Saturday, October 10, 2009

Feet Of Clay - Terry Pratchett


1996; 357 pages. Genre : Fantasy Satire. #19 in the Discworld Series (out of 36, oops, out of 37, since "Unseen Academicals" just came out this week). Overall Rating : A-.
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An old priest and a dwarven baker are murdered; someone is poisoning the Patrician in a very slow fashion; amd no one is sure how. This would be a typical day in Ankh-Morpork, except that the Assassins Guild isn't involved in any of these dastardly deeds. So it's up to Sam Vimes and the City Watch to find and arrest the miscreants. The trouble is, those pesky things called clues keep getting in the way of blind justice.
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What's To Like...
This is Pratchett's nod to mystery stories in general, and Sherlock Holmes stories in particular. We are introduced to a number of cool chartacters. There's Cheery Littlebottom, just one of the dwarven boys, until he starts wearing lipstick, earrings, and a kilt. There's Wee Mad Arthur; a ratter by trade, 6" tall, with the fighting power of a stick of dynamite. And for us techno-geeks, Sam is equipped with an unorganized organizer; consisting of an imp in a small pocket-sized box, who can manage his calendar, alert him to appointments, take memos, and give him inspiring daily quotes, but can't do any of this competently. Oh, and there's also a bit of synesthesia; see an excerpt of it below.
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Themes...
There are always themes in any Discworld book after about #5. Besides murder-mysteries, the themes here are The Monarchy (Pratchett finds little use for it), Racial and Gender Prejudice, Labor Unions, and Evangelists (meet Constable Visit, short for Visit-The-Infidel-With-Explanatory-Pamphlets). Pratchett also tackles the question of what constitutes Life itself.
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The storyline in Feet Of Clay is well done, and all the threads get tied up nicely. Sam is gradually coming to grips with his inter-species bigotry. By the end of the book he decides that Golems and Zombies can now be part of the City Watch, although Vampires are still excluded.
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The story is formulaic, but that's okay for a series of this genre. The characters evolve from book to book, and Pratchett comes up with new themes each time.
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Excerpts...
Afterward, she always remembered the odors as colors and sounds. Blood was rich brown and deep brass, stale bread was a surprisingly tinkly bright blue, and every human being was a four-dimensional kaleidoscopic symphony. For nasal vision meant seeing through time as well as space: man could stand still for a minute and, an hour later, there he'd still be, to the nose, his odors barely faded. (56)
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The barman leaned over to Sergeant Colon. "What's up with the corporal? He's a half-pint man. That's eight pints he's had."
Fred Colon leaned closer and spoke out of the corner of his mouth. "Keep it to yourself, Ron, but it's because he's a peer."
"Is that a fact? I'll go and put down some fresh sawdust." (145-46)
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"Slab : Jus' say 'AarrghaarrghpleassennonononoUGH'." (Slab is an illicit drug in Discworld) (26)
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"T'dr'duzk b'hazg t't!" ("Today is a good day for someone else to die!") (311-12)

8 comments:

Nina said...

One of my favourite writers is Terry Pratchett! His work is so funny, I just always have to laugh when i'm reading one of his books.
Thanks for the great review. :)

Lula O said...

Hey I didn't see any buzz words in this one! What the ballyhoos going on?

hamilcar barca said...

Nina - what amazses me about Pratchett is that, after 37 books, he can still make people laugh. A lot of authors run out of humor along the way. Piers Anthony and Robert Asprin, to name two.

Lula - the buzzword for this week is "scrumping". as in, "we went scrumping apples yesterday". Tis the season to being doing this, i am told. but i couldn't figure any way to work it into the review.

hamilcar barca said...

btw, i've finished Mother Night. how are you doing on it?

Lula O said...

I'm about half-way, which isn't saying much since it's not even 200 pages. I'm liking it so far. It's not what I expected at all. I've not read any of this guy before (Slaughterhouse Five is on my list)and I really like his writing style. So far anyway.
What about you?

hamilcar barca said...

i'm a Vonnegut freak, so I liked it. i think he's a very gifted writer - great stories, innovative writing style, engaging characters, etc.

my favroite Vonnegut books are Slaughterhouse 5 and Sirens of Titan. i don't think Mother Night will join that group, but it was still a good read.

Julie said...

"scrumping" seems like a good buzzword.

hamilcar barca said...

the Brits always hold bavk their better buzzwords.

my Welsh colleague says there's also "scrumpy", an alcoholic cider made from small apples that you've scrumped. he says it's delicious; Wikipedia says otherwise.