This was another 2009 Printz Honor recipient, which is why I read it. I am not a huge Pratchett fan, like Paul, though I did enjoy watching the Hogfather movie with Paul. This is not a Discworld novel, though. I’ll first say-I loved it! I was telling Paul last night that the more I think about this book, the greater I think it is. It was a really powerful blend of humor, coming of age, what it is to “become a man”, what makes a nation, the conflicts between science and reason and superstition, myth, and tradition, how people communicate, and civilization versus savages all wrapped up in a great story of survival and adventure. Paul’s response was that that is what he expects from a Terry Pratchett novel, so he was not as blown away by it as I was. If that is the case, then I need to go read some more, because I really thought this was so well written + a great story.
The story framework for all the super elements I mentioned above is this: a teenage boy who lives on an island nation is away from the island for his transition to manhood experience. Left on another island he must find his way back home, as generations before him have done. As he paddles homeward he is filled with anticipation and joy at what he knows is waiting for him–the entire population of Nation waiting to welcome him as a man. Instead a giant tidal wave catches him up and when he arrives at Nation, miraculously alive, he discovers his whole family and community has been killed by the wave. He seems to be the lone survivor, but then he meets an English girl, deposited on the island by the same wave. The two must find a way to communicate with each other, survive, and build a new nation that can stand up to the attacks of true savages.
I cannot say enough good things about this novel and think everyone should read it. It would be a marvelous book for book groups to discuss, class discussions, and so on.