Dodger

Dodger

4.2 54
by Terry Pratchett
     
 

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A storm. Rain-lashed city streets. A flash of lightning. A scruffy lad sees a girl leap desperately from a horse-drawn carriage in a vain attempt to escape her captors. Can the lad stand by and let her be caught again? Of course not, because he's . . . Dodger.

Seventeen-year-old Dodger may be a street urchin, but he gleans a living from London's sewers, and he

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Overview

A storm. Rain-lashed city streets. A flash of lightning. A scruffy lad sees a girl leap desperately from a horse-drawn carriage in a vain attempt to escape her captors. Can the lad stand by and let her be caught again? Of course not, because he's . . . Dodger.

Seventeen-year-old Dodger may be a street urchin, but he gleans a living from London's sewers, and he knows a jewel when he sees one. He's not about to let anything happen to the unknown girl—not even if her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England.

From Dodger's encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine in a breathtaking account of adventure and mystery.

Beloved and bestselling author Sir Terry Pratchett combines high comedy with deep wisdom in this tale of an unexpected coming-of-age and one remarkable boy's rise in a complex and fascinating world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This superb novel from Pratchett is relatively subdued in its humor and contains virtually no fantasy, beyond a flavoring of early Victorian alternate history. It's not only a fine Dickensian novel—Dickens himself figures prominently. It follows a sewer-scouring "tosher" and thief named Dodger, "a skinny young man who moved with the speed of a snake," who, like a knight in soiled armor, leaps out of a drain one night to protect a young woman who is being severely beaten. Two of London's most famous figures, Charles Dickens and social reformer Henry Mayhew, appear on the scene a moment later. A complex plot gradually unravels involving the identity of the mystery girl, known only as Simplicity, and the reasons someone powerful wants her dead. Making guest appearances are such luminaries as Benjamin Disraeli, Queen Victoria, and Angela Burdett-Coutts, the richest woman in the world at the time. Full of eccentric characters and carefully detailed London scenes, the tale embodies both Dickens's love for the common man and a fierce desire for social justice. Ages 13�up. Agent: Colin Smythe. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
Pratchett leaves Discworld to bring us something that is quite nearly--but not exactly--actual historical fiction. Dodger is a guttersnipe and a tosher (a glossary would not have been amiss to help readers navigate the many archaic terms, although most are defined in the text, often humorously). He knows everyone, and everyone knows him, and he's a petty criminal but also (generally) one of the good guys. One night he rescues a beautiful young woman and finds himself hobnobbing quite literally with the likes of Charlie Dickens (yes, that Dickens) and Ben Disraeli. The young woman is fleeing from an abusive husband and has been beaten until she miscarried; power and abuse are explored sensitively but deliberately throughout. And when he attempts to smarten himself up to impress the damsel in distress, he unexpectedly comes face to face with--and disarms!--Sweeney Todd. As Dodger rises, he continuously grapples with something Charlie has said: "the truth is a fog." Happily, the only fog here is that of Dodger's London, and the truth is quite clear: Historical fiction in the hands of the inimitable Sir Terry brings the sights and the smells (most certainly the smells) of Old London wonderfully to life, in no small part due to the masterful third-person narration that adopts Dodger's voice with utmost conviction. Unexpected, drily funny and full of the pathos and wonder of life: Don't miss it. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)
The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books

“Pratchett weaves fact and fiction seamlessly....Genius.”

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
“Pratchett weaves fact and fiction seamlessly....Genius.”
Cory Doctorow
“A masterwork from a treasure and hero of a writer, and it will delight you.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
“Pratchett weaves fact and fiction seamlessly....Genius.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Pratchett weaves fact and fiction seamlessly....Genius."
Washington Post
PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF TERRY PRATCHETT:“Exuberant and irresistible.”
Chicago Tribune
“Fun and fantastic and thoughtful.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Lovingly crafted and completely enjoyable. The temptation to quote sentences, whole paragraphs, and possibly entire chapters is almost irresistible.”
Horn Book (starred review)
“It’s a glittering conjuring act, but there’s real heart here, too.”
Daily Mail (London)
“Wonderful.”
SFX (UK)
“Fresh, vibrant and full of energy, a triumph.”
Sunday Times (London)
“Masterly and entertaining.” (Children’s Book of the Week)
Booklist
"Lovingly crafted and completely enjoyable. The temptation to quote sentences, whole paragraphs, and possibly entire chapters is almost irresistible."
Horn Book
"It’s a glittering conjuring act, but there’s real heart here, too."
The Guardian
“Ebullient, funny and delightful.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
“Pratchett weaves fact and fiction seamlessly....Genius.”
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—The master of humorous fantasy has taken to historical fiction like a London guttersnipe to a large helping of bangers and mash, albeit with a touch of the fantastical. Dodger is an inhabitant of the worst stews of London, who makes a meager living as a tosher, a treasure hunter in the sewers under the city. His fortune changes, literally overnight, when he rescues a damsel in distress and comes to the attention of the not-yet-famous newspaperman Charlie Dickens. Together they embark on a mission to thwart the evildoers bent on recapturing the girl. Dodger is a thoroughly likable young rogue whose exploits bring him into direct contact with some of the best-known names in Victorian England-Benjamin Disraeli, Sweeney Todd, Sir Robert Peel, and, of course, Queen Victoria herself, with whom he spends a memorable afternoon taking tea. Pratchett does a bang-up job of re-creating Old London for today's audience, complete with pathos, humor, and truly nasty descriptions of the filth, stench, and danger, all narrated in Dodger's unique voice.Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062009494
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
09/25/2012
Pages:
360
Sales rank:
167,374
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.02(h) x 1.27(d)
Lexile:
1210L (what's this?)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Dodger


By Terry Pratchett

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2012 Terry Pratchett
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-200949-4


Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

In which we meet our hero and the hero meets an orphan of the storm and comes face to face with Mister Charlie, a gentleman known as a bit of a scribbler.

The rain poured down on London so hard that it seemed that it was dancing spray, every raindrop contending with its fellows for supremacy in the air and waiting to splash down. It was a deluge. The drains and sewers were overflowing throwing up—regurgitating, as it were—the debris of muck, slime, and filth, the dead dogs, the dead rats, cats, and worse; bringing back up to the world of men all those things that they thought they had left behind them; jostling and gurgling and hurrying toward the overflowing and always hospitable River Thames; bursting its banks, bubbling and churning like some nameless soup boiling in a dreadful cauldron; the river itself gasping like a dying fish. But those in the know always said about the London rain that, try as it might, it would never, ever clean that noisome city, because all it did was show you another layer of dirt. And on this dirty night there were appropriately dirty deeds that not even the rain could wash away.

A fancy two-horse coach wallowed its way along the street, some piece of metal stuck near an axle causing it to be heralded by a scream. And indeed there was a scream, a human scream this time, as the coach door was flung open and a figure tumbled out into the gushing gutter, which tonight was doing the job of a fountain. Two other figures sprang from the coach, cursing in language that was as colorful as the night was dark and even dirtier. In the downpour, fitfully lit by the lightning, the first figure tried to escape but tripped, fell, and was leaped upon, with a cry that was hardly to be heard in all the racket, but which was almost supernaturally counterpointed by the grinding of iron, as a drain cover nearby was pushed open to reveal a struggling and skinny young man who moved with the speed of a snake.

"You let that girl alone!" he shouted.

There was a curse in the dark and one of the assailants fell backward with his legs kicked from under him. The youth was no heavyweight but somehow he was everywhere, throwing blows - blows that were augmented by a pair of brass knuckles, always a helpmeet for the outnumbered. Outnumbered one to two as it were, the assailants took to their heels while the youth followed, raining blows. But it was London and it was raining and it was dark, and they were dodging into alleys and side streets, frantically trying to catch up with their coach, so that he lost them, and the apparition from the depths of the sewers turned around and headed back to the stricken girl at greyhound speed.

He kneeled down, and to his surprise she grabbed him by the collar and whispered in what he considered to be foreigner English, "They want to take me back - please help me...." The lad sprang to his feet, his eyes all suspicion. On this stormy night of stormy nights, it was opportune then that two men who themselves knew something about the dirt of London were walking, or rather, wading, along this street, hurrying home with hats pulled down - which was a nice try but simply didn't work, because in this torrent it seemed that the bouncing water was coming as much from below as it was from above. Lightning struck again, and one of them said, "Is that someone lying in the gutter there?" The lightning presumably heard, because it sliced down again and revealed a shape, a mound, a person as far as these men could see.

"Good heavens, Charlie, it's a girl! Soaked to the skin and thrown into the gutter, I imagine," said one of them. "Come on...."

"Hey you, what are you a-doing, mister?!"

By the light of a pub window that could barely show you the darkness, the aforesaid Charlie and his friend saw the face of a boy who looked like a young lad no more than seventeen years old but who seemed to have the voice of a man. A man, moreover, who was prepared to take on both of them, to the death. Anger steamed off him in the rain and he wielded a long piece of metal. He carried on, "I know your sort, oh yes I do! Coming down here chasing the skirt, making a mockery of decent girls, blimey! Desperate, weren't you, to be out on a night such as this!"

The man who wasn't called Charlie straightened up. "Now see here, you. I object most strongly to your wretched allegation. We are respectable gentlemen who, I might add, work quite hard to better the fortunes of such poor wretched girls and, indeed, by the look of it, those such as yourself!"

The scream of rage from the boy was sufficiently loud that the doors of the nearby pub swung open, causing smoky orange light to illuminate the ever present rain. "So that's what you call it, is it, you smarmy old gits!"

The boy swung his homemade weapon, but the man called Charlie caught it and dropped it behind him, then grabbed the boy and held him by the scruff of his neck. "Mister Mayhew and myself are decent citizens, young man, and as such we surely feel it is our duty to take this young lady somewhere away from harm." Over his shoulder he said, "Your place is closest, Henry. Do you think your wife would object to receiving a needy soul for one night? I wouldn't like to see a dog out on a night such as this."

Henry, now clutching the young woman, nodded. "Do you mean two dogs, by any chance?"

The struggling boy took immediate offense at this, and with a snakelike movement was out of the grip of Charlie and once again spoiling for a fight. "I ain't no dog, you nobby sticks, nor ain't she! We have our pride, you know. I make my own way, I does, all kosher, straight up!"

The man called Charlie lifted the boy up by the scruff of his neck so that they were face-to-face. "My, I admire your attitude, young man, but not your common sense!" he said quietly. "And mark you, this young lady is in a bad way.

Surely you can see that. My friend's house is not too far away from here, and since you have set yourself up as her champion and protector, why then, I invite you to follow us there and witness that she will have the very best of treatment that we can afford, do you hear me? What is your name, mister? And before you tell it to me, I invite you to believe that you are not the only person who cares about a young lady in dire trouble on this dreadful night. So, my boy, what is your name?"

The boy must have picked up a tone in Charlie's voice, because he said, "I'm Dodger - that's what they call me, on account I'm never there, if you see what I mean? Everybody in all the boroughs knows Dodger."

"Well, then," said Charlie. "Now we have met you and joined that august company, we must see if we can come to an understanding during this little odyssey, man to man." He straightened up and went on, "Let us move, Henry, to your house and as soon as possible, because I fear this unfortunate girl needs all the help we can give her. And you, my lad, do you know this young lady?"

He let go of the boy, who took a few steps backward. "No, guv'nor, never seen her before in my life, God's truth, and I know everybody on the street. Just another runaway, happens all the time, so it does; it don't bear thinking about."

"Am I to believe, Mister Dodger, that you, not knowing this unfortunate woman, nevertheless sprang to her defense like a true Galahad?"

Dodger suddenly looked very wary. "I might be, I might not. What's it to you, anyway? And who the hell is this Galahad cove?"

Charlie and Henry made a cradle with their arms to carry the woman. As they set off, Charlie said over his shoulder, "You have no idea what I just said, do you, Mister Dodger? But Galahad was a famous hero.... Never mind—you just follow us, like the knight in soaking armor that you are, and you will see fair play for this damsel, get a good meal, and, let me see ..." Coins jingled in the darkness. "Yes, two shillings, and if you do come, you will perhaps improve your chances of Heaven, which, if I am any judge, is not a place that often concerns you. Understand? Do we have an accord?

Very well."

Twenty minutes later Dodger was sitting close to the fire in the kitchen of a house, not a grand house as such, but nevertheless much grander than most buildings he went into legally; there were much grander buildings that he had been into illegally, but he never spent very much time in them, often leaving with a considerable amount of haste. Honestly, the number of dogs people had these days was a damn scandal, so it was, and they would set them on a body without warning, so he had always been speedy. But here, oh yes, here there was meat and potatoes, carrots too, but not, alas, any beer. In the kitchen he had been given a glass of warm milk that was nearly fresh. Mrs. Quickly the cook was watching him like a hawk and had already locked away the cutlery, but apart from that it seemed to be a pretty decent crib, although there had been a certain amount of what you might call words from the missus of Mister Henry to her husband on the subject of bringing home waifs and strays at this time of night. It seemed to Dodger, who paid a great deal of forensic attention to all he could see and hear, that this was by no means the first time that she had cause for complaint; she sounded like someone trying hard to conceal that they were really fed up and trying to put a brave face on it. But nevertheless, Dodger had certainly had his meal (and that was the important thing), the wife and a maid had bustled off with the girl, and now ... someone was coming down the stairs to the kitchen.

It was Charlie, and Charlie bothered Dodger. Henry seemed like one of them do-gooders who felt guilty about having money and food when other people did not; Dodger knew the type. He, personally, was not bothered about having money when other people didn't, but when you lived a life like his, Dodger found that being generous when in funds, and being a cheerful giver, was a definite insurance. You needed friends - friends were the kind of people who would say: "Dodger? Never heard of 'im, never clapped eyes on 'im, guv'nor! You must be thinking of some other cove" - because you had to live as best you could in the city and you had to be sharp and wary and on your toes every moment of the day if you wanted to stay alive.

He stayed alive because he was the Dodger, smart and fast. He knew everybody and everybody knew him. He had never, ever, been before the beak, he could outrun the fastest Bow Street runner, and now that they had all been found out and replaced, he could outrun every peeler as well. They couldn't arrest you unless they put a hand on you, and nobody ever managed to touch Dodger.

No, Henry was no problem, but Charlie - now, oh yes, Charlie - he looked the type who would look at a body and see right inside you. Charlie, Dodger considered, might well be a dangerous cove, a gentleman who knew the ins and outs of the world and could see through flannel and soft words to what you were thinking, which was dangerous indeed. Here he was now, the man himself, coming downstairs escorted by the jingling of coins.

Charlie nodded at the cook, who was cleaning up, and sat down on the bench by Dodger, who had to slide over a bit to make room.

"Well now, Dodger, wasn't it?" he said. "I am sure you will be very happy to know that the young lady you helped us with is safe and sleeping in a warm bed after some stitches and some physic from the doctor. Alas, I wish I could say the same for her unborn child, which did not survive this dreadful escapade."

Child! The word hit Dodger like a blackjack, and unlike a blackjack it kept on going. A child - and for the rest of the conversation the word was there, hanging at the edge of his sight and not letting him go. Aloud he said, "I didn't know." "Indeed, I'm sure you didn't," said Charlie. "In the dark it was just one more dreadful crime, which without doubt was just one among many this night; you know that, Dodger, and so do I. But this one had the temerity to take place in front of me, and so I feel I would like to do a little police work, without, as it were, involving the police, who I suspect in this case would not have very much success."

Charlie's face was unreadable, even to Dodger, who was very, very good at reading faces. Solemnly, the man went on, "I wonder if those gentlemen you met who were harassing her knew about the child; perhaps we shall never find out, or perhaps we shall." And there it was; that little word "shall" was a knife, straining to cut away until it hit enlightenment. Charlie's face stayed totally blank. "I wonder if any other gentleman was aware of the fact, and therefore, sir, here for you are your two shillings - plus one more, if you were to answer a few questions for me in the hope of getting to the bottom of this strange occurrence."

Dodger looked at the coins. "What sort of questions would they be, then?" Dodger lived in a world where nobody asked questions apart from: "How much?" and "What's in it for me?" And he knew, actually knew, that Charlie knew this too. Charlie continued. "Can you read and write, Mister Dodger?"
(Continues...)


Excerpted from Dodger by Terry Pratchett. Copyright © 2012 by Terry Pratchett. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Cory Doctorow

“A masterwork from a treasure and hero of a writer, and it will delight you.”

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