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Alone on a desert island—everything and everyone he knows and loves has been washed away in a storm—Mau is the last surviving member of his nation. He’s completely alone—or so he thinks until he finds the ghost girl. She has no toes, wears strange lacy trousers like the grandfather bird, and gives him a stick that can make fire.

Daphne, sole survivor of the wreck of the Sweet Judy, almost immediately regrets trying to shoot the native boy. Thank goodness the powder was wet and the gun only produced a spark. She’s certain her father, distant cousin of the Royal family, will come and rescue her but it seems, for now, that all she has for company is the boy and the foul-mouthed ship’s parrot, until other survivors arrive to take refuge on the island. Together, Mau and Daphne discover some remarkable things (including how to milk a pig, and why spitting in beer is a good thing), and start to forge a new nation.

Encompassing themes of death and nationhood, Terry Pratchett’s new novel is, as can be expected, extremely funny, witty and wise. Mau’s ancestors have something to teach us all. Mau just wishes they would shut up about it and let him get on with saving everyone’s lives!

410 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2008

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About the author

Terry Pratchett

368 books40.1k followers
Born Terence David John Pratchett, Sir Terry Pratchett sold his first story when he was thirteen, which earned him enough money to buy a second-hand typewriter. His first novel, a humorous fantasy entitled The Carpet People, appeared in 1971 from the publisher Colin Smythe.

Terry worked for many years as a journalist and press officer, writing in his spare time and publishing a number of novels, including his first Discworld novel, The Color of Magic, in 1983. In 1987, he turned to writing full time.

There are over 40 books in the Discworld series, of which four are written for children. The first of these, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, won the Carnegie Medal.

A non-Discworld book, Good Omens, his 1990 collaboration with Neil Gaiman, has been a longtime bestseller and was reissued in hardcover by William Morrow in early 2006 (it is also available as a mass market paperback - Harper Torch, 2006 - and trade paperback - Harper Paperbacks, 2006).

In 2008, Harper Children's published Terry's standalone non-Discworld YA novel, Nation. Terry published Snuff in October 2011.

Regarded as one of the most significant contemporary English-language satirists, Pratchett has won numerous literary awards, was named an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) “for services to literature” in 1998, and has received honorary doctorates from the University of Warwick in 1999, the University of Portsmouth in 2001, the University of Bath in 2003, the University of Bristol in 2004, Buckinghamshire New University in 2008, the University of Dublin in 2008, Bradford University in 2009, the University of Winchester in 2009, and The Open University in 2013 for his contribution to Public Service.

In Dec. of 2007, Pratchett disclosed that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. On 18 Feb, 2009, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

He was awarded the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award in 2010.

Sir Terry Pratchett passed away on 12th March 2015.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,112 reviews
Profile Image for Christine.
6,549 reviews472 followers
July 10, 2016
2016 Re-read for Sci Fi/Fantasy book club.

Seriously, does anyone else want to kick the Nobel Prize committee for not giving Pratchett the award? I wish this novel had been around when I was a kid.

older review

Philip Pullman is known, perhaps infamously, for His Dark Materials trilogy, which has been attacked because of Pullman's atheist beliefs as well as the endorsement of atheism that book represents. Pullman isn't the only writer to have been attacked due to his view on religion, and I doubt that he will be the last one. Of course, he will undoubtedly be attacked this year because of his new book about Jesus and his buddy Christ.

I find it strange that there was barely a peep about the books until the movie came out.

The problem, as I see it, with such "fame" as Pullman receives is that people get hot and bothered either condemning the work or, justly, defending the work. So hot and bothered that books like Nation get overlooked. In many ways, this is good, for no one is trying to ban the book. In other ways, it is bad, for the book doesn't get the fame it deserves.

Terry Pratchett is a humanist writer of fantasy fiction. He wouldn't call his work literature, but many of his later novels either is literature or rests on literature's mutable border. I've been a huge fan of Pratchett since Wyrd Sisters made me laugh during a very tough time in my life (Thanks Mom, for giving the book to me).

Nation is the best thing that Pratchett has ever written.
Nation is Literature.

I'm not sure if Nation was inspired by the Tsunami in Asia and/or Pratchett receiving his medical news. In truth, I don't really care. I do know, for Pratchett himself has said it, that Nation demanded to be told, and he stopped other projects to write it.

Supposedly a children's book, Nation tells the story of Mau who loses his whole Nation, his whole tribe, when a tsunami hits his island home. Eventually, Mau discovers Daphne, a "ghost" girl who was washed up by the same wave. What then follows is part Robinson Crusoe, told from Friday's point of view; part Swiss Family Robinson; part Island of the Blue Dolphins, and part religious and philosophical debate.

Pratchett's novels work because each of his characters is like the reader or like someone the reader knows. His characters are human and contain one or more aspects of everyone. Even Pratchett's most heroic or inhuman characters such as Carrot, Rincewind, or Death, have human traits that effect how they act (remember, Death really likes cats). Here, in this book, Pratchett presents multiple answers to the questions, "Why do bad things happen to good people if there is a just god?" and "How do you feel afterwards?"

Both Mau and Daphne have tragically lost family. Both of their reactions are human, yet different from each other. Both question the idea of god (or in the case of Mau, gods) and faith. Both arrive at different answers. More importantly, Pratchett doesn't preach, he doesn't persuade. He just wants the reader to think, the conclusion is left up to the reader. This makes the book totally honest, for there is no clear cut answer to the first question.

Besides engaging the idea of the god debate, Pratchett touches on another part of creation - where do stories come from? Are stories more than just religion? Is religion more than story? This comes as no surprise to the reader who has read the last two Science of Discworld books.

Despite the tragic and bittersweet events of the story, Pratchett's trademark humor, including footnotes, is present in full force. Like his characters, Pratchett's humor works because it contains an element of human truth. As the following exchange shows:

"Don't look back!"
"Why not?"
"Because I just did! Run faster!"

The tale of Mau and Daphne is an adventure tale of two teens surviving the aftermath of a natural disaster. They most rebuild. They must outwit cold blooded killers and hungry cannibal as well as the odd Grandfather Bird and tree climbing octopus. It is a thrillingly story that closely, honestly, and fairly examines faith, science and all in between.

Older Review
When Nation came out, I was a bit disappointed that it wasn't a Discworld novel.

Then I read it.

It's the best thing that Pratchett has ever written.

The one thing about Terry Pratchett, as Lawrence Watt-Evans pointed out, is that the only real difference between his adult books and his children books are the age of his protagonists. There is no reason why an adult shouldn't treat this as a book.

It's a book everyone should read.

I suppose if Pratchett had the reputation or high profile of Philip Pullman or J. K. Rowling, then there would be a huge cry of how this book should be snatched from the hands of impressable children before they learn how to think for themselves. Maybe there is already such an outcry, but I haven't heard anything.

Nation reminds me a bit of Island of the Blue Dolphins, with much more thrown in. Pratchett addresses the big questions of whether or not there is a god, and if there is a god, why do bad things happen? Bad things happen in this book, right from the start. Pratchett deserves credit for not sugarcoating what happens, but for also dealing with the deathes in a way that does not alienate or upset readers (okay, upset them too much).

What Pratchett presents for the reader is a book about what extactly faith and life are. When one reads Pullman, it is quite easy to figure out where Pullman stands in regards to religion. It is not easy to figure out where Pratchett stands. One character has lost his faith, but may or may not be talking to the gods. Other characters have faith. Neither character is seen as stupid or evil because of a belief or lack of belief. In many ways, Nation is a more mature novel about faith than Pratchett's earlier tolerance novel Small Gods.

This a powerful book, and I hope it continues to fly under the radar of those people who think children shouldn't read books that make you think.

Everyone should read this book.
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
761 reviews3,479 followers
May 15, 2022
Something completely different than the Discworld, dealing with the ups and downs of indigene and industrial living styles in an exotic setting with some fantasy elements

Pratchett deemed it his best work
I don´t really get why Pratchett said about this novel that it´s so good that he won´t ever write something as great again, because, well, for his standards, it´s quite good material, but subjectively, and according to meta swarm intelligence rating levels, by far not the best. The dynamic of plotting and impact of the humor is different than in his other works and the complexity can´t unfold because, duh, it´s an island.

Cultural imperialism's imperatives
A kind of, in the Discworld mostly hidden, morality compass seems to be permanently drifting into the character's introspection, letting them question the good, bad, and somewhat between of themselves, their culture, and the strange, other nation. By this, the ugly and marvelous parts of both, the ever so sophisticated Western culture and tribal trouble on tropical islands, are compared and satirized.

I prefer the Discworld
I have absolutely no idea what it is, maybe the missing worldbuilding dynamic, maybe that Pratchett wasn´t used to create completely new characters, maybe that the intentions to put too much in just one book failed, but however it happened, it doesn´t offer the same satisfaction as much of Pratchetts´ other works. It´s good, clever, has some laughs, but who knows Pratchett is left with the feeling that there could have been so much more, maybe even a small series of 2 or 3 books included in the Discworld. That would have offered the potential for more settings, character development, and maybe a bit less philosophizing about white and grey morality and more action and funny dialogues instead.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:

This one is added to all Pratchettian reviews:
The idea of the dissected motifs rocks, highlighting the main real world inspirational elements of fiction and satire is something usually done with so called higher literature, but a much more interesting field in readable literature, as it offers the joy of reading, subtle criticism, and feeling smart all together.
Profile Image for Cait.
395 reviews12 followers
October 25, 2019
Dear Terry Pratchett,
It is entirely unfair that every book of yours I read increases my estimation for you. At some point, you will no longer be able to live up to my expectations, and on that day I am probably going to cry.
Sincerely, Cait, who is *EDIT* thinking about getting got a hermit crab tattoo.

I kind of don't want to talk about the plot, because: "Native boy and English girl survive tsunami, build empire of survivors and create a nation of science!" does not convey how awesome it all is.

Guys, this book is fantastic. It's about coming-of-age, religion, science, culture, exploration, tsunamis, the South Pacific, mysterious powers behind the throne, and also (and if you needed an also, I am going to point out that you and I might not be able to be friends anymore) there are tree climbing octopodes. )

Listened to the audiobook May 19, and this book is still fantastic. (The footnotes are awkward in audio, but otherwise, no complaints.)

Seriously, what more can you ask?
Profile Image for [ J o ].
1,936 reviews426 followers
May 30, 2019
Deciding what one reads for the quite particular milestone of the 1000th book read is quite something. Whilst stats are never important in any area of life (reading, playing Cricket, sex) they are incredibly fun. And, let's face it, 1000 is a ruddy good number. The importance of reading a good book on the 1000th turn was pivotal because the past few books have been, in a word, dire.

Charles Dickens was a good bet. Charles Dickens is always a good bet. Even when he dies and leaves a book unfinished, he's still a good bet. But Charles Dickens only really has a few ways of writing, a few things to write about. It was a slow world in 1854. Terry Pratchett on the other hand, the ever-funny, ever-real, ever-unashamed of voicing his views, is also a good bet... sort of. Discworld is brilliant, but this is not Discworld. This is... Other. And past experience with PTerry's other was mixed at best.

Nation is an alternative history edition of a marooned Westerner and a native indigenous Great Southern Pelagic Ocean (South Pacific Ocean) island dweller. On the surface it is a relative easy to read older children's book, much in the same vain as his Tiffany Aching Discworld novels. But, as with all of PTerry's works, scratch the surface just a little and you enter a world that is full of adult themes that we, for some reason, have initialised as being Too Grown Up For Kids And Therefore Should Never Be Mentioned In Front Of Them.

Death is a big part of PTerry's works. We don't have the capitalised DEATH of Discworld, but we still have the humour of death surrounding Mau. There's nothing twee here, which connects with the period this novel is set in: 1860s and people died a lot. Mostly of diseases. Death was never a mythical beast who visited and left a shadow but instead it was dealt with. Mau deals with it, as does Daphne, the Western cast-away. It is still dealt with calmly and there are no Lord of the Flies moments, but the important thing is that it is dealt with. It is fast-paced with the occasional lull, with no time for thoughts because of the situation, except the really big thoughts that are impossible to ignore no matter how many dead relatives one must bury.

Colonisation and Western approaches to dealing with Indigenous Peoples is also dealt with marvellously. It's ridiculous to expect every Westerner to apologise for what their ancestors did, but PTerry gives it a good go by offering up an alternative view of what should have happened. It's also a good way of seeing how other cultures expect children to grow in to adults, cutting out the society pressure of such a thing and instead giving Mau (and Daphne, to some extent) the means of physically and mentally growing in to adults by forcing them to become adults.

It is one of those kid's books that does not talk down to them, but instead talks them up. It is full of character who embody something different, yet are able to-somehow-work together for the same end. It has goodies and baddies, but also in-betweenies, which is rare in a kid's book. It is likeable and clever, but above all easy to read and understand. It is very funny and very, very Terry Pratchett.

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Profile Image for Lyn.
1,850 reviews16.4k followers
July 26, 2020
An excellent, non-Discworld book by Sir Terry.

About his 2008 publication, Pratchett himself stated "I believe that Nation is the best book I have ever written, or will write."

Nation was an Honor Book in the 2009 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. Nation also won the Brit Writer's Award Published Writer of the year 2010.

So what is all the fuss about?

Taking a break from his fabulously well to do Discworld series, Pratchett introduces us to an alternate history where young Ermintrude (who calls herself Daphne) is shipwrecked on a small South Pacific island, home to Mau.

What follows is, I agree, some of Pratchett's best writing, fun, fast moving, thoughtful, entertaining and inspiring.

138th in line to the English throne in what is in this time period to be about 1860, strange things happen, not the least of which is a massive tidal wave that deposits Daphne in the middle of the island. That same deadly wave has destroyed Mau's village and left him with the lonely business of cleaning things up and getting on with a life he is uncertain about. Lonely that is until Daphne shows up as well as a steady flow of other islanders, displaced by the storm, looking for refuge in the tiny island that is known as The Nation.

Pratchett fills his jaunty narrative with hints of fantasy, myth, legend and enough feel good to fill up an ocean going sailing ship. Exploring themes of family, community, loyalty and responsibility Pratchett has given us another great book to love.

Highly recommended.

Profile Image for Chrissy.
700 reviews9 followers
October 5, 2008
Disclaimer: I'm about to wax poetic in a totally corny way. Just warning you!

I am, and have been for years, of the opinion that Pratchett is the best writer there is. He continually serves up pitch perfect depictions of spectacular characters who are both wonderfully inventive, and at the same time purposefully normal. And in every book, hidden in the hilarity, and the side splitting satire, is a perfect pearl of truth about human nature. I remember when I first found one. It was the slender and yet unbreakable thread connecting the commercial idiocy of our Christmas season with a sweaty desperate beast running for it's life through a winter night, knowing its death was inevitable. Hogfather was a revelation for me.
For years Pratchett fans have been telling anyone who will listen that only the jokes kept Pratchett from being called a literary genius by the mainstream. For me, Nation is the final proof. No story that opens with such soul-deep sorrow can be called a comedy. There is some humor of course. The foul mouthed parrot is hard to miss, but even that has a somewhat sinister explanation. This is the first Pratchett book that I had to finish in one sitting. Always before they were savored over days. I knew I could trust Disc World to be alright in the end, and if some people met death in the process, well, he's a pretty good guy all around, so where's the harm in that. But Nation is not set on Disc World, but much closer to home, so I had to stay up until 3:15 AM to see how it all ended. Death is a much scarier guy in this book, although, at the end, much the same. The pearl of wisdom in this book is not small and not hidden. It's sitting right out there in the middle of the stage with flashing lights over its head. This is about why we believe or choose not to believe. In something. In anything. It's about us, but then again, it always is, even when its also about trolls and dwarves. And, as always, it is the characters that catch me. Two seemingly normal individuals, made extraordinary by circumstances and the way they react in those circumstances. In the end, I love Pratchett because he can show me characters that I know are human all the way to their toes, and yet, they give me hope. Mau, Vimes, Granny Weatherwax, even the Patrician, they don't do what they do so that people will thank them, appreciate them, worship them. They do what they do because it needs doing, and no one else stood up for the job. They do the hard jobs, they give up certain niceties in life so that at the end of the day, all is well, not just for them, but for everyone. It gives me faith that somewhere in this world there are men and women like that. It gives me hope that the human race as a whole might be worthwhile. In the end, all I can say is, Terry, Thanks.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,108 reviews44.2k followers
April 17, 2016
Terry Pratchett is a weird and wonderful writer; his style is completely unique. There really is no other author quite like him and there will probably never be another, a true orginal. His humour is so strange, but remarkably witty. Some of the metaphors he uses are just plain genius. This is the first Terry Pratchett book I read, and I really do need to go and read some more.

This novel takes place on a wacky island full of strange creatures and even stranger people. The island's bananas are pink, the trees secrete poison, it has tree climbing octopus, and stones that are worshipped as gods by the inhabitants. Doesn't it just sound like a great place? Unfortunately for Mau, one of two protagonists in this novel, his tribe is wiped out by a great wave that surges all nearby land.

“He could see that the village had gone. The wave had sliced it off the island. A few stumps marked the place the long house had stood since….. for ever. The wave had torn up the reef. A wave like that would not have even noticed the village."



On the other hand, the island itself remains intact. Mau, however, doesn’t have a soul. He was completing his initiation to manhood when the wave struck; he didn’t get chance to finish as the initiators all died leaving his transcendence incomplete. What’s the poor half-man to do? He concocts a death wish plain and simple. There’s no reason to live anymore. Well, until the second protagonist’s boat, Sweet Jude, shipwrecks her on the island.

Ermintrude (later called Daphne) is a trouserwoman: a person from civilisation who is not a tribal and is defined by her culture's wearing of trousers! Quite funny really, these people are silly trousermen and silly trouserwomen, well at least they are to Mau. Pratchett has created a brilliant narrative voice for Mau that is ever so evocative of his innocence and of his humorous perceptions of westerners. Ermintrude almost shoots him when they first meet and the poor lad thinks the gun is a “spark-maker” to help with building fires. Is this a frown at imperialism? I think so.

Ermintrude is also a lady who loves to use the etiquette her Grandmother has taught her, quite the contrast to Mau’s tribal standards. After the two get over their first hilariously embarrassing attempts of communication, and manage to gain a small degree of understanding of one another, they must try to survive on the remains of the wonderful island. No easy task considering another bunch of people wash up on island including a wise old priest, a pregnant mute woman and eventually another family group. This is foreshadowed by the approaching cannibalistic raiders that want to kill everyone on the island. Mau and Daphne must solidify their newly forming culture with the remains of the old one, and learn to survive.

This book was great. The writing was superb, the plot exciting and the characters well rounded and funny. More importantly, however, Terry pratchett is an uplifting change to those novelists who take themselves too seriously. I should read more books like this, books that are random and odd

Here's a picture of a bird:

Profile Image for Amanda.
282 reviews315 followers
June 20, 2013
Young Mau is a boy living on an island he knows only as the Nation. He has been sent to the Boy's Island where he must survive until he can, using only the tools of the island, build a canoe that will take him on the return voyage to the Nation. By doing so, he will prove that he is a man and the village will celebrate as he sheds his boy's soul and takes on his man's soul.

Except, when he returns, there are no fires. There are no feasts. There is no one to welcome him home. What is there is death, destruction, and the dawning realization that the Nation, a powerful island tribe, has now been reduced to a population of one. If Mau dies, then the Nation--its heritage, its ancestors, its religion--will die, too.

This book had two strikes against it when I picked it up: 1) it's marketed as young adult and 2) my one foray into Pratchett's writing, The Color of Magic, was underwhelming. So Nation was a very pleasant surprise. This isn't young adult literature in the sense that it's written strictly for a younger audience, but I think it has been labeled as such because the protagonist is young and, now that no one is there to perform the rituals that will draw his man's soul to him, wonders if he'll always be more than a boy but less than a man.

What seems to be a deceptively simple adventure tale on the surface has levels of complexity as it explores issues tied to colonialism, existentialism, feminism, and racism (and one must admit that's an impressive collection of "isms"). As Mau works tirelessly to bury the bodies at sea according to custom, he begins to--as so many do after a traumatic and life-altering crisis--question the gods and everything he's ever been taught to believe in. This confrontation with the void is complicated by the fact that Mau suddenly hears what may be the voices of the gods speaking directly to him. When he comes into contact with whites, he questions whether or not his people, who seemed to have everything, were really inferior savages.

Now, if all that sounds terribly tedious and didactic to you, WAIT--THERE'S MORE! There's also action, adventure, romance, and humor. There are tsunamis, shipwrecks, mutineers, kings, secret passages, sharks, beer, cannons, and a foul-mouthed parrot. And there's a damsel who can take care of herself, thank you very much.

And that's the wonderful thing about this book. It causes the reader to think while being entertained. And Pratchett accomplishes all of this without being preachy or trying to substitute his answer for your own. In fact, his message seems to be that you must have faith in something--whether it's a god, a science, or a nation. As long as what you believe in is good and furthers mankind, your faith is not wasted. Perhaps his stance is best summed up by one of the characters:

Everything I know makes me believe Imo [the god of the islanders] is in the order that is inherent, amazingly, in all things, and in the way the universe opens to our questioning. When I see the shining path over the lagoon, on an evening like this, at the end of a good day, I believe . . . I just believe. You know, in things generally. That works too. Religion is not an exact science. Sometimes, of course, neither is science. (366)

In Nation, as in life, there are no easy answers, but, as in life, it's one helluva ride.

Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder and at Shelf Inflicted
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,153 reviews2,004 followers
October 29, 2016
I am a huge Terry Pratchett fan but have to admit I like his adult books best. His YA writings, like this one, are simpler, not as cynical and therefore not as funny. Nevertheless they are still very good.
Nation begins with a tsunami which wipes out the residents of many islands including the one where Mau ends up being the only survivor. A variety of refugees arrive over the following days and numerous entertaining events occur. Pratchett does delve quite deeply into beliefs and the existence or otherwise of gods. Mau considers at length what kind of gods would let so many people die. The humour in the book comes mostly from the relationships and eventual understandings which develop between the islanders and the "trouser people" ( that's us - people who wear trousers!)
This is a good book which just occasionally lets itself wander a bit too far too often into philosophising. Still very good reading:)
Profile Image for Betsy.
Author 8 books2,707 followers
August 2, 2008
This is YA so I won't give it an official review, but man is it top notch stuff. Faith and desert islands. Foul-mouthed parrots and science. It's a little like Swiss Family Robinson, a little like Casablanca, and a little like nothing I've read before. Grand great stuff.
Profile Image for Jay Kristoff.
Author 33 books23.5k followers
February 10, 2012
I'm not the world's biggest Terry Pratchett fan. I've tried getting into Diskworld on no less than 4 occasions, and have always stumbled by about book 4. BUT, the bride insisted I give NATION a shot because it's a stand alone, and hell, when the bride insists, the wise man listens.

So this was a pretty great book. It feels like it could have done with a *tiny* bit more... I don't know what. 'Polish' is the wrong word. I don't know what the right word is. But I read somewhere that the idea for NATION has been bubbling around in Pratchett's head for years, and he felt compelled to write it now before his Alzheimer's takes away his ability to do so. Which is sad. And it explains that feeling I got while reading it that hey, this is really good, but with a bit more...something, it could have been one of the greatest books I've read in my life.

Pratchett has a knack for saying everyday things in a wonderful way. Mau is just a fantastic character - a boy who has lost his family, his country and his faith, and has to rebuild himself from the ground on up. Daphne the Ghost Girl is excellent too. In parts the book is very funny, and I almost get disappointed when Pratchett stoops to poo-poo and vomit jokes, but hey, he's British and as Ben Elton says, bodily functions are the basis for their entire culture (he said it, not me, get offended at him if you wanna)

NATION is a book about religion and origins. Its a book about universal truths, regardless of class or race or upbringing, about the things that make us all the same. It's deeply insightful and the prose is, as I already said, simply wonderful in parts. So even if you're not a Pratchett fan, pick it up. It's well worth your time.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,211 reviews111 followers
November 13, 2008
I suppose that after twenty-five years of writing DiscWorld novels, Terry Pratchett has earned the right to do something a bit different. And different is precisely what he does with his latest novel, "Nation."

"Nation" is a story set in a parallel universe to ours, but it's not the world of DiscWorld. (Though it could someday be, I suppose, though I hope Pratchett resists the temptation to "tie together" all his universes).

Mau is a young boy, sent on a quest to become a man by his tribe. Daphne is a young girl on a large ship from a "civilized" nation, headed out to join her father at a foreign post. This unlikely duo cross paths when a huge wave wipes out Mau's entire village and shipwrecks Daphne on an island with him. Together, the two must learn to forge a new civilization, figuring out what is essential to keep from their old lives and what can and probably should be discarded from their old ways of life.

Eventually, the two begin to forge their own civilization and soon have various refuges showing up, looking for shelter who become part of the new nation being formed on the island.

As I said before, if you're looking for your "typical" Pratchett, you'd be best advised to pick up a DiscWorld novel. That's not to dismmiss "Nation," but instead to say that this story has the same style but is distinctly different. Pratchett still has a way with words, but it's used less to humorous effect here and more toward building the world and finding new and interesting ways to describe things.

And this is a novel that is firmly about the characters of Mau, Daphne. Pratchett spends a good deal of time early in the story estabishing who they and the backgrounds they come form, all before beginning to tear it down and rebuild things. It's an interesting process to watch unfold on the page and it leads to some interesting observations by Pratchett through the eyes of his two characters.

In his epilogue, Pratchett says he hopes this novel will make readers think. And while there were moments in the story where I wondered what he was up to, I will have to admit the ideas, concepts and torn-down assumptions from this novel have stayed with me long after the last page was turned.

It's not DiscWorld. It's some very different. And it's something very good.
Profile Image for David Rubenstein.
801 reviews2,516 followers
July 9, 2014
Don't let the cartoonish book cover fool you, as it did me--this is a lovely story about two young people from totally different societies, in the nineteenth century. Mau is a boy who has lived on a small island for his entire life. He has just accomplished his month-long rite of passage to manhood. He returns to his home island on a canoe that he built, as a tsunami completely devastates his home. That same tsunami throws a British ship onto the uncharted island, and Daphne is the only survivor--a young woman of nobility.

So these two young people meet, a sort of Adam and Eve story in which neither understands the other's language, behavior, customs, or lifestyle. Mau struggles desperately to understand how the gods could allow such an enormous calamity to befall his people. He continually questions his religion and his sacred beliefs. The best parts of the book are those where Mau and Daphne try to understand one another, their motivations, beliefs, and relationships with other people.

Mau and Daphne save each others' lives, as well as the lives of other islanders who gradually make their way to the island. They are both amazingly courageous, smart, hard-working, and resilient. They both are clever enough to extricate themselves out of bad situations. Daphne is sure that someday a British ship will come and find her--and try to take possession of the island. It is up to the two of them to figure out a way to keep Western civilization from ruining the island.

I highly recommend this book. The story is fast-paced, humorous at times, and scary at other times. It obviously is intended for young adults, but older adults can enjoy it also!
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews1,980 followers
June 17, 2013


I was forewarned by friends and readers. I have read – and loved – a couple of other books by the author. So it’s not like I didn’t know the odds this would be good but this book? It blew my mind away. In its epilogue, Terry Pratchett says:

Thinking. This book contains some.

And that’s true: this is one of the most think-y books I have ever read. I loved it with every fibre of my being.

Nation is a book of ideas. Its main theme, that of construction and creation: the construction of a home, of a family, of rules, tradition and religion. It is about those building blocks of civilisation itself and of individuals, in a way that is both extremely rational and enormously emotional. Writing that line just now makes me realise how weird that might sound to those who haven’t read the book. Above all it makes me think about how hard it is to pull something like this off and to keep a balance between what drives a story and the story itself without making a book about ideas, a book that is solely about ideas. If that makes any sense at all – I am finding it extremely hard to write this review because how do you describe perfection? Especially when it’s so affecting?

Nation is a book about creation.

It starts with the destruction of everything one of its main characters knows.

There is a small island in the Great Southern Pelagic Ocean in a world very much like ours (but not quite) where young boys go through a ceremony where they shed their boy-souls to gain their man-souls. Mau is on the Boy’s Island and is about to cross over to the main island to become a man when the big wave comes. He survives it but when he goes ashore to his home, to the Nation, he discovers everything he knows and everyone he loves has been washed away. His first action is to build a spear: “Without fire and a spear, you could never hope to be a man, wasn’t that right?”.
But soulless Mau is all alone and nobody answers him.

All alone that is, but for Daphne, a young girl who was aboard the Sweet Judy ship, whose wrecked remains are now part of the Nation. They are different because their background, their language, their traditions are dissimilar. They are equals because they share this tragedy and because they are both thinkers. Together, they work to survive and to create a home for those who slowly start to come to the Nation in search of a haven after unspeakable tragedy.

First comes an old man, a priest who wants things to be kept as they always were and whose unquestioned belief in their Gods remains unshaken. With him, a young sickly woman with a newborn baby who is barely moving and can hardly feed. Everybody’s immediate response is to fall back into the roles they have always known: if the mother cannot feed her baby, the only one who can help is of course, the other female, Daphne. Except Daphne – a young girl raised by a grandmother who believes young ladies should be Proper – doesn’t even know how babies are made. Mau does what must be done in order to keep the baby alive. Hilarity ensues when he milks a wild pig but also: enlightenment for both Daphne and Mau. Women are not born knowing how to care for babies. Things that appear deep seated gender-led knowledge are not. A man’s soul is not created magically because one crosses from one island to another.

So, first comes destruction. Then, deconstruction: little by little, both characters observe this new world and question the old one in search of answers. It is a kind of stripping down to one’s very core in order to understand. But it is a stripping down without letting go of the past completely because the rules are there. So Mau is walking around the island and he hears the Grandfathers’ voices telling him what to do, to follow their traditions, not question their religion, otherwise there is no order. As much as Daphne abhors her grandmother’s voice inside her head telling her to be Quiet and Proper, she keeps listening to it non-stop. Motivation counts too and Mau is angry. He is angry at the Gods and that leads him to question their very existence. Daphne is not moved by religion at all but by Science. There is sympathy and compassion toward other characters and those find their own balance and their own way of surviving.

In a way, a wave came but they are not completely marooned because they have Tradition. But does Tradition serve them at this time of need or is that now an impediment? How important is it to keep going as it “has always been”? Or is this yet another misconception about the world? Slowly: the understanding that those are internalised voices and that questioning is good. To understand the HOW is all the more important: history becomes religion becomes tradition becomes internal rules living inside one’s head.

Then, forging and building. Mau and Daphne build themselves up and their thoughts are the roots on which they build a new Nation. And they do that by means of Scientific Method.

And that is accomplished in a story that is moving, sad, hopeful and funny. Mau and Daphne have hilarious misunderstandings before they lean to communicate. Their community is built and deep connections are formed between people. A new Nation is born out of the old and people still have parties, drink beer, laugh, love, pray and look at the sky.

Also: parallel universes.

I don’t know how my reading of this particular book has been affected by the fact that I am new to Terry Pratchett’s main oeuvre but this to me, was simply wonderful. Interestingly enough, limited as my Terry Pratchett experience might be, I found Nation to be slightly different in tone (not as funny) to the other books I have read from the author but exactly the same in how smart it is.

Nation is a rich and intricate novel. Yes ,it does have an obvious message about the power and importance of thinking, but this never overwhelms the characters or the story. I understood this very well when I started crying when the book was over. Plus, the epilogue is a wonderful gift from an author who truly understands his readers.

This book spoke to me in a deeply personal level and I can’t recommend it enough.
Profile Image for Susana.
473 reviews140 followers
December 6, 2016
(review in English below)

Esta história inicia-se com um tsunami, que desencadeia todos os acontecimentos que se seguem.
Ler este livro foi como se também eu tivesse sido apanhada por esse tsunami - foi completamente inesperado e seguramente terá consequências duradouras, uma das quais será a obrigatoriedade de ler mais livros de Terry Pratchett.

Disfarçado de história de aventuras para jovens, esta é na verdade uma reflexão muito acutilante sobre o significado da vida, a importância das escolhas que fazemos e como acontecimentos que parecem catastróficos podem levar a experiências incríveis e de tal forma transformadoras que, por mais terríveis que possam ter sido esses acontecimentos, duvidaríamos em optar (se isso fosse possível) por que não tivessem sucedido.

Esta é uma história sobre a descoberta de si próprio, sobre a tolerância, sobre a amizade, sobre a coragem.

A escrita de Pratchett é inteligente, muito inteligente. As descrições são muito boas e os diálogos melhores ainda.

Apenas uma nota para alguns aspectos da tradução, que no geral é boa (bem como a revisão): o Renato Carreira tem de se habituar a usar mais pronomes. Eu já tinha feito este reparo quando li O Medo do Homem Sábio, também traduzido por ele (review aqui: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...).
Mas aqui foi pior, porque há frases que ficam sem sentido, por exemplo: "O sermão foi bastante molhado, porque cuspia uma nuvem de perdigotos quando gritava, ..." - não era o sermão que cuspia, certamente...

De qualquer modo, quer leiam a tradução ou o original, leiam! É muito bom!

This story begins with a tsunami, which triggers all the events that take place afterwards.
Reading this book felt like I too had been caught by that tsunami - it was completely unexpected and it will surely have long-lasting consequences, one of which is the obligation for me to read more books by Terry Pratchett.

Disguised as an adventure story for young people, this is in fact a very sharp reflexion on the meaning of life, the importance of the choices we make and how seemingly catastrophic events can lead to amazing experiences, which can be so life changing that we would doubt to opt (if it was possible) for those events, as terrible as they might have been, not to have occurred.

This is a story about discovering oneself, about tolerance, about friendship, about courage.

Pratchett's writing is clever, very clever. Descriptions are really good and dialogues are even better.

Just read it!
Profile Image for Juliet.
Author 83 books10.8k followers
September 28, 2010
A great read! Nation works on many levels, and although it was marketed towards a YA readership, the novel has plenty of substance to keep adult readers thinking. The two main characters, an island boy just coming to adulthood and a shipwrecked Victorian girl whose father is 139th in line for the British throne, are vastly different in cultural background and life experience, but when put to the test, they find they have much in common. Both Mau and Daphne are brave souls with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

Highly recommended for all readers. Don't assume this is a Pratchett book in the Discworld vein - there's very little madcap humour here, but plenty to entertain you and provide food for thought.
Profile Image for Marc *Dark Reader of the Woods*.
769 reviews122 followers
April 27, 2022
Reread in audiobook. My first and only prior reading would have been shortly after release.

Bloody brilliant, and, at the time of publication, a surprising departure from his Discworld series. If I recall correctly, Sir Terry cited this as the best book he thinks he ever wrote, and it's certainly at least as good as his best Discworld books. Though not specifically humorous, it has wit built in. The same can be said of all of his books, I suppose, but this one in particular tones down the funny bits.

It's a kind of primal, essential story about the meaning of life, set in an alternate history but very similar to 18th or 19th century British Colonial times, mostly involving a small island in the South Pacific, one of a group of thousands of such, but the only one where the Nation dwelt. After a devastating tsunami, Mau is the lone survivor of the Nation, and thus is the Nation, and must rebuild the Nation, despite that he is neither a boy nor a man and has no soul. He gets a little help from Ermintrude Daphne, an English girl, and no help from the gods, or his Grandfathers.

It's a moving, deceptively simple story, and is probably the most mature book I have ever read featuring mid-pubescent characters. The audiobook narration by Stephen Briggs is phenomenal, so much so that I was able to fully enjoy an audiobook for perhaps the first time ever.
Profile Image for Amy.
651 reviews131 followers
July 21, 2008
This is a book that I found myself calling wonderful from the very beginning and immediately knowing it would be a favorite. It's one I'd recommend to nearly anyone. Be sure to buy a copy when it comes out in October of 2008.

This alternate history takes place in a time when the redcoats were plopping down flags on islands without asking the permission of the natives. Most authors fail to give such natives equal or superior intellectual status with their European contemporaries. Instead, such people are painted as savages. Pratchett seeks here to blur the normal lines between civilized and savage and redefine these words.

The story begins when "savage" Mau returns to his particular island for his ceremony of manhood only to find that the entire Nation has been swept away in a tidal wave. Upon his return, he finds Daphne, a "civilized" European teenage girl, who has been washed on shore in the remains of her ship. Out of fear, Daphne immediately and savagely tries to shoot the native islander. They eventually have to look past their pre-conceived ideas of each other as different varieties of savages to make the Nation live again. Soon other survivors from around the area begin to show up to take refuge there. Mau finds himself stealing milk from a wild hog and Daphne finds herself delivering babies and making beer. After Mau retrieves a fourth never-before-seen god anchor from the sea, Daphne urges him to go one step further and roll away a very ancient stone from the mouth of a cave to uncover other secrets of his forefathers. This is when a most amazing and unexpected discovery surfaces that "turns the world upside down" and puts into question history as we know it.

Benjamin Franklin said in his essay "Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America" that "if we could examine the manners of different nations with Impartiality, we should find no People so rude, as to be without any Rules of Politeness; nor any so polite, as not to have some remains of Rudeness." In Nation, Pratchett seeks to define the difference between the civilized and the savage in a different way than we normally do. Is one country civilized just because they were luckier in their inventions or the natural resources available to them? Is a cannibal more savage than a man who kills people and other living beings just for the fun of it? Could only Europeans come to logical conclusions about life and the nature of the universe?

I wish this had been written by an American author so I could assign it in my American literature class. I just had my students debate whether native American Indians were civilized or savage. This book would have been the perfect accompaniment to that debate.

Note: While I critique both purchased and free books in the same way, I'm legally obligated to tell you I received this book free through the Amazon Vine program in return for my review. Blah blah blah.
Profile Image for Lady Nerd.
132 reviews68 followers
May 24, 2020
DNF at 17%
Edit: Ok, I resumed reading this and it’s better now. I’ll update it after I finish it.
Profile Image for Liz Janet.
582 reviews381 followers
March 6, 2016
“They didn't know why these things were funny. Sometimes you laugh because you've got no more room for crying. Sometimes you laugh because table manners on a beach are funny. And sometimes you laugh because you're alive, when you really shouldn't be.”

The day I began and finished this book, I received the news that Sir Terry Pratchett had died. I was in school, this was my face:

I have read many of his books, not all of the Discworld, but I will get there. All of his books I have loved or admire for one reason or the other, the humour, the plot, the characters, the writing, at least one of those was always constant with his works, this book had them all. This is also a young-adult book, he has written others before, but this one stands out, because of the extensive world-building he did, as well as the dynamic characters he created.
The easiest way anyone would describe this book would be "it is a survival story," and it is, but such a simplistic view does a disservice to this work. It is also about the world, and our place in it, tribal mentality, various religions, devastating loss, a search for identity. Basically, this is everything Robinson Crusoe should have been but wasn't.

That is all I have to say of the book, but to Sir Terry: Thank you, you have made my reading experiences a wonderful thing, I am glad I got to read many of your books, and that I still have more to read. Rest In Peace, Sir.
Profile Image for Erin.
24 reviews
December 22, 2020
Pratchett takes on imperialism, religion, women, men and fate.

He does it well, and with greater grace than I can explain without spoilers. Just read it because I told you so, okay?
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,477 reviews937 followers
April 16, 2016
A serious book from a comedy writer. The book is targeted at young adults, but I find it appealing at any age, as long as we remember that we were kids once, or that we will have kids of our own. This is the kind of story I would like to put in their hands.
With a tale of catastrophe in an alternate-Earth Pacific ocean and a boy meets girl on a desert island, I thought at the beginning this will go either the Blue Lagoon way or the Lord of the Flies way. But sir Terry Pratchett goes his own way. While the story is much darker than the Discworld novels, this is a labour of love and a celebration of our humanity in the face of adversity.
It is probably impossible for Pratchett to not be funny , it is as natural to him as breathing. So the funny parts are there, not so much the in your face slapstick from The Colour of Magic, but the more subtle type of social commentary and gentle sarcasm from his later novels.

A little warning: the author is a scientist and a humanist and raises a lot of issues about religion in Nation . The scope is not to take pot shots at believers or to be insensitive to their faith, but to ask some difficult questions and to take the human spirit out the protective shell of ready-made thoughts (there's an appropriate blue crab analogy repeated in the text).

[edit 2016 - for spelling]
Profile Image for Furrawn.
556 reviews45 followers
March 7, 2015
Unexpectedly, this book is my absolute favorite of all the Terry Pratchett books I've read so far, and I've read a lot.
I don't recall there being a lot of fanfare and declarations of love for this book when it was published.

I declare love. True love

Mau, a native. Ermintrude-Daphne-ghostgirl, a city girl. A tidal wave. Homemade beer from poison (reminiscent of kava). Lots of gods and ancestors. A cursing parrot. Humanity. Hope. Desolation. Telescopes. Pantaloons.

A new word for spiders.

"Insects went zing and zip all around her, but they weren’t as bad as the huge spiders that had woven their webs right across the paths and then hung in them, bigger than a hand and almost spitting with rage. Daphne had read in one of her books about the Great Southern Pelagic Ocean islands that "with a few regrettable examples, the larger and more fearsome the spider is, the less likely it is to be venomous.- She didn’t believe it. She could see Regrettable Examples everywhere, and she was sure that some of them were drooling" ---The Nation / Terry Pratchett

Yep. Regrettable Example. The new word for spiders.

I'd like to absorb this book into my cells. It will become a best friend, read many times.

Bravo, Terry. Bravo.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,358 reviews454 followers
May 6, 2020
I'm about half way through and am truly thrilled by this one. Pratchett is brilliant at writing how people think about things, and think their way through things, and this story, focused on two young people in a catastrophe, is all about thinking their way through.


Lovely. A little sad, but appropriately so. Also, funny as hell. Love the premise, and I'm feeling smug that he mentions thinking among his brief notes at the back.

This may be my favorite Pratchett.


I grabbed this from the library because Pratchett, and it must have been out on display. Doesn't matter. I had not remembered that it started with a plague.

It's a very hopeful book.

Library copy

Profile Image for Joaquin Garza.
525 reviews631 followers
July 8, 2019
A estas alturas a nadie deberian caberles dudas de la monumental inteligencia que tenía el Tío Terry. Yo además he notado en varias ocasiones, una cultura suprema que se nota mucho en la manera en la que construye muchos de los juegos de palabras para denominar sus creaciones. Incluso hay quien lo llama "sabio". Yo llego más bien a llamarlo "prudente" y les contaré por qué.

Estoy circulando de nuevo al Mundodisco, después de los cuatro libros que leí hace dos años. Este año comencé por Camioneros, seguí por Buenos Presagios y ahora Nación. He estado escuchando a gente que dice que éste es de los mejores libros de Pratchett, si no es que su obra cumbre. Escrita en 2008, cerca del diagnóstico de Alzheimer y probablemente influida por el tema del Tsunami de Asia, esta obra presenta los mismos temas de siempre de Pratchett, pero con una vuelta de tuerca.

Dado que este libro fue escrito cuando Sir Terry ya conocía que no le quedaba mucho tiempo, hay una frontalidad mucho más obvia que en el resto de las obras del Mundodisco o, Camioneros (que curiosamente presenta una resolución parecida al manejo de lo sobrenatural). Esta frontalidad llega, en mi particular parecer, a llegar al descuido. Es decir: al hacer hombres de paja de las cosas a las que se opone. Y esto no es precisamente porque el autor haya escrito este libro más enojado que de costumbre, sino que ya no tenía suficiente tiempo o humor para dejar a medias tintas.

Es como si fuera el meme de Bart Simpson golpeando una cacerola con una cuchara: "Hey. Por si no lo entendieron, esto es en lo que creo".

Todo mundo sabe eso que dice que Gaiman de que las obras de su compadre estaban motivadas por la furia. Detrás del ji ji ji y el jo jo jo a Pratchett se le nota una frustración suprema con las cosas que no le parecían de la humanidad. Pero rara vez llegó a verse tan, digamos, directo como con esta novela.

La historia alternativa de un tsunami que golpea a unas islas (que en realidad son parte de la Polinesia Francesa) sirve de telón de fondo a una historia que llega a ser enternecedora en el relato de dos preadolescentes que descubren su camino de formas distintas, pero juntos. Además del tema teológico, están presentes los temas de los roles de género, el clásico "why can't we be friends" de las relaciones internacionales (puestas en el contexto del Imperio) y mi favorita, las consideraciones sobre la ley y lo justo.

Los dos personajes evolucionan rápido en medio del trauma, pero Daphne parece un poco más orgánica en su desarrollo. Mau obviamente padece de PTSD pero su camino al liderazgo no me pareció tan bien retratado. De todas formas, la parte de la aventura y las escenas de "acción" son tremendamente buenas, así como el relativamente poco humor (para los estándares del autor): no me reí nunca pero sí sonreí contento de las puntadas.

A veces me parece que Pratchett se comportó aquí como un Voltaire un pelín trasnochado (emocionándose con debates del siglo XVIII) y mostrando una cierta ingenuidad sobre que la ciencia pura puede todo. Pero la novela es un sólido 4 por la acción, los personajes, lo vibrante de muchos temas, lo exhuberante de la ambientación y sobretodo, porque es una novela inteligente. A pesar de que Pratchett es mucho m��s directo en este libro, fiel a su estilo se muestra como un hombre al final respetuoso: te dice qué es lo que cree y cuánto cree en la humanidad, pero te deja la puerta abierta a creer lo que tú creas.
Profile Image for Jeannette.
650 reviews140 followers
November 24, 2018
Also available on the WondrousBooks blog.

This is most likely the nicest book I've read this year and I'm really glad I received it as a birthday gift (if you're reading this, thank you).

Nation reminded me everything that's great with Pratchett and added a little bit extra to what I liked about him. The book was both very intelligently written and extremely clever, and sweet and heart-felt at the same time.

Nation follows the story of Mau, a boy on the verge of becoming a man, who is the last survivor of his entire "nation", and Daphne (Ermintrude), who finds herself a world away from where she belongs, and yet, at exactly the right place.

Considering Terry Pratchett's usual writing style, this book was no exception to the rule: it was funny, as was to be expected, and full of both knowledge of the world, witty comparisons between our world and the one in the book, and also deeply philosophical, without appearing so at first glance. While the main topic of the book might be tightly related to the idea of the nation, as the title suggests, and also the concept of death, I would say that the thoughts and emotions expressed in Nation went well beyond that. While not being overly nationalistic, if at all, I still felt a deep connection to the struggles of the characters, because more than anything, I think what they desired was not really a nation, but a feeling that you belong. Of course, one belongs nowhere more than with his/her own people and in his/her own family, but really, people have proven time and again that a tribe can also be just two people who understand each other.

“No more words. We know them all, all the words that should not be said. But you have made my world more perfect.” 

Daphne and Mau were most likely the two best characters I've read about in a really long time. Both were stubborn and clever, yet kind and caring, and simply... human. In a vast world of either extremely damaged characters, or overly perfect ones, it was very touching to read about two such people, who had compelling personalities in the most subtle way possible. There was not a second in the book were I wasn't rooting for them and their happiness. Page after page I kept being impressed by the simple beauty with which Pratchett created both characters. What Daphne and Mau represented to me, really, was this indestructible will to be more than the bad situation that you are in.

“The world is a globe — the farther you sail, the closer to home you are.”
Profile Image for Christopher.
513 reviews17 followers
November 14, 2008
Terry Pratchett is very angry.

At first glance, it looks like Pratchett has combined the descriptions from Simon Winchester's Krakatoa and the Indonesian tsunami with the central question of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel (i.e. why do the Europeans have all the stuff and pacific islanders don't).

But that's the surface, in this case much of the plot. The deep part is a look at the process of grieving. It isn't the simple seven steps. Our main character Mau (I kept reading it as Man at first...our everyman vs. the gods), is pretty clear that he will not settle for that last step, acceptance.

One of Pratchett's most well known characters is Death. But the likable Death of the Discworld books is not in this book (and yes, the Death of Discworld has appeared in other works by Pratchett not set on that world). Instead we get Locaha, who is much more of a fallen-angel Lucifer than an embodiment of the end of life...more a cheating trickster opponent than a welcome friend.

Maybe I'm reading too far into it knowing that Pratchett has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's.

But Pratchett has the right and the reason to be angry. We all do.
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