At their best, Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels are inspired comic creations: funny, pointed, irreverent, and endlessly entertaining. This entry, appropriately entitled The Truth, is the 25th installment since the series began in 1983, and I'm pleased to report that it's as deeply deranged as any of the previous 24.
Discworld, for the benefit of newcomers, is a flat, disc-shaped planet carried on the backs of four giant elephants, who are themselves carried by the giant turtle called Great A'Tuin. The principal metropolis of Discworld -- and the site of most of the stories -- is Ankh-Morpork, a cosmopolitan city populated by an uneasy combination of humans, vampires, trolls, werewolves, zombies, gnomes, gargoyles, and imps. Typically, the Discworld novels reflect fractured versions of instantly recognizable events, trends, and cultural phenomena, and The Truth is no exception. This time out, investigative journalism gains a foothold in Ankh-Morpork, with predictably bizarre results.
The hero of The Truth is William de Worde, disenfranchised member of the wealthy -- and arrogant -- nobility. William earns a meager living selling highly specialized "news letters" to selected subscribers. With the belated advent of moveable type, business picks up rapidly, and William finds himself manning the helm of a revolutionary publication: The Ankh-Morpork Times,
whose erroneously typeset motto is "The Truth Shall Make You Fret." It shall, indeed.
William and his fledgling staff start out by covering a variety of mundane subjects: weddings, weather, fires, and flower shows, as well as "human interest" stories, such as the unusual -- i.e., genital-shaped -- vegetables grown by an enterprising farmer. But before you can say Woodward and Bernstein, William uncovers a major political scandal, as the anonymous members of "The Committee to Un-elect the Patrician" attempt to incriminate and depose the legal ruler of Ankh-Morpork, Havelock Vetinari, and replace him with a more amenable candidate of their own.
William's pursuit of the elusive, subtly shifting concept known as "truth" takes him from the highest levels of Ankh-Morpork society to the lowest, and bring him into contact with a wide variety of allies and opponents, including: a talking dog named Gaspode, a pair of imported hit men, a fast-talking lawyer who happens to be dead, and -- my own favorite -- a vampiric photographer with a peculiar allergic reaction to sudden flashes of light. The result of all this is an illuminating excursion into the origins
of journalism, Discworld-style, and a first-rate entry in the most consistent series of comic fantasies currently available in the English-speaking world.
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 just been published by Subterranean Press (www.subterraneanpress.com).
Humorously entertaining...subtly thought-provoking...
Midwest Book Review
The characters are delightful… Every page boils with humor and fantastic invention.
...Has the energy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the inventiveness of Alice in Wonderland...Birlliant!
San Francisco Chronicle
Unadulterated fun...Witty, frequently hilarious.
Think J.R.R. Tolkien with a sharper, more satiric edge.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The 25th book (after The Fifth Elephant) in the Discworld series returns to the thriving city of Ankh-Morpork, where humans, dwarfs and trolls share the streets with zombies, vampires, werewolves and the occasional talking dog. Young William de Worde makes a modest living running a scribing business, including a newsletter of current events for a select subscription list. Then he meets dwarf wordsmith Gunilla Goodmountain, inventor of the printing press, who helps transform de Worde's newsletter into a daily called The Ankh-Morpork Times (subhead: The Truth Shall Make Ye Free). While the city's civil, religious and business leaders are up in arms over The Times, Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, encourages the advance--as long as it remains a "simple entertainment that is not going to end up causing tentacled monsters and dread apparitions to talk the streets eating people." In the meantime, as de Worde's staff grows and a type turns the subhead to "The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret", two shadowy characters are hired to remove the Patrician--permanently. Pratchett's witty reach is even longer than usual here, from Pulp Fiction to His Girl Friday. Readers who've never visited Discworld before may find themselves laughing out loud, even as they cheer on the good guys, while longtime fans are sure to call this Pratchett's best one yet. (Nov. 7) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Pratchett's twenty-fifth entry in his popular Discworld series is right on target with plenty of good humor, quirky characters, and a fun, fast-moving plot,. William de Worde, the younger son of one of Ankh-Morpork's elite families, always has had a flair for words, but he never expected that talent to blossom into the Ankh-Morpork Times, Ankh-Morpork's first newspaper, printed with the able assistance of a group of dwarves. As the workload explodes, he is assisted by the proper Sacharissa Cripslock and Otto, a recovering vampire whose photosensitivity tends to cause him to fall apart. When Lord Vetinari, Patrician of the city, is accused of attempted murder, William doggedly seeks out the truth even if it earns him the unwelcome attention of both a secret society of anti-Vetinari conspirators and Captain Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork Watch. As always, popular culture allusions, puns, and sheer lunacy abound, but underpinning all is a substantial insight into human culture and the shifting nature of truth. Pratchett's books not only make readers laugh, but they also offer something to think about while laughing. This title stands alone well, although prior knowledge of the Discworld universe enhances the enjoyment. Fortunately, the publisher is reissuing the series in paperback. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2000, HarperCollins, 324p, Ages 16 to Adult. Reviewer: Donna Scanlon SOURCE: VOYA, June 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 2)
When he stumbles upon the dwarven secret of movable type, young scribe William de Word discovers a new career and starts a newspaper--the first of its kind in the city of Ankh-Morporp. Pratchett's 25th "Discworld" novel takes on the press and investigative journalism in a hilarious romp that examines the fleeting nature of truth and lies. The author's skill in the difficult art of comic fantasy makes this story of innocence and cynicism a good choice for most fantasy collections, particularly where the series is in demand. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/00.] Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Pratchett's latest Discworld romp (The Fifth Elephant, p. 27, etc.) is a mystery-cum-satire. When the dwarfs invent a printing press with movable type, William de Worde, a reporter of rumors, decidesafter warning the dwarfs how much trouble the device will causeto establish a daily newsletter, The Ankh-Morpork Times. He enlists the city's beggars as vendors, an engraver's daughter as reporter, and a vampire who's renounced blood as photographer. Soon, however, a sleazy rival hits the streets, The Ankh-Morpork Inquirer. Then the city's ruling Patrician, Lord Vetinari, is discovered unconscious, apparently engaged in fleeing his home with $70,000 after stabbing his clerk. William, who always tells the trutha curious and very rare quality hereaboutsexamines the crime scene, assesses the peculiar evidence, and decides to investigate. An above-average entry in this durable, funny, and occasionally razor-edged series.
From the Publisher
"Other writers are 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." – The Times
"The Truth is an unmitigated delight and very, very funny…The pace is compelling but he never lets his tale descend into simple farce." – The Times
"[Discworld] has the energy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the inventiveness of Alice in Wonderland…[Terry Pratchett] has an intelligent wit and a truly original grim and comic grasp of the nature of things." – A.S. Byatt, Sunday Times
Read an Excerpt
TheRumor spread through the city like wildfire (which had quite often spread through Ankh-Morpork since its citizens had learned the words "fire insurance").The dwarfs can turn lead into gold ...
It buzzed through the fetid air of the Alchemists' quarter, where they had been trying to do the same thing for centuries without success but were certain that they'd manage it by tomorrow, or next Tuesday at least, or the end of the month for definite.
It caused speculation among the wizards at Unseen University, where they knew you could turn one element into another element, provided you didn't mind it turning back again next day, and where was the good in that? Besides, most elements were happy where they were.
It seared into the scarred, puffy, and sometimes totally missing ears of the Thieves' Guild, where people put an edge on their crowbars. Who cared where the gold came from?
The dwarfs can turn lead into gold ...
It reached the cold but incredibly acute ears of the Patrician, and it did that fairly quickly, because you did not stay ruler of Ankh-Morpork for long if you were second with the news. He sighed and made a note of it, and added it to a lot of other notes.
The dwarfs can turn lead into gold ...
It reached the pointy ears of the dwarfs.
"Damned if I know. I can't."
"Yeah, but if you could, you wouldn't say. I wouldn't say, if I could."
It came to the ears of the night watch of the city guards, as they did gate duty at ten o'clock on an icy night. Gate duty in Ankh-Morpork was not taxing. Itconsisted mainly of waving through anything that wanted to go through, although traffic was minimal in the dark and freezing fog.
They hunched in the shelter of the gate arch, sharing one damp cigarette.
"You can't turn something into something else," said Corporal Nobbs. "The Alchemists have been trying it for years."
"They a can gen'rally turn a house into a hole in the ground," said Sergeant Colon.
"That's what I'm talking about," said Corporal Nobbs. "Can't be done. It's all to do with ... elements. An alchemist told me. Everything's made up of elements, right? Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and ... sunnink. Well-known fact. Everything's got 'em all mixed up just right."
He stamped his feet in an effort to get some warmth into them.
"If it was possible to turn lead into gold, everyone'd be doing it," he said.
"Wizards could do it," said Sergeant Colon.
"Oh, well, magic," said Nobby dismissively.
A large cart rumbled out of the yellow clouds and entered the arch, splashing Colon as it wobbled through one of the puddles that were such a feature of Ankh-Morpork's highways.
"Bloody dwarfs," he said, as it continued on into the city. But he didn't say it too loudly.
"There were a lot of them pushing that cart," said Corporal Nobbs reflectively. It lurched slowly around a comer and was lost to view.
"Prob'ly all that gold," said Colon.
"Hah. Yeah. That'd be it, then."
And the rumor came to the ears of William de Worde, and in a sense it stopped there, because he dutifully wrote it down.
It was his job. Lady Margolotta of Uberwald sent him five dollars a month to do it. The Dowager Duchess of Quirm also sent him five dollars. So did King Verence of Lancre, and a few other Ramtop notables. So did the Seriph of AI-Khali, although in this case the payment was half a cartload of figs, twice a year.
All in all, he considered, he was onto a good thing. All he had to do was write one letter very carefully, trace it backwards onto a piece of boxwood provided for him by Mr. Cripslock, the engraver in the Street of Cunning Artificers, and then pay Mr. Cripslock twenty dollars to carefully remove the wood that wasn't letters and make five impressions on sheets of paper.
Of course, it had to be done thoughtfully, with spaces left after "To my Noble Client the," and so on, which he had to fill in later, but even deducting expenses it still left him the best part of thirty dollars for little more than one day's work a month.
A young man without too many responsibilities could live modestly in Ankh-Morpork on thirty or forty dollars a month; he always sold the figs, because although it was possible to live on figs you soon wished you didn't.
And there were always additional sums to be picked up here and there. The world of letters was a closed bo- mysterious papery object to many of Ankh-Morpork's citizens, but if they ever did need to commit things to paper quite a few of them walked up the creaky stairs past the sign "William de Worde: Things Written Down."
Dwarfs, for example. Dwarfs were always coming to seek work in the city, and the first thing they did was send a letter home saying how well they were doing. This was such a predictable occurrence, even if the dwarf in question was so far down on his luck that he'd been forced to eat his helmet, that William had Mr. Cripslock produce several dozen stock letters which only needed a few spaces filled in to be perfectly acceptable.