Review: Thud, Terry Pratchett

As a teenager, I was a huge Discworld fan, I still have nearly thirty of them somewhere up in the loft, awaiting the day I move out and get bookshelves of my own.  Discworld has been described as a Post-Industrial Fairyland and I think that is fairly apt.  When I got to university, I didn’t have as much time to read them and so kind of stopped buying them, but when I saw that a friend had this one, I begged to borrow it.  This is a Sam Vimes Discworld story, which as fans will know means that it is one of the better ones.  Sam Vimes is the Commander of the Ankh Morpork City Watch and his character is the one which is allowed the greatest degree of personal growth out of any of those featured in the Discworld Universe.  With such a huge output, it is not surprising that the quality of Discworld has varied on occasion (Pyramids and Moving Pictures, yes, I’m looking at you), but stories which feature the Watch or those starring the Witches of the Ramtops (Granny Weatherwax and the gang) are pretty reliably hilarious. 
Terry Pratchett does get rather under-rated as an author, more or less because he writes for the science fiction section of the book shop and also because he is a comic writer, yet still I know that a few of his got picked for the Big Read and he is enormously talented.  Sam Vimes is a very believable character in that he is a deeply conflicted man who wants to do good and is very concerned that he is not good because he is aware of not only all the things he has done but all the things he has thought.  Given that Vimes is the creation of an atheist writer, I think this is a fascinating depiction of someone’s struggle with their own identity as a sinner.  After all, we all constantly sin in thought even if that is as far as it goes. 
Thud! is the first Sam Vimes book since Night Watch which saw him taken back in time to mentor his own younger self, which was inconvenient since his wife was in labour in the present.  Still, it all worked out to the good and Lady Sybil made a full recovery and now there is the delightful Young Sam who Vimes has to be home to read to every evening at six.  I absolutely loved this, I’ve always liked Lady Sybil as a character and although she and Vimes make an odd couple, I do think that they are believable as a unit.  Vimes has in the past seemed almost nervous of family life, as if concerned that if he became too attached to his wife then he might lose her; in fatherhood however, Vimes seems to finally relax in his role.  Relaxed in the wrong word perhaps, given his terror of failure, having promised to read to his son every night with the motto that if he ever started missing it for a good reason then he might one day miss it for a bad reason so had better never miss a night reading to Young Sam at all.  Pratchett’s description of reading to a small child was clearly drawn from experience, with Young Sam’s book of choice being Where’s My Cow? night after night.  Inevitably, circumstance forces Vimes to miss reading to his son and his anguish was as heart-rending as it was hilarious. 

It had been a while since I last read Discworld and I was glad to see some old friends – Detritus in particular has grown up to be lovely.  With Pratchett’s health problems, it is not clear how many more of these there will be.  He has created a world as complete as the Harry Potter universe and indeed while in Harry Potter world the conflict is between good and evil, the Disc’s struggles come from everyday people (not necessarily humans).  People are rarely wicked in Discworld, more misguided or selfish or over-ambitious – indeed, Pratchett’s character Death always comes across as impossibly sweet.  This human (for lack of a better term) frailty is made abundantly clear through Thud! which focuses on the centuries-long dispute between the trolls and the dwarves.  Pratchett is a very intelligent man and this made for a very interesting look at sectarianism.  Without giving too much away, I really liked that it was shown that the original conflict was essentially based on a misunderstanding.  The cubes idea I found a bit far-fetched but I did like the whole runes thing with the Following Dark etc.  
I wondered a bit about this story, after books and books which featured the Trolls vs. Dwarves war, I felt like Pratchett was tying up loose ends which would make sense again given his health problems.  This was a book where you needed to know your stuff from previous episodes to follow who everyone was and how they linked up.  I hope though that there’s a chance in the future for Carrot and Angua to have a conclusion with some real romance rather than Angua’s constant insecurity.  This book didn’t quite pack the same punch as Night Watch but as with most of the Sam Vimes stories, Pratchett does still create a definite sense of pathos and Something Was Learnt by the characters which did seem like it had the potential to change the way the Disc works in the future.
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Thud! by Terry Pratchett
Published by Random House on December 1st 2009
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, General
Pages: 464
ISBN: 9781407035437

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