Who's painted that?
OK - lets leave satire out it now, because that's purely a matter of taste and to some extent upbringing as broad experience plays a part in what people recognise as pastiche, parody or snidey gratuitous insinuations.
And onto the main event on the basis that most people are agreeable generally that belief (rather than religion) and socio-politico power-mongering are the themes to this and many other of Terry's books 'stand-alone' or not. I haven't got time to go looking at quotes (we're in crisis yet again here as the sat dish is covered with sticky wet snow and so no signal... If I thought I was bad with no PC to play with, the housemate is a thousand times worse without any TV...
I think Tony said that the character development in this is not up to par in that they didn't really care too much what happened to the principal characters once the last page was read. Fine - it's a stand-alone so in a way that's good as the focus is a story that has a finite cut-off point and therefore we don't strictly need to know any more except a general 'happy ever after' forecast...
Or do we? Is Pyramids a 'stand-alone' book? It is and it isn't. The isn't part of that designation is the crucial one, 'cos this book, seen in isolation won a prestigious prize (British Science Fiction Award winner, 1989).
Why did it win a prize if the characterisation, by a popular and already best-selling author, so important in any work of fiction isn't that great? Because (in my opinion anyway) the characters are
more than good enough and the concept of the book is exceptional in it's satirical repositioning of the mythologies of the Ancient Worlds and also in terms of non-Dr. Who perceptions of dimensons especially that of Time.
I'll come back to the human/character aspects and mythology as a 'science' rather than art in another post as I'm in severe danger of exceeding even my own excesses in posting here. In the Discworld cosmos Magic is King but Time is most definitely Queen and so for that reason alone, Pyramids is ground-breaking and a watershed for the development of Discworld in the same way as CoM and LF were laying the foundation for the series.
However - unlike CoM and LF Terry, by the time he's writing this book, is well into his stride as a writer
in more general terms. Most of us will agree on the first 2 Discworld books being 'weaker' than the ones that follow on - I still love them but they're not the best books Terry's written, because he was still experimenting with the concept of magic in an impossible world and also still developing as a writer himself - not yet reaching his fully-developed stylistics. In Pyramids he's well into his stride with the humour and storylining and so this meant that he could start to look around at other areas that he's interested in and how they'd work in Djelibeybi in the first instance, but also, because of his own strong interests in cyclic history and alternative planes of reality/universes he also laid down concepts and themes for future works that were already 'in production' for other parts of the disc - in A-M with the Watch, with Vimes' disorganizer, his own family heritage as a king-killer and even Nightwatch, although that cannot have been an idea even in the rough back when he was writing this book? Or maybe not? Some of the overall Pyramids settings and characterisations naturally re-occur when the History Monks appear 'officially' on the scene (remember Terry had already hinted at that part of discworld in Mort when the abbot dies and asks to be dropped off in the village for his re-incarnation rather than the desert...?
). Of course the monks deal with Time in a very personal way indeed and Pyramids is where Terry begins to explore the concept seriously.
I'm not too sure whether Small Gods was an embryo idea when Pyramids was written, but it's conception was almost undeniably prepared in respect of the mythic/belief themes he plays with in this, rather than the time perception side of things. I consistently rate Small Gods as one of Terry's best books, but Pyramids is not too far short of that exalted mark when you look at the conceptual side of each book. The only reason Pyramids doesn't compare with the later books that make most peoples top 5 (or whatever) is that Terry's writing and plotting has continued to improve and deepen development of the concepts that he addresses fully in Pyramids for the first time, in a highly original fashion and using satire to challenge how we see the still-forming disc as well as Roundworld.
If Terry hadn't
written Pyramids first, the History Monks and the Watch series wouldn't have been half as well realised on a conceptual basis as he's laid all the really important themes for them in this book. The part where the super-pyramid's building phase goes critical in terms of construction and fiscally is superbly creative and Teppics 'inhumation' of the ginormous pyramid is also inspired and something to elaborate on in my next post which will deal with the philosophic and human aspects. In a nutshell with that I'll be suggesting that if Brutha is modelled on Jesus then Teppic is definitely
John the Baptist...
The formation of the time concepts are more important though and for me Pyramids marks the beginning of Terry's Golden Era where his imagination really begins to soar and make it's own original and insightful contribution to literature - and of course why he received such acclaim for this remarkable book