Mythopoeic if there ever was, Terrry Pratchett’s 2008 novel Nation is an Adam and Eve clash of native and western values, with the cream that rises to the top taken to drink. A wave from a tsunami wave carrying the native Mau and the colonial Daphne to the same beach, slowly the survivors of Mau’s tribe and Daphne’s shipwreck begin appearing onshore, fleshing out the two sides’ differences but forcing them to establish compromises—yes, as only Pratchett can write.
It should be stated that Nation is not a Discworld novel. Pratchett sticks to the real world, but given he does nothing to change his style of writing, nevertheless feels very much like a Discworld offering. Mau, Daphne, or any of the other characters could quite easily appear on the streets of Ankh-Morpork. Thus for anyone concernd non-Discworld = non-Pratchett, fear not: Nation could not be mistaken for anything but a Pratchett offering.
At the thematic level, Pratchett uses the Adam & Eve scenario—wild man with civilized woman—to take a fresh look at society and how it is organized, the value of religion and science, and gender relations. Essentially a tackling of the leading pain points among contemporary culture wars, Pratchett applies the club of logical practicality that transcends any extremes to focus on true humanism. He also applies the club of humor, which indirectly serves to point out how foolish a lot of the banter and ‘discussion’ currently ongoing in these arenas is overblown. For example, Pratchett cuts to the heart of male-female relations with the knife of practicality. Where much of the contemporary gender scene gets bogged down (to put it lightly) in minutae, Pratchett sticks to the important points yet does so in a perennial and progressive manner, understanding and adaptation the cornerstones from which he builds the novel’s gender ideals.
In the end, Nation is for me not as strong a novel as some of Pratchett’s other books simply because I have read so much of him. For the uninitiated, it’s likely the more overt presentation of Pratchett’s socio-political ideals will make a stronger impression. That being said, Nation remains imminently readable. Pratchett is in great form humor-wise, with many laugh out loud moments, and as always, his observations on human behavior are astute. Thus the novel comes highly recommended, just more experienced fans of Pratchett may not find the spice of Discworld they seek.