Thief of Time (Discworld Series #26)

Thief of Time (Discworld Series #26)

4.4 62
by Terry Pratchett

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Everybody wants more time, which is why on Discworld only the experts can manage it -- the venerable Monks of History who store it and pump it from where it's wasted, like underwater (how much time does a codfish really need?), to places like cities, where busy denizens lament, "Oh where does the time go?"

While everyone always talks about

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Everybody wants more time, which is why on Discworld only the experts can manage it -- the venerable Monks of History who store it and pump it from where it's wasted, like underwater (how much time does a codfish really need?), to places like cities, where busy denizens lament, "Oh where does the time go?"

While everyone always talks about slowing down, one young horologist is about to do the unthinkable. He's going to stop. Well, stop time that is, by building the world's first truly accurate clock. Which means esteemed History Monk Lu-Tze and his apprentice Lobsang Ludd have to put on some speed to stop the timepiece before it starts. For if the Perfect Clock starts ticking, Time -- as we know it -- will end. And then the trouble will really begin...

Editorial Reviews
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 (

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
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

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Discworld Series , #26
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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.

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

“There was no yesterday.”

“ 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...'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.

What People are saying about this

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.”
Sunday Telegraph

“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

Meet the Author

Sir Terry Pratchett, OBE, was the author of more than 70 books, including the internationally bestselling Discworld series of novels. His books have been adapted for stage and screen, and he was the winner of multiple prizes, including the Carnegie Medal. In January 2009, Pratchett was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his services to literature. Sir Terry, who lived in England, died in March 2015 at the age of 66.

Brief Biography

Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
Date of Birth:
April 28, 1948
Place of Birth:
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England
Four honorary degrees in literature from the universities of Portsmouth, Bristol, Bath and Warwick

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Thief of Time 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 62 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
"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, that handle time and Time. Susan's cool too, though...THIS IS A TOTALLY AWESOME BOOK!! READ!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.

If you're new to Discworld, I would recommend reading something else first. Start with 'Color of Magic'.

Guest More than 1 year ago
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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