A life torn between massacre, ethnic civil war and 'Where's my cow'.
Terry Pratchett has now been writing Discworld novels since the early eighties, and the man seems to know no end to his infatuation with that flat, magic-filled world that seems to reverberate with the problems that we experience in our daily lifes and that we get shown every day on BBC World, CNN or Al-Djazeera. In the past Pratchett has tackled racism, feminism, Microsoft and hackers, tabloid "journalism" and Rock'n Roll, but this time he has his eye on ethnic civil war and boy does he get going. "Thud!" features once again the life and times of Ankh Morpok's City Watch (what I perceive as Pratchett's favourite group of characters), an ever enlarging multi - ethnic civil law enforcement agency full of Trolls, dwarfes, gnomes, the odd human, a werewolf, and its valiant, über-cynic commander, the Duke of Ankh.
This time, it's war. Well, almost. It's just weeks before the annual punch up between dwarves and trolls that is their idea of rememembering the Battle of Koom Valley (a legendary fight in which the dwarves were ambushed by the trolls or the other way around, depending whether you're made from silicone or have a knee-long beard) and Vimes is desperately trying to keep the peace in a city that feels like Sarajevo in 1992 or Oldham 2001. Just to make life a wee bit more difficult for Vimes, the Osama bin Laden of the dwarf world, a deep downer called Grag Hamcrusher is brutally killed by what looks like - you guessed it - a troll. Now Vimes and his increasingly divided group of humanoids must not only keep the peace, but also try to integrate a vampire into the watch, live with a meddling financial auditor and try to make it home every night at 6 pm to read "Where's my cow" to his little son, Sam junior.
Quite a workload.
As ever Pratchett's many references to our world make his creation even more intriguing to the temporary reader. Sometimes you just stumble over little written gems like Sergeant Colon musing about battles with his fellow watchmen:
"War, Nobby. Huh! What is it good for?" he said.
"Dunno, Sarge. Freeing slaves, maybe?"
"Absol- well, OK."
He makes an especially good job lampooning modern art and The Da Vinci Code and as ever infuses his book with a liberal moralism that should get up the arse of every christian / muslim conservative out there. His prose is effortlessly entertaining and even though this is Discworld novel 30+2 he continues to surprise and delight.
Long may he be stuck in front of his computer or rather behind his keyboard, writing these comic satires and make fun of bigotted right wing religious fanatics everywhere.
Thud!, by Terry Pratchett
Transworld Publishers, 2005, 362 pages