Science fiction and fantasy                                            


by Terry Pratchett


Thud! is another Discworld novel to feature the Ankh-Morpork Watch. Sam Vimes, now the Duke of Ankh and Commander of the City Guard, doesn't want his high station to interfere with his work as a copper. He keeps himself grounded by shaving with a cut-throat razor and refusing to hide behind a desk.

Trouble is brewing in the city, between the dwarves and the trolls, in the run-up to the anniversary of a 1000-year-old battle. Tensions are running high, and it looks increasingly as though the Battle of Koom Valley will be re-enacted for real on the streets of Ankh-Morpork. The population of the city has grown more ethnic over the years, and the atmosphere has soured.

For the dwarves, one Grag Hamcrusher represents the old ways, reminding them what being a dwarf stands for. He's a kind of fundamentalist preacher, a mining dwarf so old-school he never comes to the surface to see daylight. Hamcrusher and his deep-downer ilk object to dwarf women who are openly female. It doesn't take a great leap of imagination to see which real-world cultural and religious groups Terry Pratchett is writing about here.

You have to admire the author's skill in taking the mythical creatures from the Discworld and adapting them so seamlessly in each of his novels to stand as a metaphor for aspects of our own world.

The trolls, for their part, have taken to writing graffiti about an elusive Mr Shine. They are as culturally sensitive as the dwarves, in their own ways. And in the midst of all of this tension Vimes has to steer a careful course for the Watch. He has to be seen not to favour one faction over the other, whilst keeping his officers of all races happy.

The Watch faces another challenge in the midst of all this racial upheaval, in the form of Sally, its first vampire recruit. And of course, vampires and werewolves are ancient enemies. So it seems natural that Sally should be partnered with Sergeant Angua as they try to track down a dwarf's killer, and in the process prevent a war breaking out.

Thud! is one of the better Discworld books, which is to say it's a real gem. It's peppered with Pratchett's trademark silly humour. The mood is lightened further by Vimes' duty to read "Where's My Cow?" to Sam Vimes junior every evening at 6pm, no matter what. This novel encompasses the elements of a good mystery, a dash of fear, and great characterisation. Pratchett captures the female point of view with uncanny accuracy in scenes such as those between Sally and Angua, and when some of the Watch women go for a girl's night out. The author seems to know people, both male and female, better than many of us know ourselves, and this is what makes the Discworld books so entertaining.

It may seem like the sound of a blunt instrument, but Thud! is as sharp on social commentary as any of the Discworld novels.

Book Details

Year: 2005

Categories: Books


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5 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
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