Pratchett, Terry: (34) Thud!

Terry Pratchett’s newest Discworld book is called Thud!; it’s named after a chess-like game where the sides are trolls and dwarfs. It’s the anniversary of the Battle of Koom Valley, at which the trolls ambushed the dwarfs, or the dwarfs ambushed the trolls—no-one really knows. Inter-species tensions have been exacerbated by the arrival in Ankh-Morpork of some seriously conservative dwarfs who preach the extermination of trolls, and Commander Vimes and the rest of the City Watch have their hands more than full trying to keep the city from exploding. And that’s before one of the conservative dwarfs is murdered and a troll club is found nearby . . .

But every night at six o’clock, without fail, Vimes reads Where’s My Cow? to his fourteen-month-old son.

(Where’s My Cow? has actually been published separately as a picture book; I haven’t seen it myself yet.)

This is a “things from the Dungeon Dimensions”-type plot, with an invisible quasidemonic entity mucking about looking for a way to influence events. These are normally not my favorite Discworld plots, but this one is worth it for the climactic scene. The rest of the story makes good use of new and old secondary characters, and of expanding prior worldbuilding bits into interesting dwarf and troll cultures. It also introduces a new element, which from a lesser author would strike me as a very bad idea; because this is Pratchett, however, I’m sure he knows where it came from and what effects it’s going to have, which I’m looking forward to learning.

This book also has some particularly good footnotes, such as:

Vimes had never got on with any game much more complex than darts. Chess in particular had always annoyed him. It was the dumb way the pawns went off and slaughtered their fellow pawns while the kings lounged about doing nothing that always got to him; if only the pawns united, maybe talked the rooks around, the whole board could’ve been a republic in a dozen moves.

And:

” . . . I’ve never played games since I grew up. I used to be good at tiddley-rats* when I was a nipper, though.”

* A famous Ankh-Morpork gutter sport, second only to dead-rat conkers. Turd races in the gutter appear to have died out, despite an attempt to take them upmarket with the name Poosticks.

I have a couple of minor quibbles: the Brick POV sections seem superfluous, but they’re short and, as Chad points out, consistent with the genre; and the Da Vinci Code references already feel dated (though I suppose in a while they won’t stand out as references at all). Other than those small points, however, a solid and very satisfying book.

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  1. Also, yes, the proofreading is a disaster (possibly the copyediting too), though I largely only noticed when I went back to look for specific things. Things like the numeral one being substituted for a lowercase letter L, missing spaces, etc. (I meant to mention this and forgot.)

  2. Never mind all the transposed letters (e.g., the scene with Brokensheild, ‘scuse me, Brokenshield)…

  3. I saw the ‘Where’s my cow’ book, which has some lovely artwork and won’t make sense to non-Discworld people. I liked Vimes’ comments on what procedures to actually follow in the case that one should lose one’s cow. Five minutes in the Borders bookstore.

  4. Kvon, thanks, I’ll probably look for it sometime soon–I love the idea of Vimes’ commenting on lost-cow procedures.

  5. I particularly enjoyed the dwarf named “Bashfulsson”

  6. Tim: yes, particularly since his first name is “Bash.” A nice contrast!
    I was listening to the end of this on audiobook on the way home today, while behind a car with the vanity license plate “DIAMOND.” I thought that was very fitting. =>

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