Thief of Time (Discworld Series #26)

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Overview

In Discworld, Time is a resource managed by the highly capable Monks of History who store it and pump it from places where it is wasted, like underwater (how much time do fish really need?) to places, like cities, where there's never enough of it.

Ironically, the construction of the world's first truly accurate clock threaten to stop Time altogether. And so begins a literal race against Time for the monk Lu Tze and his apprentice. For if the perfect clock starts ticking, Time, ...

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Overview

In Discworld, Time is a resource managed by the highly capable Monks of History who store it and pump it from places where it is wasted, like underwater (how much time do fish really need?) to places, like cities, where there's never enough of it.

Ironically, the construction of the world's first truly accurate clock threaten to stop Time altogether. And so begins a literal race against Time for the monk Lu Tze and his apprentice. For if the perfect clock starts ticking, Time, as we know it, will stop. And then the trouble will really begin. Subtle, sly, thought-provoking, and hilarious, Thief of Time is Terry Pratchett at his best.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
After bringing investigative journalism to Discworld in The Truth, Terry Pratchett offers us another superb entertainment that merges headlong comedy with a mock-philosophical meditation on the nature of time, and on the End of Life as We Know It. Thief of Time, the 26th Discworld novel, finds the master farceur at the top of his considerable form.

The novel begins when the Auditors, a superhuman race of anal-retentive bookkeepers, decide to consummate their long-standing distaste for the messy assortment of living species who populate Discworld. They set in motion a plan to construct a perfect -- and perfectly accurate -- clock, a clock synchronized to the primal Tick of the universe itself. For various complex reasons, the success of this enterprise will bring time to a halt, freezing everything into a neat, eternal cosmic tableau.

The result is a very literal race against time that features a typically bizarre cast of Discworld characters, some familiar, some brand new. Included among them are the skeletal, anthropomorphic figure of Death, Death's semihuman granddaughter Susan (a uniquely gifted teacher of recalcitrant children), witch/midwife Nanny Ogg, and an unnaturally talented, socially backward clockmaker named Jeremy. Supplementing the cast are two crucial new players: the 800-year-old sage Lu-Tze, a member of the order of the Monks of History, and Lu-Tze's apprentice, Lobsang, a mysterious young man with an astonishing ability to control and manipulate time.

As in the best of his earlier books (The Fifth Elephant, Mort, Carpe Jugulum), Pratchett takes these idiosyncratic elements and constructs a supremely readable narrative that is provocative, original, and very, very funny. Discworld (which, for those new to the series, is a flat, disc-shaped planet carried through space by four elephants that are carried, in turn, by a giant turtle named Great A'Tuin) is one of science fiction's most memorable comic creations and is always worth a visit. Thief of Time, as endlessly inventive as any of its predecessors, carries the Discworld saga into previously unexplored territory, reaffirming Pratchett's position as the preeminent comic fantasist of the modern era. (Bill Sheehan)

Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. His book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, has been published by Subterranean Press (www.subterraneanpress.com).

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Here we go again! In the newest appealing installment of the Discworld series, Pratchett (The Truth) takes on religion, time and...kung-fu movies? The cast includes Death; Miss Susan, Death's granddaughter; Jeremy Clockson, a clockmaker; Lobsang, a novice monk; and Lu-Tze, a sweeper at the temple of the History Monks. When a mysterious lady asks Jeremy to make a clock that is perfectly timed (even to the last tick), trouble begins: it seems that such a clock would have the power to stop time completely. There would be no yesterday, no tomorrow, no next minute; in fact, everything and everyone would stop in its tracks. It's up to Miss Susan, Lobsang and Lu-Tze to figure out who in the end has decided to build the dangerous clock and how to stop him before the world crashes to a halt. Along the way we learn Rule One: "Do not act incautiously when confronting a little bald wrinkly smiling man," which is a very good lesson to learn. We also find out that Lobsang has more in store for his future than to be an apprentice monk. The story includes a quick nod to James Bond flicks with Qu, the monk who supplies gadgets to Lu-Tze and Lobsang, and at the end of Time the four (no, make that five) horsemen of the Apocalypse get to ride out for a jaunt. You don't need to catch all the in-jokes to enjoy the fun. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Terry Pratchett has worked wonders again with this latest "Discworld" novel! The Monks of History in the Oi Dong Valley manage the Time store and pump Time from where it is wasted to places where it is necessary. The History Monks are enlightened and wise people, but what do they do when someone tries to build the Perfect Clock that can measure the tick of the universe, which would effectively stop time? The History Monks are at a loss until History Monk Lu-Tze and his apprentice Lobsang Ludd step forward in an effort to stop time. Through twists and turns, meeting everyone from the Death of Rats to the Auditors of the Universe, the reader takes a wild ride from start to finish. Pratchett is a master of satire, and this latest novel in the long "Discworld" series is not an exception. Pratchett's mastery of imagery and imagination carries readers on a ride they will not soon forget. Throughout the entire novel, readers get an education in philosophy without even knowing it! The text examines human nature in depth by showing creatures that are billions of years old, taking on human forms and then showing the disastrous results. This book also explores theoretical properties of time, allowing readers to think not in terms of Earth but in terms of the space of the universe, or of one universe. This novel is a beautiful mix of philosophy and fun, satire and comedy that will bring a smile to the face and a crease to the brow but will ultimately win the heart. 2002, HarperCollins, Ages 10 up.
—Rachel Bassett
VOYA
For Pratchett fans, a new Discworld book is always cause for rejoicing, and this addition to the series is splendid. With dozens of books to his credit, Pratchett is the best-selling living author in England. His fantasy writing is witty, irreverent, and wildly imaginative. This latest, like the others in the Discworld series, has a huge cast of characters, including an elderly Monk of Time and his apprentice; a reincarnated abbot in the body of a one-year-old child; Death, his crabby granddaughter, Susan, and his small sidekick, Death of Rats; and Mrs. Ogg, a disreputable old witch and midwife. Discworld is threatened by some especially tidy nonlife forms called the Auditors, who, fed up with the sloppiness of humanity, want to get rid of it. They commission a gifted clockmaker to make Discworld's only completely accurate clock. Apparently, with its first tick, time will end. Some unlikely people and beings—can the Four Horsemen, or rather, Five Horsemen, be called people? oppose the aim of the Auditors. Pratchett manages to bring his complex plot to a clever and satisfying resolution. The Discworld books can be read independently, but they definitely are not for everyone. Allusive and very British, they are like chocolate: If one loves it, one cannot imagine life without it. If one does not, one wonders what the fuss is all about. Offer this or any other Discworld book to intelligent fantasy readers with a well-developed sense of humor. It might very well change a life. VOYA CODES: 5Q 3P S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2001, HarperCollins, 324p, $25. Ages 15 toAdult. Reviewer: Sarah Flowers
Library Journal
When Jeremy Clockson of the Clockmakers' Guild creates the perfect clock, his timepiece will halt the progress of time altogether unless Lu-Tze, an intrepid member of the History Monks, can save the moment. Pratchett's latest Discworld novel features the author's hilariously acerbic commentaries on time, history, and the end of the world along with the return of favorite characters from previous series installments. Consistently clever and engagingly topical, this rollicking tale belongs in most libraries. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-In the latest installment of Pratchett's "Discworld" series (HarperCollins), the Auditors, gray entities with an antipathy for life, are again trying to wipe out humanity. They have commissioned a glass clock that will stop time and freeze the universe in a state of perfection. Death sends his granddaughter Susan to find Time's son and hopefully avert the coming apocalypse. Lu-Tze, a sweeper in the valley of the History Monks, and his apprentice, Lobsang Ludd, are also on a mission to prevent the completion of the clock. The Discworld is as fresh and inviting as ever. The classic master/apprentice relationship of Eastern philosophy (and kung fu) movies forms the centerpiece of the novel. This is a treat for anyone who likes humorous fantasy. There is a surprise appearance by the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse, milkman Ronnie Soak. And how can readers resist a book in which the world is saved by the awesome power of chocolate?-Susan Salpini, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another Discworld yarn (The Truth). The Auditors are beings who, on a cosmic scale, keep track of everything that happens; they love order, with everything in its place and all events predictable and unsurprising. Humans are therefore a source of great irritation. The Auditors, then, have developed a plan: they order one of their number to assume corporeality, whereupon Lady LeJean visits eccentric genius Jeremy Clockmaker and commissions him to build the ultimate clock, one that will bring time to a stop. Helpfully, she arranges an assistant for Jeremy—Igor, naturally ordered from "We R Igors." Fortunately, the Opposition's also getting organized: Death's granddaughter, Susan the schoolteacher; the rat-skeleton Death of Rats; the Monks of History; and the humble sweeper, Lu-Tze, and his eerily fast apprentice, Lobsang. Philosophical humor of the highest order.
From the Publisher
“In a better world he would be acclaimed as a great writer rather than a merely successful one…This is the best Pratchett I’ve read…ought to be a strong contender for the Booker prize.” — Charles Spencer, Sunday Telegraph

“Reads with all the polished fluency and sure-footed pacing that have become Pratchett’s hallmarks over the years.” — Peter Ingham, Times on Saturday

“Terry Pratchett is one of the great inventors of secondary — or imaginative or alternative — worlds. He is not derivative. He is too strong…He has the real energy of the primary storyteller.” — A.S. Byatt, The Times

“The unique selling point of the Discworld novels is their irony, allied to lashings of broad pantomime humour.” — TES

“Fans look to him for brilliantly funny dialogue, high peaks of imagination and a sense of participating in events which are strange, yet filled with everyday occurrences — the real world in disguise.” — The Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061031328
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/28/2002
  • Series: Discworld Series , #26
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 186,519
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett lives in Somerset, England, where he spends all his time, and more, writing his rigorously naturalistic, curiously entertaining, shamelessly popular Discworld novels that have earned him extravagant acclaim and puzzled stares from millions of readers around the world. He is the author of Small Gods, Soul Music, Men At Arms, Lords and Ladies and Feet of Clay.

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

According to the First Scroll of Wen the Eternally Surprised, Wen stepped out of the cave where he had received enlightenment and into the dawning light of the first day of the rest of his life. He stared at the rising sun for some time, because he had never seen it before.

He prodded with a sandal the dozing form of Clodpool the Apprentice, and said: “I have seen. Now I understand.”

Then he stopped and looked at the thing next to Clodpool.

“What is that amazing thing?” he said.

“Er...er...it's a tree, master,” said Clodpool, still not quite awake. “Remember? It was there yesterday.”

“There was no yesterday.”

“Er...er...I think there was, master,” said Clodpool, struggling to his feet. “Remember? We came up here, and I cooked a meal, and had the rind off your sklang because you didn't want it.”

“I remember yesterday,” said Wen, thoughtfully. “But the memory is in my head now. Was yesterday real? Or is it only the memory that is real? Truly, yesterday I was not born.”

Clodpool's face became a mask of agonized incomprehension.

“Dear stupid Clodpool, I have learned everything,” said Wen. “In the cup of the hand there is no past, no future. There is only now. There is no time but the present. We have a great deal to do.”

Clodpool hesitated. There was something new about his master. There was a glow in his eyes and, when he moved, there were strange silvery-blue lights in the air, like reflections from liquid mirrors.

“She has told me everything,” Wen went on. “I know that time was made for men, not the other way around. I have learned how to shape it and bend it. I know how to make amoment last forever, because it already has. And I can teach these skills even to you, Clodpool. I have heard the heartbeat of the universe. I know the answers to many questions. Ask me.”

The apprentice gave him a bleary look. It was too early in the morning for it to be early in the morning. That was the only thing that he currently knew for sure.“Er...what does master want for breakfast?” he said.

Wen looked down from their camp, and across the snowfields and purple mountains to the golden daylight creating the world, and mused upon certain aspects of humanity.

“Ah,” he said. “One of the difficult ones.”

For something to exist, it has to be observed.

For something to exist, it has to have a position in time and space.

And this explains why nine-tenths of the mass of the universe is unaccounted for.

Nine-tenths of the universe is the knowledge of the position and direction of everything in the other tenth. Every atom has its biography, every star its file, every chemical exchange its equivalent of the inspector with a clipboard. It is unaccounted for because it is doing the accounting for the rest of it, and you cannot see the back of your own head.

Nine-tenths of the universe, in fact, is the paperwork.And if you want the story, then remember that a story does not unwind. It weaves. Events that start in different places and different times all bear down on that one tiny point in space-time, which is the perfect moment.

Suppose an emperor was persuaded to wear a new suit of clothes whose material was so fine that, to the common eye, the clothes weren't there. And suppose a little boy pointed out this fact in a loud clear voice...

Then you have The Story Of The Emperor Who Had No Clothes.

But if you knew a bit more, it would be The Story Of The Boy Who Got A Well-Deserved Thrashing From His Dad For Being Rude To Royalty, And Was Locked Up.

Or The Story Of The Whole Crowd That Was Rounded Up By The Guards And Told “This Didn't Happen, Okay? Does Anyone Want To Argue?”

Or it could be a story of how a whole kingdom suddenly saw the benefits of the “new clothes,” and developed an enthusiasm for healthy sports in a lively and refreshing atmosphere that gets many new adherents every year, which led to a recession caused by the collapse of the conventional clothing industry.

It could even be a story about The Great Pneumonia Epidemic of '09.

It all depends on how much you know.

Suppose you'd watched the slow accretion of snow over thousands of years as it was compressed and pushed over the deep rock until the glacier calved its icebergs into the sea, and you watched an iceberg drift out through the chilly waters, and you got to know its cargo of happy polar bears and seals as they looked forward to a brave new life in the other hemisphere where they say the ice floes are lined with crunchy penguins, and then wham -- tragedy loomed in the shape of thousands of tons of unaccountably floating iron and an exciting soundtrack...

...you'd want to know the whole story.

And this one starts with desks.

This is the desk of a professional. It is clear that their job is their life. There are...human touches, but they are the human touches that strict usage allows in a chilly world of duty and routine.

Mostly they're on the only piece of real color in this picture of blacks and grays. It's a coffee mug. Someone somewhere wanted to make it a jolly mug. It bears a rather unconvincing picture of a teddy bear, and the legend “To The World's Greatest Grandad,” and the slight change in the style of lettering on the word “Grandad” makes it clear that this has come from one of those stalls that have hundreds of mugs like these, declaring that they're for the world's greatest Grandad/Dad/Mum/Granny/Uncle/Aunt/Blank. Only...

Thief of Time. Copyright © by Terry Pratchett. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

Thief of Time


By Terry Pratchett

Random House

Terry Pratchett
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0552148407


Chapter One

According to the First Scroll of Wen the Eternally Surprised, Wen stepped out of the cave where he had received enlightenment and into the dawning light of the first day of the rest of his life. He stared at the rising sun for some time, because he had never seen it before.

He prodded with a sandal the dozing form of Clodpool the apprentice, and said: 'I have seen. Now I understand.'

Then he stopped, and looked at the thing next to Clodpool.

'What is that amazing thing?' he said.

'Er . . . er . . . it's a tree, master,' said Clodpool, still not quite awake. 'Remember? It was there yesterday.'

'There was no yesterday.'

'Er . . . er . . . I think there was, master,' said Clodpool, struggling to his feet. 'Remember? We came up here and I cooked a meal, and had the rind off your sklang because you didn't want it.'

'I remember yesterday,' said Wen thoughtfully. 'But the memory is in my head now. Was yesterday real? Or is it only the memory that is real? Truly, yesterday I was not born.'

Clodpool's face became a mask of agonized incomprehension.

'Dear stupid Clodpool, I have learned everything,' said Wen. 'In the cup of the hand there is no past, no future. There is only now. Thereis no time but the present. We have a great deal to do.'

Clodpool hesitated. There was something new about his master. There was a glow in his eyes and, when he moved, there were strange silvery-blue lights in the air, like reflections from liquid mirrors.

'She has told me everything,' Wen went on. 'I know that time was made for men, not the other way round. I have learned how to shape it and bend it. I know how to make a moment last for ever, because it already has. And I can teach these skills even to you, Clodpool. I have heard the heartbeat of the universe. I know the answers to many questions. Ask me.'

The apprentice gave him a bleary look. It was too early in the morning for it to be early in the morning. That was the only thing that he currently knew for sure.

'Er . . . what does master want for breakfast?' he said.

Wen looked down from their camp and across the snowfields and purple mountains to the golden daylight creating the world, and mused upon certain aspects of humanity.

'Ah,' he said. 'One of the difficult ones.'

***

For something to exist, it has to be observed.

For something to exist, it has to have a position in time and space.

And this explains why nine-tenths of the mass of the universe is unaccounted for.

Nine-tenths of the universe is the knowledge of the position and direction of everything in the other tenth. Every atom has its biography, every star its file, every chemical exchange its equivalent of the inspector with a clipboard. It is unaccounted for because it is doing the accounting for the rest of it, and you cannot see the back of your own head.

Nine-tenths of the universe, in fact, is the paperwork.

And if you want the story, then remember that a story does not unwind. It weaves. Events that start in different places and different times all bear down on that one tiny point in space-time, which is the perfect moment.

Supposing an emperor was persuaded to wear a new suit of clothes whose material was so fine that, to the common eye, the clothes weren't there. And suppose a little boy pointed out this fact in a loud, clear voice . . .

Then you have The Story of the Emperor Who Had No Clothes.

But if you knew a bit more, it would be The Story of the Boy Who Got a Well-Deserved Thrashing from His Dad for Being Rude to Royalty, and Was Locked Up.

Or The Story of the Whole Crowd Who Were Rounded Up by the Guards and Told 'This Didn't Happen, Okay? Does Anyone Want to Argue?'

Or it could be a story of how a whole kingdom suddenly saw the benefits of the 'new clothes', and developed an enthusiasm for healthy sports in a lively and refreshing atmosphere which got many new adherents every year, and led to a recession caused by the collapse of the conventional clothing industry.

It could even be a story about The Great Pneumonia Epidemic of '09.

It all depends on how much you know.

Supposing you'd watched the slow accretion of snow over thousands of years as it was compressed and pushed over the deep rock until the glacier calved its icebergs into the sea, and you watched an iceberg drift out through the chilly waters, and you got to know its cargo of happy polar bears and seals as they looked forward to a brave new life in the other hemisphere where they say the ice floes are lined with crunchy penguins, and then wham! Tragedy loomed in the shape of thousands of tons of unaccountably floating iron and an exciting soundtrack . . .

. . . you'd want to know the whole story.

And this one starts with desks.

This is the desk of a professional. It is clear that their job is their life. There are . . . human touches, but these are the human touches that strict usage allows in a chilly world of duty and routine.

Mostly they're on the only piece of real colour in this picture of blacks and greys. It's a coffee mug. Someone somewhere wanted to make it a jolly mug. It bears a rather unconvincing picture of a teddy bear, and the legend 'To The World's Greatest Grandad' and the slight change in the style of lettering on the word 'Grandad' makes it clear that this has come from one of those stalls that have hundreds of mugs like this, declaring that they're for the world's greatest Grandad/Dad/Mum/Granny/Uncle/Aunt/Blank. Only someone whose life contains very little else, one feels, would treasure a piece of gimcrackery like this.

It currently holds tea, with a slice of lemon.

The bleak desktop also contains a paperknife in the shape of a scythe and a number of hourglasses.

Death picks up the mug in a skeletal hand . . .

. . . and took a sip, pausing only to look again at the wording he'd read thousands of times before, and then put it down.

VERY WELL, he said, in tones of funeral bells.

SHOW ME.

The last item on the desktop was a mechanical contrivance. 'Contrivance' was exactly the right kind of word for it. Most of it was two discs. One was horizontal and contained a circlet of very small squares of what would prove to be carpet. The other was set vertically and had a large number of arms, each one of which held a very small slice of buttered toast. Each slice was set so that it could spin freely as the turning of the wheel brought it down towards the carpet disc.

I BELIEVE I AM BEGINNING TO GET THE IDEA, said Death.

The small figure by the machine saluted smartly and beamed, if a rat skull could beam. It pulled a pair of goggles over its eye sockets, hitched up its robe and clambered into the machine.

Death was never quite sure why he allowed the Death of Rats to have an independent existence. After all, being Death meant being the Death of everything, including rodents of all descriptions. But perhaps everyone needs a tiny part of themselves that can, metaphorically, be allowed to run naked in the rain, to think the unthinkable thoughts, to hide in corners and spy on the world, to do the forbidden but enjoyable deeds.

Slowly, the Death of Rats pushed the treadles. The wheels began to spin.

'Exciting, eh?' said a hoarse voice by Death's ear. It belonged to Quoth, the raven, who had attached himself to the household as the Death of Rats' personal transport and crony. He was, he always said, only in it for the eyeballs.

The carpets began to turn. The tiny toasties slapped down randomly, sometimes with a buttery squelch, sometimes without. Quoth watched carefully, in case any eyeballs were involved.

Death saw that some time and effort had been spent devising a mechanism to rebutter each returning slice. An even more complex one measured the number of buttered carpets.

After a couple of complete turns the lever of the buttered carpet ratio device had moved to 60 per cent, and the wheels stopped.

WELL? said Death. IF YOU DID IT AGAIN, IT COULD WELL BE THAT-

The Death of Rats shifted a gear lever and began to pedal again.

SQUEAK, it commanded. Death obediently leaned closer.

This time the needle went only as high as 40 per cent.

Death leaned closer still.

The eight pieces of carpet that had been buttered this time were, in their entirety, the pieces that had been missed first time round.

Spidery cogwheels whirred in the machine. A sign emerged, rather shakily, on springs, with an effect that was the visual equivalent of the word 'boing'.

A moment later two sparklers spluttered fitfully into life and sizzled away on either side of the word: MALIGNITY.

Death nodded. It was just as he'd suspected.

He crossed his study, the Death of Rats scampering ahead of him, and reached a full-length mirror. It was dark, like the bottom of a well. There was a pattern of skulls and bones around the frame, for the sake of appearances; Death could not look himself in the skull in a mirror with cherubs and roses around it.

The Death of Rats climbed the frame in a scrabble of claws and looked at Death expectantly from the top. Quoth fluttered over and pecked briefly at his own reflection, on the basis that anything was worth a try.

SHOW ME, said Death. SHOW ME ... MY THOUGHTS.

A chessboard appeared, but it was triangular, and so big that only the nearest point could be seen. Right on this point was the world - turtle, elephants, the little orbiting sun and all. It was the Discworld, which existed only just this side of total improbability and, therefore, in border country. In border country the border gets crossed, and sometimes things creep into the universe that have rather more on their mind than a better life for their children and a wonderful future in the fruit-picking and domestic service industries.

On every other black or white triangle of the chessboard, all the way to infinity, was a small grey shape, rather like an empty hooded robe.

Why now? thought Death.

He recognized them. They were not life forms. They were . . . non-life forms. They were the observers of the operation of the universe, its clerks, its auditors. They saw to it that things spun and rocks fell.

And they believed that for a thing to exist it had to have a position in time and space. Humanity had arrived as a nasty shock. Humanity practically was things that didn't have a position in time and space, such as imagination, pity, hope, history and belief. Take those away and all you had was an ape that fell out of trees a lot.

Intelligent life was, therefore, an anomaly. It made the filing untidy. The Auditors hated things like that. Periodically, they tried to tidy things up a little.

The year before, astronomers across the Discworld had been puzzled to see the stars wheel gently across the sky as the world-turtle executed a roll. The thickness of the world never allowed them to see why, but Great A'Tuin's ancient head had snaked out and down and had snapped right out of the sky the speeding asteroid that would, had it hit, have meant that no one would have needed to buy a diary ever again.

No, the world could take care of obvious threats like that. So now the grey robes preferred more subtle, cowardly skirmishes in their endless desire for a universe where nothing happened that was not completely predictable.

The butter-side-down effect was only a trivial but telling indicator. It showed an increase in activity. Give up, was their eternal message. Go back to being blobs in the ocean. Blobs are easy.

But the great game went on at many levels, Death knew. And often it was hard to know who was playing.

EVERY CAUSE HAS ITS EFFECT, he said aloud. SO EVERY EFFECT HAS ITS CAUSE.

He nodded at the Death of Rats. show me, said Death. SHOW ME ... A BEGINNING.

Tick

It was a bitter winter's night. The man hammered on the back door, sending snow sliding off the roof.

The girl, who had been admiring her new hat in the mirror, tweaked the already low neckline of her dress for slightly more exposure, just in case the caller was male, and went and opened the door.

A figure was outlined against the freezing starlight. Flakes were already building up on his cloak.


'Mrs Ogg? The midwife?' he said.

'It's Miss, actually,' she said proudly. 'And witch, too, o'course.' She indicated her new black pointy hat. She was still at the stage of wearing it in the house.

'You must come at once. It's very urgent.'

The girl looked suddenly panic-stricken. 'Is it Mrs Weaver?

I didn't reckon she was due for another couple of we-'

'I have come a long way,' said the figure. 'They say you are the best in the world.'

'What? Me? I've only delivered one!' said Miss Ogg, now looking hunted. 'Biddy Spective is a lot more experienced than me! And old Minnie Forthwright! Mrs Weaver was going to be my first solo, 'cos she's built like a wardro-'

'I do beg your pardon. I will not trespass further on your time.'

The stranger retreated into the flake-speckled shadows.

'Hello?' said Miss Ogg. 'Hello?'

But there was nothing there, except footprints. Which stopped in the middle of the snow-covered path . . .

Tick

There was a hammering on the door. Mrs Ogg put down the child that had been sitting on her knee and went and raised the latch.

A dark figure stood outlined against the warm summer evening sky, and there was something strange about its shoulders.

'Mrs Ogg? You are married now?'

'Yep. Twice,' said Mrs Ogg cheerfully. 'What can I do for y-'

'You must come at once. It's very urgent.'

'I didn't know anyone was-'

'I have come a long way,' said the figure.

Mrs Ogg paused. There was something in the way he had pronounced long. And now she could see that the whiteness on the cloak was snow, melting fast. Faint memory stirred.

'Well, now,' she said, because she'd learned a lot in the last twenty years or so, 'that's as may be, and I'll always do the best I can, ask anyone. But I wouldn't say I'm the best. Always learnin' something new, that's me.'

'Oh. In that case I will call at a more convenient . . . moment.'

'Why've you got snow on-?'

But, without ever quite vanishing, the stranger was no longer present . . .

Tick

There was a hammering on the door. Nanny Ogg carefully put down her brandy nightcap and stared at the wall for a moment. Now a lifetime of edge witchery had honed senses that most people never really knew they had, and something in her head went 'click'.

On the hob the kettle for her hot-water bottle was just coming to the boil.<<br>
Continues...


Excerpted from Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett Excerpted by permission.
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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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 62 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2004

    Completely Perfect Read!

    This was one of the best books I have ever read. Terry Pratchett does the best spin on the character of Death, making the book entertaining and hilarious. Not only is this book hilarious and well structured, it makes you look at reality in an entirely different way. Seriously read it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2004

    Time and again...

    This is one of my favorite Discworld books, and it always makes me happy to see Susan Sto Helit in another adventure. With her usual practical attitude and her not-so-usual abilities, Susan must save the world - again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2003

    YAY! TERRY'S BEST BOOK!

    "Thief of Time", in my opinion, is Terry Pratchett's all-time best book. The characters and well-drawn, the plot complex, and at the end, it seems that everything kind of ties in...Plus he uses comical humor only the British can get full credit for...I especially like Lobsang and Lu-Tze, the two monks...er...SWEEPERS, that handle time and Time. Susan's cool too, though...THIS IS A TOTALLY AWESOME BOOK!! READ!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2014

    A classic Terry P. book

    I am a fan of the discworld series, and I should warn that if you do not like bizarre dark humor, mixed with philosophy and a good dose of political statements, you should not read this book. I love books where DEATH is one of the main characters and specially if Susan (his granddaughter) is there. This book is the third of Susan's series, and although my favorite is still Hogfather, it is one that helps defy humanity's unique invention - Boredom

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2001

    Read this one!

    This was one of the most fun of Pratchett's books. The reviews already up have synopsized the characters, so I won't. This is one of his best.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2001

    One of Pratchett's Best to date...

    That doesn't mean that he won't out-do himself again. He does it all the time. His humor is subtle, but unparalelled in the world of satiracle fiction. Lu-Tze is probably one of Pratchett's most colourful characters, and he's got a huge part in this book. This is the first time you'll really get to know him as well. But Pratchett's best talent is the ability to poke fun out of context. After all, who else would think of Bonzaification of mountains, or exploding rice bowls? This book, in particular, likes to poke fun at the dicipline behind the martial arts, as the relationship between Lu-Tse and his pupil is one that could easily be drawn from that of any kung-foo movie. Definately worth a read. <p> If you're new to Discworld, I would recommend reading something else first. Start with 'Color of Magic'.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2001

    Pratchett Proves There's More to Story Than the Jokes

    Terry Pratchett proves once again why he's been England's best-selling author in any category. Although 'Thief of Time' has fewer laughs than many of the previous Discworld books, it has one of the strongest stories and the most interesting characters. Death's granddaughter Susan, one of the best Discworld characters, races to stop the Auditors from bringing time to a halt. The Auditors, however, find themselves enjoying human life more than they expected. Pratchett introduces fascinating new characters, the Monks of Time, who are also trying to stop the creation of the glass clock that will freeze time on the Discworld. This one is big on ideas and gets the reader to thinking. It's a fast-paced adventure and all-around entertainment. Outstanding!

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