at least that’s how I would classify it. Simple, exciting, imaginative and age-appropriate, with excellent drawings interspersed throughout. And I realize I’m comparing it somewhat negatively to his other works, but I truly enjoyed reading it and would do so again without hesitation. It was a book to get lost in, for the sheer fun of reading and ignoring the realities of the world.
If you love imaginative adventures, are looking for a book to read out loud with your kid, or are interested in Pratchett’s earlier work, I would definitely check out The Carpet People. If you’re into Pratchett’s book because of their witty social commentary, if you like your adventures bloody and tense, or if you’re a big fan of complex, surprising characters, than alas! this may not be the book for you.