This time Pratchett parodies Hollywood and the many mores surrounding it.

The book starts when the last of the guardians of the otherworldly Holy Wood dies without a successor. So the sort-of-magical effects of Holy Wood start to seep though Ank-Morpork ensnaring unsuspecting people’s dreams and replacing them with Holy Wood’s own dreams of celebrity. Holy Wood puts its dreams and desires into the minds of the Alchemists who mostly think that they themselves have invented how to do films. They set out to build the town of Holy Wood to film their movies.

The book has a new hero, a long-time wizard pupil Victor Tugelbend, who sneaks out of the Unseen University and is quickly ensnared by the dreams of Holy Wood. He walks to the nearby new town where other people are building the facades of Holy Wood and is quickly recruited as an actor. He meets the heroine, an actress called Ginger who is also trying to make a career in film. Mostly by accident, they rise to be big stars. They’re careers are helped by the megalomaniacal plans of Cut-me-own-throat Dibbler who has abandoned the sausage industry and is trying to become the biggest director in Discworld with the help of his nephew Soll. The talking Wonderdog Gaspode has also a large part to play in the lives of Victor and Ginger as well as in the book. There are also very funny troll and wizard characters in the book.

I happen to think that this is one the better Pratchett books that I’ve read*. Granted, you need some knowledge of movies but I think most people would have that. And the scene that parodied King Kong near the end was absolutely hilarious!

Once again, I read a Finnish translation. The translation was mostly good but for some reason the translations seem to me to be less funny that the originals. Now, it’s completely possible that I’ve just managed to read Pratchett books which aren’t uproariously funny (in fact I’m convinced that the Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic aren’t hilariously funny but more like a light-chuckle-here-and-there-funny**). However, this time around the problem was somewhat the translation. The names of the producing companies were translated, whereas their real-life counterparts aren’t so it took me some time and back-translation to figure them out. Same with some of the names of the films. I wasn’t even aware that Gone with the Wind had a Finnish name.

Now, I realize (from personal experience with non-fiction translations) that when the translator is paid barely enough to buy food and rent and given a very strict deadline, they can’t really think about every word choice. What I’m wondering is: clearly Pratchett’s books sell well because the same company has translated 21 of the Discworld books and a handful of the others. So for the love of any divine power, WHY can’t they give the poor guy enough time and money to translate the books properly? I have a few translated books to go but if they aren’t better, I’m going to switch into the original English.

*Except that it didn’t have enough footnotes.

**And yes, at the time I read it, I’ve read enough REH, Leiber, McCaffrey et al to get the references.