Science fiction and fantasy
The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents
by Terry Pratchett
The animals team up with a stupid-looking boy who happens to play the pipe. They have been going from town to town, ridding each one of a 'plague' of rats and getting rich into the bargain.
Then they reach the town of Bad Blintz in Uberwald, where some strange things are going on. The people are starving, rats have a price on their tails, and there are no other rats to be found at all. Terrible things lurk in the cellars, worse even than Nanny Ogg's home brew. Although it's loosely based around the Pied Piper stories, in typical Pratchett style it does not turn out as you might expect.
Pratchett makes you care what happens to these rodents, in spite of the fact that they are rats. They all have distinct personalities, so the reader tends not to think of them as cute snuffly furry things which only have short lives anyway. He also raises some difficult questions about who we eat and how we treat 'lesser' beings. Maurice has a code that he won't eat anything that can talk to him. He also experiences the disturbing stirrings of a conscience. The rats too begin to ask questions about death, souls and heaven. Their new intelligence makes everything a lot more complex all of a sudden.
However it's not a book with a great deal of existential angst. The adventure is fast-paced and frightening. Seen from a rat's-eye view many simple things are threatening and more lethal than the rats. They dodge poison, traps and other obstacles to get to the heart of the mystery.
The plot is perhaps a little simpler than Pratchett's adult work, the moral less ambiguous. There are fewer jokes, although some good ones, and more action. Yet it's suspenseful to the last page. And if you think you know how it's going to end, you're wrong. Or you've already read it.
One of his best.
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Review © Ros Jackson
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