by Terry Pratchett
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
By the time of his death in 2015, Terry Pratchett had written forty-one novels about the Discworld and its inhabitants as well as a numerous ancillary works about the world. It had far surpassed its original purpose as a satire on fantasy novels and become a satire on modern life which used fantasy tropes to make its points more palatable. The tenth volume in the series, which was instrumental in focusing Pratchett's satirical writing on a specific topic for each book, was Moving Pictures, which combined the creation of a Hollywood-like film industry with an attempt by Lovecraftian monsters to pass through the dimensions to take over the Discworld.
Pratchett's focus is on Victor Maraschino (nee Tugelbend) a successful wizarding student (in that he has always managed to remain in school with grades in the narrow band between flunking out and graduating) who decides to leave Unseen University to pursue the strange draw that turns out to be Holy Wood at the birth of moving pictures. Pratchett follows Victor, his leading lady Ginger (a.k.a. Delores de Syn, nee Theda Withel), and the talking dog, Gaspode, who would appear in several additional Discworld novels.
Just as Hollywood and fame exerts a strong draw for people in our own world, it does so, too, in Discworld, however since the industry is just starting up, people like Victor and Ginger don't really understand what they are being drawn to or what it means. Others, like C.M.O.T. Dibbler, follow the draw knowing only that they will be able to exploit whatever is happening for their personal gain. In Discworld, however, the draw is not just for fame, fortune, and glory, but it is caused by some eldritch and evil trying to exploit a tear between worlds.
Even as Victor, Ginger, and Gaspode, along with a host of trolls, alchemists, imps, and others, are trying to figure out what goes into making movies and why they work, Victor and Ginger attempt to figure out what their own relationship is. The personal feelings are made more complicated not only because of the pantomime they have to perform in front of the cameras, but also because Dibbler and others want to play up their romance, real or imagined. Adding to the complexity is that fact the outside of the film, Ginger is taking on a similar role as a maiden in distress when a creature from the Dungeon Dimensions decides that she is the vessel it will use to break through to the Discworld.
Moving Pictures is filled with references to Hollywood culture, from the Lassie-like image of dogs that Gaspode rebels against to the names Pratchett has selected to the titles and plots of the films being made. Not content to remain in the silent era that is the most direct spoof of the novel, Pratchett includes references and allusions to films up through the time the novel was published.
The novel eventually moves beyond Holy Wood as the interdimensional threat figures out how to break through to Ankh-Morpork where Victor reunites with the wizards of Unseen University who are attending the premiere of one of his films. The emergence of the creature, combined with tropes from King Kong, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and other films, threatens not just Ankh-Morpork, but potentially the entire plane of existence.
Although Moving Pictures is an enjoyable book, it doesn't have the hooks that so many of the other Discworld novels have, which may be why neither of Pratchett's human protagonists make appearances in the subsequent novels. Other than Gaspode, the events in the book barely made in impression on the Discworld as a whole. In fact, one of the more memorable running gags about Hollywood doesn't even occur in Moving Pictures, but rather in the earlier Wyrd Sisters, in which images and scenes from Hollywood filter through the dimensions to inspire the playwright Hwel.
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