The Truth; Guards! Guards! (Terry Pratchett) 3.5*

The city of Ankh-Morpork is a fun place for fantasy sociologists.  It is a city on the cusp of modernity, discreetly steered by the Patrician, Lord Vetinari, who is absolutely exquisite in the manner in which he does not interfere.

In The Truth, the rumor goes around that the dwarves have found a way to turn lead into gold.  In fact, they do it the long way around, using lead movable type to generate golden revenue.  Ankh-Morpork gets its first newspaper, and then its first tabloid.

In Guards! Guards!, a couple dragons show up (as they are so wont to do), and the recumbent City Watch grows a mission and starts investigating dragon-related crimes.

At the end of the day, Terry Pratchett books are a lot like good TV.  A lot of it is laugh-old-loud funny, though the story flows in one ear and out the other.  It’s all about the city, which I love.  Ankh-Morpork en masse is endearingly human.  When the newspaper offers a reward for a very important lost dog, the citizenry queue up at the newspaper office with all sorts of four-legged creatures and a few chickens and parrots to boot (sure it’s a terrier, listen to this bark!).  When the tabloids publish woman-gives-birth-to-cobra stories, people say “Well They wouldn’t print it if it weren’t true.”  When a dragon shows up, everyone’s first thought is “Where there’s a dragon there’s a hoard.”

Next, the street vendors think “Let’s sell dragon detectors.”  It’s a piece of wood on a metal stick.  When your wood spontaneously combusts, there’s a dragon nearby.

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5 responses to “The Truth; Guards! Guards! (Terry Pratchett) 3.5*

  1. I got halfway through Mort and decided it wasn’t going to make me a better person. But I agree it’s better than TV. And I have watched a lot of TV.

    • Thank goodness not all of life is about betterment of self. Some of it is about chocolate and opulent liqueors, and disposable laughter.

    • On third thought, maybe it does slightly make the reader a better person. Most of the books (but probably not Mort) are about institutions. The Truth is about the newspaper. Making Money is about the mint. Going Postal is about the post office and all modern telecommunications. The other books cover the police department, the university, the religions, the various ethnicities, and many other aspects of Ankh-Morpork. Terry Pratchett embeds quite a lot of political philosophy and practical sociology:
      “There were plotters, there was no doubt about it. Some had been ordinary people who’d had enough. Some were young people with no money who objected to the fact that the world was run by old people who were rich. Some were in it to get girls. And some had been idiots as mad as Swing, with a view of the world just as rigid and unreal, who were on the side of what they called ‘The People.’ Vimes had spent his life on the streets and had met decent men, and fools, and people who’d steal a penny from a blind beggar, and people who performed silent miracles or desperate crimes every day behind the grubby windows of little houses, but he’d never met The People.
      People on the side of The People always ended up disappointed, in any case. They found that The People tended not to be grateful or appreciative or forward-thinking or obedient. The People tended to be small-minded and conservative and not very clever and were even distrustful of cleverness. And so, the children of the revolution were faced with the age-old problem: it wasn’t that you had the wrong kind of government, which was obvious, but that you had the wrong kind of people.”

      • Well, he can stay on my list; it’s just a lower priority. I can’t watch TV anymore because it takes half my concentration and then bores it, whereas a book takes my whole concentration, so it’s twice as bad when boring. So I don’t really do diet lit. When I’m in the mood for light-hearted entertainment, I watch over-produced action films. I think Pratchett is obviously very intelligent and rather clever, and if that comes through in saying something about man, so be it. I’ve just been skeptical about his popularity. Same for Card, even. I absolutely adore the Ender series, but he knows he can get away with cranking out shit, and he’s even written about how he can crank out shit, and some of his stuff is such shit… its depressing. It’s not hard to picture Pratchett feeding an adoring public the same formula over and over, and my reading hours are finite. Maybe I lose something by thinking that way.

      • I don’t touch Card’s non-Ender books with a ten-foot pole.
        (Actually, after Xenocide, I don’t touch half the Ender books. I just get the one-minute summary: http://www.rinkworks.com/bookaminute/b/card.xenochild.shtml)
        I just read my 4th Pratchett book, and I must commend the author because, despite popular success, nothing so far has made me want to get out the red pencil. Let Pratchett be an example to you, Mr. Card. And Mr. GRRM. And, ye gods, Ms. McCaffrey.

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