He was also a great writer, though I never really “got” his surreal Discworld novels.
If he’d written nothing else – and in fact he wrote around 60 books – his place in the pantheon would be assured by his 2008 novel Nation.
Marketed as a book for “young adults”, it is superb writing for adult adults too. As clever as it’s gripping, sharp and warm in its characterisation, it is a thrilling book in all the best senses. And it’s deeply thought-provoking on a number of vital issues, such as race, gender, science and religion.
It was timely – prescient, even – in its depiction of a Pacific island community overwhelmed by a catastrophic tidal wave.
I recommend it heartily. Which seems rather grim so soon after the near-obliteration of life as the people of Vanuatu have known it.
Hearts must go out to those poor people whose homes, loved ones and livelihoods have been swept away by a storm of unprecedented ferocity.
Unprecedented, but don’t call it a freak. “Freak” weather events are getting commoner. The chances are more cyclones like the inaptly named Pam will happen – soon, and frequently.
It’s inevitable, and right, that countries around the world should rush to Vanuatu’s aid.
But – and I hope this doesn’t sound too heartless – I wonder if anyone should really be talking about “rebuilding” the country. To do so might be a case of being kind to be cruel. Putting people back in the path of peril.
The world needs to address the issue of climate change much more urgently than it has yet done.
A vital part of that must be accepting the changes that are already inevitable.
Which, to be brutal, may mean small island nations like Vanuatu and the low-lying Tuvalu will not be habitable for much longer.
Perhaps, rather than rebuilding flattened homes we should be offering the victims safe places to build new lives.