October 05, 2005

Thud!, by Terry Pratchett

This is Pratchett's latest Discworld novel; and it is to my lasting regret that due to soccer practice and an inability to find a babysitter we missed seeing him when he was at our local bookstore a couple of weeks ago. (So happens I missed Neil Gaiman last week, which is also regrettable but not nearly as lasting.)

Thud! is yet another tale of the City, Ankh-Morpork, as seen through the eyes of its most determined defender: His Grace Samuel Vimes, the reluctant Duke of Ankh-Morpork and most eager Commander of her City Watch. The topic this time around, as it so often is in the Sam Vimes books, is race relations. Koom Valley Day is approaching, and the dwarfs and the trolls are working themselves up to break a few heads. The dwarfs and trolls first fought the Battle of Koom Valley a thousand years earlier; they've given repeat performances every few decades ever since, sometimes even within the confines of Koom Valley.

Koom Valley Day is always rather fraught in Ankh-Morpork, thanks to the massive influx of dwarfs and trolls over the last twenty years; but this year it's shaping up to be a doozy. Indeed it appears that unless our Sam can do something to ease the tensions, the city will be the site of the next Battle of Koom Valley, and that eftsoons and right speedily.

Much of the tension may be laid at the feet of one Grag Hamcrusher, a leader of a new group of "deep down" dwarfs who have recently come to the city. Grag is not a name, but a title; it is the grags who are responsible for transmitting the essence of dwarfishness to the next generation. The closest human approximation is probably "rabbi"; and if "grag" equals "rabbi" then Hamcrusher and the "deep down" dwarfs make your average Hasidic Jew look like a secularist. Hamcrusher's not to impressed with the dwarfishness of your average city dwarf, and he's absolutely appalled by the vast numbers of trolls in the city, about whom he has not been silent.

As the book begins, Hamcrusher is not only Vimes' chief problem; he's also dead. The "deep down" dwarfs claim that the killer is a troll. And Koom Valley Day is only a few days away....

Like all of the Sam Vimes books, Thud! is a mystery with Vimes as the sleuth; and like all of the Sam Vimes books, the mystery is odd, surprising, and funny. I'll only say that the book Vimes reads to his son Young Sam every night at six o'clock precisely--every night, without fail, at precisely six o'clock, utterly without fail, because if you'll skip it for a good reason you'll eventually skip it for a bad reason--that is, the estimable Where's My Cow?, plays a dramatic (also odd, surprising, and funny) role at the climax of the tale. Jane and I are going to be giggling about it to each other for the indefinite future.

Posted by Will Duquette at October 5, 2005 09:46 PM