The Fifth Elephant (Discworld Series #24)

( 57 )

Overview

Sam Vimes is a man on the run. Yesterday he was a duke, a chief of police and the ambassador to the mysterious fat-rich country of Uberwald. Now he has nothing but his native wit and the gloomy trousers of Uncle Vanya (don't ask). It's snowing. It's freezing. And if he can't make it through the forest to civilisation there's going to be a terrible war. But there are monsters on his trail. They're bright. They're fast. They're werewolves--and they're catching up. Sam Vimes is out of time, out of luck, and already ...
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Overview

Sam Vimes is a man on the run. Yesterday he was a duke, a chief of police and the ambassador to the mysterious fat-rich country of Uberwald. Now he has nothing but his native wit and the gloomy trousers of Uncle Vanya (don't ask). It's snowing. It's freezing. And if he can't make it through the forest to civilisation there's going to be a terrible war. But there are monsters on his trail. They're bright. They're fast. They're werewolves--and they're catching up. Sam Vimes is out of time, out of luck, and already out of breath...
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
March 2000

Although many American readers don't realize this, Terry Pratchett is a genuine cultural phenomenon in his native England. His comic fantasy novels — most of which are set on his signature planet of Discworld — regularly dominate British bestseller lists, and estimates indicate that Pratchett accounts for fully 1 percent of all annual fiction sales in the United Kingdom. Thus far, Pratchett's American sales have been less spectacular, but that situation could change — and quickly. HarperCollins has recently launched an aggressive campaign to raise Pratchett's profile on this side of the Atlantic. The centerpiece of that campaign is his engaging, extremely funny new novel, The Fifth Elephant.

The Fifth Elephant is the 24th Discworld novel in 16 years. Discworld, for those new to the series, is a flat, disc-shaped planet on which both magic and lunacy flourish. According to legend, it is carried through space on the backs of four gargantuan elephants, who are carried, in turn, by a giant turtle named Great A'tuin. (There is also, as the title implies, a fifth elephant, whose reputed role in the creation of Discworld is explained in detail within these pages.) Discworld comprises four continents, the largest of which — the (Unnamed) Continent — is the site of the planet's principal city, the unruly metropolis of Ankh-Morpork. On Discworld, human beings coexist, though not always peacefully, with a varied, vividly described assortment of "ethnic minorities," among them imps, trolls, gnomes, zombies, gargoyles,dwarves,werewolves, and vampires. The latter three species are prominently featured in Pratchett's latest.

As a general rule, the Discworld novels fall into four distinct categories. Several, such as The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, recount the exploits of the cowardly, incompetent wizard Rincewind. Others (Wyrd Sisters, Equal Rites) focus on Granny Weatherwax and her coven of witches. Other novels, such as Mort and Reaper Man, feature the anthropomorphic figure of Death, a tall, skeletal figure who always speaks in capital letters and makes frequent guest appearances throughout the series. The fourth subdivision, whose earlier titles include Feet of Clay and Men at Arms, centers on Samuel Vimes, irascible commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. The Fifth Elephant is the latest Vimes adventure, and one of the best.

In this one, Vimes is sent on a delicate diplomatic mission to Uberwald, a wild region roughly analogous to the balkanized societies of Eastern Europe. It is also Discworld's primary source of gold, iron and, yes, fat. (Fat mines, believe it or not, are a thriving industry in Uberwald.) Vimes is assigned to represent Ankh-Morpork at the coronation of the newly chosen Low King of the dwarves. What should be a straightforward mission is complicated immensely by a number of factors: internal strife within the dwarf community, the murder of an Ankh-Morpork condom manufacturer, the theft of a talismanic symbol of dwarf royalty called the Throne of Scone, the sporadic intervention of a teetotaling vampire named Lady Margolotta, and the violent maneuverings of a deranged werewolf named Wolfgang, who has his own agenda and his own reasons for encouraging dissension among the Uberwald dwarves. Before the story's many complications resolve themselves (and it would spoil the novel to reveal those complications in too much detail), Vimes finds himself arrested for attempted regicide and is forced to flee across Pratchett's version of the frozen Russian steppes, with a howling pack of werewolves in hot pursuit. Only on Discworld could diplomacy result in such an epic catalog of disasters.

In the course of this convoluted tale, Pratchett resurrects a gallery of familiar Discworld inhabitants, including Lord Havelock Vetinari, the patrician ruler of Ankh-Morpork; Sergeant Angua, a werewolf/policewoman with a complicated personal history; Death, who always makes an appearance at inopportune moments; the aristocratic — and newly pregnant — Lady Sybil Vimes; the dead but ambulatory Constable Shoe; and Gaspode, Discworld's only talking dog. With characteristic assurance, Pratchett drives his large, eccentric cast through an equally eccentric narrative that manages, remarkably, to function successfully as both satire and adventure story. The Fifth Elephant, like the best of Pratchett's fiction, is a comedy with teeth, a novel in which the sublime alternates with the ridiculous, in which action and farce are skillfully integrated into a seamless narrative whole.

Readers new to Pratchett's fiction can safely jump in anywhere, and The Fifth Elephant makes as effective an entry point as any. Despite their wealth of internal references and their endless interconnections, the Discworld novels are independent creations, and each one can be read and enjoyed without prior knowledge of the other 23. The series as a whole is addictive, inventive, and consistently funny, and it is recommended, without reservation, to anyone with a taste for imaginative fiction infused — and enlivened — by a first-rate comic sensibility.

London Times
Other writers are now mining the rich seam of comic fantasy that Pratchett first unearthed, but what keeps Pratchett on top is--quite literally--the way he tells them.
Science Fiction Weekly
Terry Pratchett isn't the only major fantasy writer who churns out a book a year in a popular ongoing series, but he may be the only one consistently fighting off authorial entropy. Rather than degenerating into contractual-obligation clones, the Discworld books are actually improving year by year.
San Francisco Chronicle
Unadulterated fun. Pratchett parodies everything in sight.
Writers Write
The art of satire is a difficult one, and Pratchett truly is a master of the form....If you haven't made the acquaintance of Terry Pratchett, by all means remedy the situation immediately. For longtime fans, you're in for a treat. Highly recommended.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Acclaimed British author Pratchett continues to distinguish himself from his colleagues with clever plot lines and genuinely likable characters in this first-rate addition to his long-running Discworld fantasy series (Carpe Jugulum, etc.). This time around, the inhabitants of Discworld's Ankh-Morpork have turned their attentions in the direction of Uberwald--a country rich in valuable minerals and high-quality fat deposits. (The fifth elephant, it seems, left all these when he or she crashed and burned in Uberwald at the beginning of time.) Ankh-Morpork's policeman Sam Vimes has been sent there to represent his people at a coronation--and to find the recently stolen, rock-hard and symbolically important (at least to the Dwarf population) Scone of Stone. As he tells Vimes's story (and surrounding ones), Pratchett cheerfully takes readers on an exuberant tale of mystery and invention, including the efforts of a clique of neo-Nazi werewolves to destabilize Uberwald. Along the way, he skewers everything from monarchy to fascism, as well as communism and capitalism, oil wealth and ethnic identities, Russian plays, immigration, condoms and evangelical Christianity--in short, most everything worth talking about. Not as perfect as Pratchett's Hogfather but in the same class, this novel is a heavyweight of lightness. 200,000 ad/promo; 7-city author tour. (Apr.) FYI: At the end of The Fifth Elephant is appended a "handy travel guide" to the "World of Terry Pratchett," including a character guide to the Discworld novels and a Discworld crossword puzzle. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
School Library Journal
YA-A book that's part mystery, part action-adventure, and all funny. Someone has stolen the original Scone of Stone from a dwarf vault in berwald and its replica. The new Low King of the dwarves cannot be crowned without it, and the current candidate for the throne is more moderate than certain factions would like. The fifth elephant of the title is the mythical beast responsible for providing the mountains of berwald with their rich deposits of gold, silver, iron and fat-the real reason that dwarven politics matter in Ankh-Morpork. While this is not the best story to begin an exploration of the "Discworld" (HarperCollins), fans of the series will enjoy it. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061020407
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/28/2001
  • Series: Discworld Series , #24
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 623,068
  • Product dimensions: 6.72 (w) x 4.12 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett is one of the world's most popular authors. His acclaimed novels are bestsellers in the United States and the United Kingdom, and have sold more than 85 million copies worldwide. In January 2009, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Pratchett a Knight Bachelor in recognition of his services to literature. Sir Terry lives in England.

Biography

Welcome to a magical world populated by the usual fantasy fare: elves and ogres, wizards and witches, dwarves and trolls. But wait—is that witch wielding a frying pan rather than a broomstick? Has that wizard just clumsily tumbled off the edge of the world? And what is with the dwarf they call Carrot, who just so happens to stand six-foot six-inches tall? Why, this is not the usual fantasy fare at all—this is Terry Pratchett's delightfully twisted Discworld!

Beloved British writer Pratchett first jump-started his career while working as a journalist for Bucks Free Press during the '60s. As luck would have it, one of his assignments was an interview with Peter Bander van Duren, a representative of a small press called Colin Smythe Limited. Pratchett took advantage of his meeting with Bander van Duren to pitch a weird story about a battle set in the pile of a frayed carpet. Bander van Duren bit, and in 1971 Pratchett's very first novel, The Carpet People, was published, setting the tone for a career characterized by wacky flights of fancy and sly humor.

Pratchett's take on fantasy fiction is quite unlike that of anyone else working in the genre. The kinds of sword-and-dragon tales popularized by fellow Brits like J.R.R. Tolkein and C. S. Lewis have traditionally been characterized by their extreme self-seriousness. However, Pratchett has retooled Middle Earth and Narnia with gleeful goofiness, using his Discworld as a means to poke fun at fantasy. As Pratchett explained to Locus Magazine, "Discworld started as an antidote to bad fantasy, because there was a big explosion of fantasy in the late '70s, an awful lot of it was highly derivative, and people weren't bringing new things to it."

In 1983, Pratchett unveiled Discworld with The Color of Magic. Since then, he has added installments to the absurdly hilarious saga at the average rate of one book per year. Influenced by moderately current affairs, he has often used the series to subtly satirize aspects of the real world; the results have inspired critics to rapturous praise. ("The most breathtaking display of comic invention since PG Wodehouse," raved The Times of London.) He occasionally ventures outside the series with standalone novels like the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, a sci fi adventure sequence for young readers, or Good Omens, his bestselling collaboration with graphic novelist Neil Gaiman.

Sadly, in 2008 fans received the devastating news that Pratchett had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. He has described his own reaction as "fairly philosophical" and says he plans to continue writing so long as he is able.

Good To Know

Pratchett's bestselling young adult novel Only You Can Save Mankind was adapted for the British stage as a critically acclaimed musical in 2004.

Discworld is not just the subject of a bestselling series of novels. It has also inspired a series of computer games in which players play the role of the hapless wizard Rincewind.

A few fun outtakes from our interview with Pratchett:

"I became a journalist at 17. A few hours later I saw my first dead body, which was somewhat…colourful. That's when I learned you can go on throwing up after you run out of things to throw up."

"The only superstition I have is that I must start a new book on the same day that I finish the last one, even if it's just a few notes in a file. I dread not having work in progress.

"I grow as many of our vegetables as I can, because my granddad was a professional gardener and it's in the blood. Grew really good chilies this year.

"I'm not really good at fun-to-know, human interest stuff. We're not ‘celebrities', whose life itself is a performance. Good or bad or ugly, we are our words. They're what people meet.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Terence David John Pratchett
    2. Hometown:
      Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 28, 1948
    2. Place of Birth:
      Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England
    1. Education:
      Four honorary degrees in literature from the universities of Portsmouth, Bristol, Bath and Warwick

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

They say the world is flat and supported on the back of four elephants who themselves stand on the back of a giant turtle.

They say that the elephants, being such huge beasts, have bones of rock and iron, and nerves of gold for better conductivity over long distances.

They say that the fifth elephant came screaming and trumpeting through the atmosphere of the young world all those years ago and landed hard enough to split continents and raise mountains.

No one actually saw it land, which raised the interesting philosophical point: When millions of tons of angry elephant come spinning through the sky, but there is no one to hear it, does it-philosophically speaking-make a noise?

And if there was no one to see it hit, did it actually hit?

In other words, wasn't it just a story for children, to explain away some interesting natural occurrences?

As for the dwarfs, whose legend it is, and who mine a lot deeper than other people, they say that there is a grain of truth in it.

On a clear day, from the right vantage point on the Ramtops, a watcher could see a very long way across the plains, If it was high rock and iron in their dead form, as they are now, but living rock and iron. The dwarfs have quite an inventive mythology about minerals, summer, they could count the columns of dust as the ox trains plodded on at a top speed of two miles an hour, each two pulling a train of two wagons carrying four tons each. Things took a long time to get anywhere, but when they did, there was certainly a lot of them.

To the cities of the Circle Sea they carried raw material, and sometimes people who were off to seektheir fortune and a fistful of diamonds.

To the mountains they brought manufactured goods, rare things from across the oceans, and people who had found wisdom and a few scars.

There was usually a day's traveling between each convoy. They turned the landscape into an unrolled time machine. On a clear day, you could see last Tuesday.

Heliographs twinkled in the distant air as the columns flashed messages back and forth about bandit presence, cargoes and the best place to get double egg, treble chips and a steak that overhung the plate all around.

Lots of people traveled on the carts. It was cheap, it beat walking, and you got there eventually.

Some people traveled for free.

The driver of one wagon was having problems with his team. They were skittish. He'd expect this in the mountains, where all sorts of wild creatures might regard the oxen as a traveling meal. Here there was nothing more dangerous that cabbages, wasn't there?

Behind him, down in a narrow space between the loads of cut lumber, something slept. It was just another day in Ankh-Morpork ...

Sergeant Colon balanced on a shaky ladder at one end of the Brass Bridge, one of the city's busiest thoroughfares. He clung by one hand to the tall pole with the box on top of it, and with the other he held a homemade picture book up to the slot in the front of the box.

"And this is another sort of cart," he said. "Got it?"

"'S," said a very small voice from within the box.

"O-kay," said Colon, apparently satisfied. He dropped the book and pointed down the length of the bridge.

"Now, you see those two markers what has been painted across the cobbles?"

"And they mean ... ?"

"If-a-cart-g's-tween-dem-in-less'na-minute-'s-goin-too-fas'," the little voice parroted.

"Well done. And then you ... ?"

"Painta pic-cher."

"Taking care to show ... ?"

"Drivr's-face-or-cart-lisens."

"And if it's nighttime you ... ?"

"Use-der-sal'mander-to-make-it-brite ...

"Well done, Rodney. And one of us will come along every day and collect your pictures. Got everything you want?"

"What's that, Sergeant?"

Colon looked down at the very large, brown upturned face, and smiled.

"Afternoon, All," he said, climbing ponderously down the ladder. "What you're looking at, Mister Jolson, is the modern Watch for the new millenienienum ... num."

"'S a bit big, Fred," said All Jolson, looking at it critically. "I've seen lots of smaller ones."

"Watch as in City Watch, All."

"Ah, right."

"Anyone goes too fast around here and Lord Vetinari'll be looking at his picture next morning. The iconographs do not lie, All."

"Right, Fred. 'Cos they're too stupid."

"His Lordship's got fed up with carts speeding over the bridge, see, and asked us to do something about it. I'm Head of Traffic now, you know."

"Is that good, Fred?"

"I should just think so!" said Sergeant Colon expansively. "It's up to me to keep the, er, arteries of the city from clogging up, leadin' to a complete breakdown of commerce and ruination for us all. Most vital job there is, you could say."

"And it's just you doing it, is it?"

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 57 )
Rating Distribution

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(42)

4 Star

(10)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 57 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 18, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Wonderful.

    Now this one I think has a little for everyone. No Rincewind this time, but there are Dwarves, Trolls, Vampires, Werewolves, humans, and the random talking dog. It's the time of the crowing of the Low King and Ankh-Morpork needs to send a representative to the crowning. Who better suited than Commander Vimes or is that Duke Vimes? The question is, will he survive what Überwald has in store for him? And while the cats away, will Ankh-Morpork stay afloat with the friendly but incompetent Colon in charge?

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2006

    The Watch

    I absolutely love the watch. Sam Vimes and Carrot, along with Death and a select few, are by far my favorite characters. I read this book first of all of them and it is still my favorite (I have read about half of them). BUY THIS BOOK!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2013

    Scavenger hunt gogo

    For your final clue go to pie first reiview and book for your prize

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2010

    My favorite Terry Prachett book - I have almost all

    I love Terry Prachetts humor all the books I have read of his make me at least smile.

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  • Posted January 2, 2010

    The Fifth Elephant

    Terry Pratchett is on a romp through weird and wonderful Discworld. Who are the good guys? It might be the werewolves or the vampires or the dwarfs. And what about that chunk of priceless dwarf bread or the talking dog? You have to read it for yourself to find out.

    Beneath the fun (and sometimes far beneath) is the little gem of social commentary that is always in Pratchett's books. Watch the soon-to-be dwarf king and the almighty dwarf bread symbolism.

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  • Posted June 29, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Terry Prachett rocks!

    The fifth elephant is another great book by Terry Prachett. Sam Vimes is a memorable charecter that you can't help cheering on. Also, as always, the footnotes are a riot! If you want a book that will make you laugh as well as keep you enthralled read Terry Prachett. A must for everyones library!

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  • Posted March 15, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Audio Book

    All Terry Pratchet Discworld Novels are imaginatively clever and laugh out loud funny. Stephen Briggs is the perfect audio book reader. I'm an artist and I listen to these books when I am working in my studio.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2001

    The Best One Yet

    The Fifth Elephant is the best Terry Pratchett novel that I have read so far, and I have read most of the series. My favorite character is Inigo Skimmer, because of how he...well, you'll find out. READ THIS BOOK!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2001

    Hilarity clothes substance

    The Watch is probably my favorite subsection of Terry Pratchet's Diskworld. Well, make that a tie with the Death subplot. (No, I'm not hopelessly morbid; Death is actually one of Pratchet's most sypathetic characters.) This Watch novel takes Sam Vimes, the cynical commander of the watch and reluctant duke, Captain Carrot, the Watchman with contagious goodness, Detritus, the dimwitted troll and one-man army, and a throng of other farmiliar characters to Uberwald, a snowy land which may be a parody of Russia. In this novel, Pratchet shows his genius of combining humor and satire with pulse-quickening action sections and characters with depth and feeling. As usual with Pratchet's work, especially as delivered by Sam Vimes, the story has a moral, which is displayed pointedly but not preachingly. Literary nods are given to Checkov in a parody of the three sisters (and 'the gloomy and purposeless trousers of Uncle Vanya' (230)), Shakespeare and Scottish tradition in general as the Low King (as opposed to High King) of the dwarfs is crowned on the Scone of Stone, as opposed to the Stone of Scone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2000

    Pratchett is my hero!

    Although the first review I read seemed to think that the law of diminishing returns applied, I can not disagree more. I believe that Terry Pratchett only gets better with each novel. Sure, some of the stuff is the same, but Pratchett always makes it interesting. Perhaps the most beautiful thing about Discworld books is how relaxing they are to read. Has anyone noticed that Pratchett doesn't use chapters? He only separates different scenes with a blank line or two and then goes on. This, to me, really causes problems because instead of hitting a natural stopping point at a chapter, I am likely to read until 3 AM. I don't care what anyone says, Pratchett is the coolest guy on Earth and I'll read anything he writes on reputation alone!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2000

    the law of diminshing returns would seem to apply

    Reviewing the newest Terry Pratchett 'novel' is becoming an oddly familiar repetition of the same sequence of emotions. Surprise, that another one has appeared so soon, the slight thrill of the hunt acquiring the review copy and then the trepidation setting in as you settle down too read. Later, not an awful lot later, you close the book and remember all the better books that have come before in the Discworld sequence. 'The Fifth Elephant' (is the joke showing?) is the twenty-fifth installment in the Discworld sequence. Twenty-five hardback books are a large shelf full or the beginnings of a small library; and that is part of, if not all of, the problem. Mr Pratchett seems compelled to increase the volume of his canon faster than he can supply solid frameworks for the books. The last few have been decidedly threadbare, and while this tale is an improvement on those books, it is still a slight candle when compared to the substantial lamplight of the middle period offerings. Rendered down to the bare bones the plot is: Ankh-Morpork needs fat (don't ask), Uberwald has it in abundance (thanks to the Fifth Elephant of the title), but Uberwald is in a delicate political position, whom should Ankh-Morpork send to the coronation of the Low King of the Dwarves? A skilled diplomat, surely! Not so, the Patrician elects to send His Grace, Sir Samuel Vimes, The Duke of Ankh-Morpork, husband of Lady Sybil Vimes and first officer of the City Watch. Perhaps the least tactful amn on the face of the Disc, a copper first and a diplomat second (or perhaps even third). High jinx, confusion, mayhem, crises of identity and so on ensue. The text is littered with a liberal assortment of puns, jokes and literary allusions (Chekov even manages to sneak in). However these bright flashes seem almost to heighten the shortcomings of the novel. Pratchett lards (sorry) the tale with all the usual characetrs; Vimes, Carrot, Nobby, Leonard of Quirm and so on. If you have read any of the previous Ankh-Morpork novels you will have a good idea of the outcome. The established Pratchett reader returns to these characters with a warm sense of familiarity, the new reader will be able to fill in the blanks and join the dance. The single largest problem with the book is this familiarity, both for the reader and (I suspect) the author. Uberwald is a new location for a Pratchett novel, but that is almost as far as the innovation goes. Another great English humorous novelist deployed a similar tactic; familiar cast of characters, similar locations, often carbon copy plots. At least P.G. Wodehouse had the good grace to keep the books short. It is entirely possible that I have completely missed the point of these books, they have nothing to do with innovation in plotting and seek pleasure in the process of revisiting a cast of characetrs, but I remain unconvinced of the value of this argument. Mr Pratchett has repeated the process so often that you could be forgiven for assuming that he approaches plotting a novel to a player approaching a game of Boggle - shake the cubes in their case, observe the results and then compile the words. Taking up the newest Discworld novel is not unlike having lunch with someone who was once a firm friend and is now little better than a vague acquaintance; you enjoy the meal more because it reminds you of happier times than it allows you to renew your friendship. Last time I reviewed one of Terry's novels I said much the same, although I phrased it differently. It appears he and I have more in common than one might suppose.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2000

    Another great one from Terry Pratchett

    I happened to have already read this book, and I enjoyed it very, very much. It's a great story, very well written and with lots of the usual horrible puns. In this book, Sam Vimes (and most of the rest of the night Watch) travel to Uberwald for diplomatic reasons. Getting Sam out of Ankh-Morpork was a great idea, and it works very well. There's also a subplot about the developing relationship between Carrot and Angua, which I enjoyed a lot. Pick this book up, you'll laugh out loud!

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    Posted October 2, 2009

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    Posted January 17, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted October 27, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted December 14, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2013

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    Posted January 27, 2012

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    Posted May 20, 2011

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