Pratchett, Terry: (26) Thief of Time

I’d read Terry Pratchett’s Thief of Time before when it came out, but I’d had the Apocalypse on my mind because of Good Omens, and as Thief features the Fifth Horseman, it seemed like a good pick.

This is the most recent of Pratchett’s many Discworld books and one of my favorites. The Discworld books are comfort books for me; they take our world and history, twist it X number of degrees (Ankh-Morpork, the biggest city, is about what London might have been around the Industrial Revolution, if, sometime prior, all the fantasy creatures had said, “Hey, we’re here and we want jobs.”), point up the absurdities inherent therein and then add some more, but—and this is the key point—as part of good stories with funny bits. The books can be loosely divided up into sub-series based on the main characters; this one is a Death/Susan book (Susan is the daughter of Death’s adopted daughter, and has stood in for Death in prior books. Genetics are a funny thing on the Discworld.). Death, on the Discworld, is your traditional skeleton with a scythe and a big white horse; the horse’s name is Binky, though, and Death is much more sympathetic to living things than some of the other things in the Discworld. Like the Auditors.

He recognized them. They were not life-forms. They were . . . nonlife-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.

This time, they’ve found a human to make the first truly accurate clock. Why this means the Apocalypse, and who the Fifth Horseman is, and what the History Monks are going to do about it, and what happens when an Auditor takes on flesh, and why Nanny Ogg thinks it’s all gone myffic (“‘Mythic?’ said schoolteacher Susan. ‘Yep. With extra myff.'”), and whether there can be a perfect moment even with nougat (“a terrible thing to cover with chocolate, where it can ambush the unsuspecting”) . . . well, you’ll have to read it to find out.

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