April 02, 2003

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, by Terry Pratchett

Pratchett generally writes two sorts of books: Discworld novels and young adult novels. The Discworld novels are always written to be accessible to Americans; the young adult novels are intended for young adults in the UK, and make much or use of UK slang and terminology. They generally aren't as satirical, either, and they generally aren't available in the United States.

This present novel is an exception to the rule--it's both a Discworld novel (though it's not marketed as one) and a young adult novel. I nabbed it joyfully at a bookstore in Australia, and read it with glee.

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is a sterling example of the Small Story. It takes place on the Discworld, but doesn't depend on any prior knowledge of the Disc; in fact, the only standard Discworld character to make an appearance is Death (no surprises there).

Maurice is an intelligent talking cat; his Educated Rodents are intelligent talking rats. Apparently the animals ate something that agreed with them from the trash heap of Unseen University, the Disc's premier college of wizardry. Once blessed with intelligence, Maurice found a stupid-looking kid playing the pennywhistle, and then enlisted the rats into a continuing Pied Piper scam--the kid, the cat, and the rats move into a town, the rats raise a ruckus, and (for a sizeable fee) the kid pipes them out of town.

The rats are starting to grumble that maybe this is unethical (being intelligent is giving them ideas) when the troupe arrives in the Uberwald village of Bad Blintz--a village on the verge of starvation due to a plague of rats, except that Maurice and his Educated Rodents can't find any rats there but themselves. What goes on?

This is a small book, shorter than the usual Discworld novel, but it was a lot of fun.

Posted by Will Duquette at April 2, 2003 04:46 PM