THUD by Terry Pratchett

Review by Ann Cecil

THUD is a new Discworld novel, in the continuing sub-series known variously as the Vimes books (after the predominant character) or a Guards book (since the books in this sub-series mostly feature adventures of the Night Watch). I've also heard them referred to as books set in Ankh-Morpork, or books with Carrot in them. But I think of them as Vimes' books, since an interesting thing is happening in them. Others of Pratchett's many Discworld books (33 or 34 at last count) continue to be hilarious, belly-laugh provoking exercises in parody plots and satiric snipes at various sacred cows of our current civilization.

Vimes books are turning into something slightly different: Vimes is becoming a real person, with a great deal of dimension, and is dragging the other caricatures into full characterization with him. Vimes tangles with serious themes, issues of morality, of life and death and the choices we make in facing both.

THUD is a book that brought out an occasional chuckle, but no belly-laughs. It is longer than many of the other Discworld books, meatier, and a great deal more thoughtprovoking. Sam Vimes is doing a balancing act now: he is still commanding the Watch, but he is also a responsible husband and father. His city is in danger of being torn apart by an age old racial feud (dwarves versus trolls), but his focus is kept narrowly on his duty. He is a splendid example of a man coping with an impossible job, who works through it, task by task, to accomplish a major feat.

The action starts when, pretty much simultaneously, a key dwarf player is murdered and Vimes is forced to take on a vampire as a recruit for the Watch. While Sally is clearly meant as the comic relief for the book, even she began to develop a personality in the course of the tangled investigation. The dwarves claim a troll must have done the murder; there is evidence that a troll was present at the crime scene; and then Sam Vimes discovers, with the aid of both trolls and dwarves (particularly Carrot, the Human-dwarf) that the case includes four more dwarf murders.

Vimes means to find the truth, no matter what the cost, and his lady supports him, both morally and with her amazing connections. The finale takes Vimes and company out of Ankh-morpork and into a cavernous region called Koom Valley. The concluding scenes are in eerie and memorable underground areas, vividly described.

A good deal has been made of the children's book that Sam reads to his son in this book. There is even a picture book version for sale (Greg bought it). Depending on how tightly Pratchett has caught you up in his world, you may find the interaction between father and son a bit silly, mildly cute, or moderately inspiring. Personally, I can't wait to see the first version of the game (THUD) described in the book to hit the stores. But then, I am a confirmed Vimes fan.

Highly recommended reading.

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