Book Review: Equal Rites

Thoughts on the wonderful, satirical book by Terry Pratchett about a young female wizard who defies the known truth that there just simply can't be such a thing.

Terry Pratchett was the wonderful author of the Discworld novels. If you haven't heard of him, or of Discworld, I can highly recommend checking them out, especially if you're a fan of Douglas Adam's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (wonderfully abbreviated as H2G2).  Just as H2G2 is a sci-fi comedy that's actually a philosophical book, the Discworld novels are fantasy comedies that are actually social commentaries that force you to reexamine our own world through satirical moments.

The fact the Discworld novels are set on a flat planet that sits on the backs of 4 elephants, who stand on the back of a giant turtle ambling slowly through space, should tell you all you need to know about the kind of humor and wit the books are beloved for. All of the books can be read as stand-alone novels, though there are tidbits that are shared through all. I'd start with either Equal Rites, Small Gods, Going Postal or Mort.

Equal Rites is a recent re-read; about the first female wizard and how she had to navigate a world in disbelief about it.

My main takeaways / favorite quotes:

  • "Hilta laughed like someone who had thought hard about Life and had seen the joke."

  • "Zoon tribes [a tribe of people who are generally genetically unable to lie, but recognised that this could cause great social disadvantages and so tried to pick out tribe members who were genetically more able to 'bend the truth' and called them Liars (capital L intended)] are very proud of their Liars. Other races get very annoyed about all this. They feel like the Zoon ought to have adopted more suitable titles, like "dipolmat" or "public relations officer." They feel they are poking fun at the whole thing."

  • "If you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so they don't apply to you." [This was specifically in relation to protests that women were not allowed in a certain room in the Wizard University (which had only admitted male wizards from the beginning of time)]

  • "No, I could tell he was telling the truth. You know, Granny, you can tell how -"

"Foolish child. All you could tell was that he thought he was telling the truth. The world isn't always as people see it."

[Interesting to note the difference between someone outright lying (i.e. they don't even believe it themselves) vs someone thinking they're telling the truth. A good reminder that you should come to your own conclusions yourself about things; most people won't caveat when they merely think they're telling the truth (heresay) vs when they've fact-checked etc.]

  • "Wizards seemed to think that names were the same as things, and that if you changed the name, you changed the thing. At least, it seemed to be something like that."

  • "They both savored the strange warm glow of being much more ignorant than ordinary people, who were ignorant of only ordinary things." [This is about two wizards who feel good that they realize they don't know very much about a complicated magical theory vs. the 'ordinary' person who doesn't know about ordinary things.]

Subscribe to Katerina Yip

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.