Saturday, March 24, 2007
My enjoyment for Terry Pratchett books are one of the many things in my life that tip me over onto the Geek side of the scales. Ever since I read the Bromeliad trilogy when I was quite young, followed quickly by the Johnny books and from then on progressed on to the "adult" Discworld novels, I've been a Pratchett fan-girl. (Is there are correct term for one of these? Star Trek fans are Trekkies. Tori Amos fans are Ears With Feet. Discworld fans need a moniker!)
"Thud!" is the latest in the series and I believe the 30th book. I'll confess, I haven't read all 28 others. I know which sub-sects I enjoy (Death, the Witches, the Watch) and those I don't ( the latest kiddy ones like The Wee Free Men and the Wizards, while fun, aren't my favourites) and I'm quite happy to stick with the ones I like. I haven't read a new Discworld in ages and if my mam hadn't handed me this one the last time we were in the library, it's doubtful whether I've had read it at all. Luckily, she did.
Pratchett has an inate gift for combining subtle social commentary with bizarre and often stomach-clenchingly funny humour. Over the decades, he's built up a wealth of characters and backstory; a richness that allows him to jolt back and forth between intertwining storylines and to let him pile on the inside jokes. A new fan of the series would definitely have a major problem unravelling the intricate web of characters presented in "Thud!", but for a seasoned visitor to Ankh-Morpork, it's like greeting a group of old friends again.
Commander Sam Vimes is the novel's main player and we get an indepth look into the man's psyche. Juggling his (considerable) duties as leader of the City Watch and his new life as a devoted husband and father (the scenes in which Vimes deals with Young Sam are some of the most touching that Pratchett has ever penned), Vimes is a severly stressed man. And his stress is about to build, as it's fast approaching the anniversary of Koom Valley - a legendary battle where a group of dwarves ambushed a group of trolls (or was it the other way around?) and the two species are beginning to become hostile towards each other. When a dwarf is found murdered with a troll's club beside the corpse, the threat of another battle is iminent and Vimes must keep the two sides away from each other, solve the murder, control his Watch and make it home every night at 6 to read "Where's My Cow?" to Young Sam. This is probably the first time we get such a layered look at Vimes and he is the perfect man to build a storyline around; tough, realistic, kind-hearted and just the littlest bit insane.
However, Vimes isn't the only character who has a role to play. The other members of the Watch appear regularly, from old favourites like the bashful six-foot dwarf Captain Carrot and the pimply subhuman Corporal Nobby Nobbs, to the newer arrivals such as Angua the werewolf and Sally the vampire. One of my personal favourites, the city Patrician, Vetinari features and there's a short cameo from my numero uno, Death himself. There's even a quick reference to Foul Ole Ron, the very mention of whom is sure to elict a giggle.
Pratchett is not shy at taking a dig at Earth. Discworld may be floating on the back of an turtle being carried by four elephants, but the two worlds share many details. Fundamentalism, positive discrimination, war, stripclubs and The Da Vinci Code are just some of the topics that Pratchett aims his pen at; and every one is a hit.
"Thud!" takes a good while to get going. When I began reading, it was with a definate lack of interest and the first 100 pages seemed to drag. However, as the plot began to get going and the jokes came thick and fast, I became more and more engrossed in it. The last 150 pages I devoured in a happy rush and the whole thing ends very satisfactorily.
I doubt I'll ever enjoy a Discworld novel the way I enjoyed "Mort" when I was 12, but "Thud!" proves to me that Pratchett still has the magic touch.