By Shannon Bond
What happens when cultures collide? Terry Pratchett explores this in his often-hilarious book, Nation. This coming-of-age story takes place on a tropical island in an alternate universe on an earth like ours. Pratchett, known for his Discworld series, lures the reader in with well-developed characters and a masterfully-crafted world.
Mau returns from a rite of passage on a neighboring island, anxious for his transition into manhood, but a tsunami has swept his island nation away. Soon, he finds Daphne, a shipwreck survivor. Naturally, she is the daughter of the 137th heir to the throne of England and expects a timely rescue. Until then, she must work with Mau to survive.
Mau and Daphne learn to communicate and build a new society with other survivors who wash up. Pratchett weaves humor through the serious themes as the characters miscommunicate, milk a pig, learn about breastfeeding, and chew meat for an elderly woman. Through it all, Mau plunges ahead even as the voices of his ancestors plague him.
Nation is full of action, a touch of magic, and has a few creatures like tree climbing octopi and death himself; it is Terry Pratchett after all. But, the characters carry the story. They explore what it means to be an individual in a society full of customs and traditions. They discover the need for science and religion, and what it means to shape one’s own system of belief. And they challenge the traditional role of gender in a dystopian landscape haunted by the remnants of a nation that no longer exists.
In the end, a shocking discovery on the island changes Mau and Daphne’s understanding of the world.
You can find Nation on goodreads.com and available in print or ebook at: