The stories say: First there was the flatness, then there was the Carpet. Now the Carpet is the living grounds for different peoples, who all live in fear of the Fray, and where no one knows what lies beneath the underlay (the Floor! The Floor!). The Mungrungs are a tribe led by Glurk and his inquisitive younger brother, Snibril, who live their quiet lives until the Fray destroys everything they have come to known. That sets things in motion for the Mundrungs’ perilous journey across the Carpet in search of help. In their journey they will meet other peoples, including the Wights who know everything that is going to happen, and the Dumii, who run the Empire with its laws and taxes. And all of them will have to face the havoc-causing Mouls or perish.
"History isn't something you live. It is something you make."
That’s what the characters in The Carpet People come to learn after they are faced with a hard choice: Do they fight their enemies against all odds for survival or do they accept that the end is near? Not that there is anything simple or straightforward about it, this being a Terry Pratchett book after all: For the many peoples of the Carpet, survival depends on learning tolerance, understanding each other and making alliances rather killing and destroying.
I am a Terry Pratchett newbie and am slowly making my way through his books (my favorite out of the few I’ve read so far? Nation.) but it is already possible for me to fully see—and wholly appreciate—his favorite themes, all of which are present in The Carpet People:
The importance of stories as source of knowledge but also the importance of not taking those stories as the truth without investigation and thought; the importance of questioning, of creating new stories and carving your way into the world; the importance of tolerance and reasoned arguments. All of which are told with plenty of Pratchett’s own trademark humor. It features a cast of characters with diverse approaches to ruling, to understanding, as well as interacting with their environs.
It is also filled to the brim with the expected Terry Pratchett thoughtful truisms:
They called themselves the Munrungs. It meant The People, or The True Human Beings.It's what most people call themselves, to begin with. And then one day the tribe meets some other People or, if it's not been a good day, The Enemy. If only they'd think up a name like Some More True Human Beings, it'd save a lot of trouble later on.
The Carpet People is not perhaps the best of his books I have read so far—it could have been tighter, the characters better developed, and I truly missed a deeper emotional connection to the story. But it is still a joy to read. I’ve heard from other long-established Pratchett fans that even a “bad” Pratchett is still 99% better than anything else. I am starting to realize that myself.
It is also interesting to note that The Carpet People was written by two Terry Pratchetts. The one who wrote the book when it was originally published in 1971 (it is both his first novel aimed at children and his first published work) and the one who substantially revised the book for a second edition in 1992. That revised work (the edition I read) is now being released for the first time in the U.S. as a special edition that includes reproductions of hand-colored art done by the author that had been available only in a limited number of copies of the 1971 edition. It also includes the original delightful serialized story about the Carpet People written for the Children's Circle section in the Bucks Free Press (his local newspaper when he was 17). I suspect this edition might be a must-have for fans and collectors.
In Booksmugglerish: a Pratchett-ified 7 out of 10.