More on Nation because you obviously haven’t heard enough

(Includes spoilers)

As I said before, I had a lot of shipwreck/island books to compare Nation to when I was reading it. But the other piece of literature I kept bouncing it off was Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. The parallels are pretty obvious – boy and girl from different worlds come together, have comic misunderstandings, join forces to do good things; there is anger at gods, there is lots of science, and though true love is found they choose to part for the Greater Good. Pratchett is far nicer to his gods (I’m not sure they deserve it) than Pullman is to his, certainly.

But it’s those two endings that interest me. Pullman gives us teenagers falling in love and having sex – something which horrified a number of people I discussed the book with, who then decided to interpret it as them not having sex. No, I don’t know how either. Pratchett does not give us sex (though it might have happened), but he does give us sexual desire – at one point Daphne is just looking at Mau’s body and the way the muscles shift under his skin and so on, and in some way this is an even bigger deal than that bit in The Amber Spyglass – because it’s not written as being all about love, and it’s such a relief to have a teenaged girl character want someone.

And yet both books, having suggested that sex (or the desire for it) is a normal part of growing up, then end by parting their characters by sending them to different continents/universes and effectively ensuring that they cannot have any more sex. Which is, I suppose, preferable as an ending to the Deathly Hallows sort where everyone ends up living happily ever after for the rest of their lives with their first partner. But still, I wonder.

15 Comments to “More on Nation because you obviously haven’t heard enough”

  1. But this is pretty much a Pratchett standard, no? The Truth also had Sachrissa and William ogling each other but no resolution at the end of it. And similarly Victor and Ginger in MP. I think he leaves things unresolved just to avoid succumbing to cliches.

  2. Okay, now I have to read Nation. Not only does it tickle my island fiction fetish, but it’s being compared favourably to His Dark Materials.

    The ending of that series fit because it would have been a little too cute if they lived happily ever after forever and ever (I was fully expecting the boy with his newly minted daemon to move into Lyra’s world).

    And while I think Pullman left it vague enough that people could downsize the sex to heavy petting in their heads, I suppose having the protagonists together, with free access for more sex later would have ruffled too many feathers (or at least made fanfic writers’ lives a lot easier, and we can’t have that).

    The Deathly Hallows, on the other hand, did have an all-tied-up-in-a-bow ending, but really, given everything that led up to it, how could she have written anything else? It’s not like the previous seven books (okay, everything after Azkaban) were non-formulaic. I can’t say I like it, but I understand why it’s there.

    Of course, after she bumped off Fred (or was it George?) there was no consoling me. You can have your sodding happy ending and your three annoying kids — damned if I care, Mr. Potter.

  3. aadisht:
    Hold on, Sachrissa and William stay together. As, in fact, do Vimes and Sybil. (And also Cohen’s daughter and whatzisname (in Eric)?).

    So he does do staying together. Just not sex. It’s all very chaste is it not? Even poor Nobby doesn’t get anywhere, even though he had Tawny!

  4. Carrot and Angua? I’m sure the fact that those two sleep together is mentioned somewhere in the Watch books. I think.


  5. ??!: Do William and Sacharissa actually get together? Up until Thud!, there’s no evidence of their being a couple (I haven’t read Making Money yet) – just two people who work together. The rest of your examples, yes – but he does break away from the cliche when it would get too cliched.

    And surely you mean Tawnee.

  6. Aadisht – But how often does Pratchett really give us romance? As in, his characters have romantic lives, but he tends not to focus much on them. In terms of page space, Nation doesn’t spend that much time on romance either; but it’s definitely more there than it usually is.
    You’re right about his leaving things unresolved to avoid cliches though.

    Vishal – Island fiction fetish? Really? And I think you’ll love Nation.
    I agree that the ending of HDM fits, and I can completely see why he did it. I just find it amusing that two YA writers who don’t mind writing sex as a normal, healthy thing should both have stories that end like this.
    Ad that was one of the only deaths (Hedwig and Dobby were the others) I cried for in that book!

    ??! – We know Vimes and Sybil are having/have had sex at least once!

    Jabberjee – They definitely have sex. In Men At Arms, I think.

    Aadisht again – Surely you mean Tawneee?

  7. Never got into Pratchett, I keep meaning to have another go. (Ditto HDM)

    yeah, good point about the sexual conservatism in HP and so on. Also would’ve been nice if we could’ve learned Dumbledore was gay -within- the books.

    btw, looking at sidebar: you like Zipes too, huh?

  8. I am still looking for this book! I must read it posthaste.

    I have always found something cramped and creepy about many of the ideas about love, sex, family in the Potter books, good to know i wasn’t imagining things.

  9. Belle – I suspect Pratchett’s a “you either like him immediately or you don’t” thing. I know people who do see why other people like him but can’t get into him themselves.
    And yeah – Zipes is great. Readable and clever and fun.

    FSR – Is it not out there yet? Weird – Pratchett books usually are available pretty much immediately.
    And Rowling’s ideas about most things are rather cramped. It’s a pity, because there’s so much I enjoy about those books.

  10. Aadisht:
    I think Going Postal and Making Money mention it (S&W getting together) – I seem to recollect references to "your young man" and the like.

    That too. Which, Aish, actually adds to the point. There are quite a few bits in the 'Guards' books where there's lots of lusting after Carrot. In fact, the first Angua book has this scene where she's snapped out of drooling because he's so godlike and whatnot.

    Oh yes! That scene where Sybil tries to seduce him and dress dirty…hot stuff, baby.

  11. Have always wished that Lyra and Will were able to have more sex.

  12. I notice you managed to get hold of a copy of Elidor. Is it as bizarre as you hoped it would be?

  13. ??! – Well even with the definite sex, the Carrot/Angua relationship is rather unresolved as it stands. But it’s certainly a lot more explicit than anything on Nation, even when young Daphne is drooling at Mau’s back muscles.
    (And I did like Elidor – see most recent post!)

    Mumbaigirl – I don’t think I’ve ever had particularly strong feelings either way – anything I may have felt about their having sex was overshadowed by my bawling at their separation!

  14. I think that’s what I meant! Husband and I both bawled.

  15. carrot/angua relationship a lot more defined seeing as to how she warns the vampire (in thud) who joins them to stay away from carrot.

    And of course vimes and sybil have had sex (duh, theyre married and sam junior exists!)but i dont think its veer been mentioned explicitly….

    I thought Will and Lyra would atleast have this once-a-year meeting, have their sex which creates all that magical dust and live on that till next year, but i guess the prudes would have been up in arms about that.

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