The Truth: This by-the-numbers Discworld outing failed to satisfy

The Truth by Terry Pratchett fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Terry Pratchett Discworld The TruthThe Truth by Terry Pratchett

The truth about Sir Terry Pratchett’s novel The Truth is that for the first time a DISCWORLD book failed to satisfy me. While there is nothing seriously wrong with the story, the feeling that Pratchett was bolting set pieces together to make a whole overwhelmed the general fun of the book.

First published in 2000, The Truth is 25th in a 49-book series according to Wikipedia. The DISCWORLD books break into definable categories, even if fans give those categories different names; my name for Going Postal, Making Money and The Truth would be “Enterprise” stories; new businesses or utilities created in Ankh Morpork and the difficulties they face. This enterprise involves moveable type and the city’s first newspaper.

Aristocratic and rebellious second son William de Worde writes a “newsletter” for royalty and aristocrats outside of Ankh Morpork. When he meets with a group of dwarves who have brought a printing press to town, soon he is printing a daily “newspaper.” In the meantime, Lord Vetinari, the Patrician or, as William hesitates to call him, the “City Boss” is accused of the attempted murder of his own servant. Vetinari has been framed by a group of human-supremacists who don’t like the open nature of the city. They have hired two out-of-town villains who call themselves The New Firm to frame Vetinari, and soon it seems that only William, plucky-sidekick-girl Sacharissa, the printing press dwarves, and a talking dog can set things right.

The New Firm was one of my problems. Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip are clearly riffs on Neil Gaiman’s Vandemar and Croup, “the old firm.” Riffing is great, and it’s fun to read a story that has cross-pollination between two great friends and storytellers; but Pin and Tulip get a lot of time in The Truth, basically doing the same spiel over and over. With them in place The Truth reads less like a fun mystery and more like a DISCWORLD checklist.

Other elements contribute to the checklist feel, such as the real lack of character revelation, and a lot of telling. Pratchett tells us that William “wears his haughtiness like an overcoat” (because William is an aristocrat) but he never seems aristocratic. Other characters say of him that he is snobbish and racist but they can see he’s trying to get over it. Sacharissa, we are told, is a young woman who wants to be genteel and who “mistakes mannerisms for manners.” (Her name is the clue; she thinks she should be “sweet” even if it’s artificial.) The best thing about Sacharissa is that “young men tell her things” which makes her, potentially, an ace reporter. The best new character to me was Gunilla Goodmountain, who runs the printing press and is forthright, practical, and unimpressed with the unwritten rules of the city.

The plot of The Truth is good, if predictable, and there is fun along the way. Like any Pratchett book there are lots of pointed comments and the public interest, politics and so on. Watching the printing errors that changed the newspaper’s “the truth will set you free” to various other meanings, like “the truth will make you fret” was entertaining. It just read to me as a book Pratchett was doing by the numbers, rather than paying much attention to his story. In the very beginning, we see William at his “lodgings,” we hear rain dripping off the gutter and the chanting from the private magic school one floor down, but several chapters later we discover that William lives in a boarding house with a rather severe landlady. This is never explained; most likely, William was in his office in the first scene. It reads as if Pratchett changed his mind in an early draft and never went back and changed it.

Sir Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and some flaws in this book could be attributed to that, but he went on after this book to write several that were more compelling, even with the standard set pieces we’ve come to expect. I just think that while all the pieces fit together in a Discworld fashion, there was no real spark or energy to this one.

Bear in mind that lots of fans think this book is just grand. My reading of this book may be influenced by timing. In the USA, the first amendment and the free press are under a coordinated assault right now, and maybe The Truth can’t stand up in that environment. I think, though, that most of my problems here are with structure and depth. It may be me, but it’s not all me.

Published in 2000. The denizens of Ankh-Morpork fancy they’ve seen just about everything. But then comes the Ankh-Morpork Times, struggling scribe William de Worde’s upper-crust, newsletter turned Discworld’s first paper of record. An ethical joulnalist, de Worde has a proclivity for investigating stories — a nasty habit that soon creates powerful enemies eager to stop his presses. And what better way than to start the Inquirer, a titillating (well, what else would it be?) tabloid that conveniently interchanges what’s real for what sells. But de Worde’s got an inside line on the hot story concerning Ankh-Morpork’s leading patrician Lord Vetinari. The facts say Vetinari is guilty. But as William de Worde learns, facts don’t always tell the whole story. There’s that pesky little thing called the truth…

Discworld — (1983-2015) Discworld is a satirical fantasy world created by Terry Pratchett to poke fun at 1980s fantasy novels. Since then, they’ve evolved so that they now make fun of everything. Mr. Pratchett explains Discworld: “The world rides through space on the back of a turtle. This is one of the great ancient world myths, found wherever men and turtles are gathered together; the four elephants were an indo-European sophistication. The idea has been lying in the lumber room of legend for centuries. All I had to do was grab it and run away before the alarms went off… There are no maps. You can’t map a sense of humor. Anyway, what is a fantasy map but a space beyond which There Be Dragons? On the Discworld we know There Be Dragons Everywhere. They might not all have scales and forked tongues, but they Be Here all right, grinning and jostling and trying to sell you souvenirs.” The Discworld novels are presented here in publication order. To read more about the Discworld “arcs” and reading order, see this Wikipedia article.

Terry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. Ericbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Moving PicturesReaper Manbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Witches Abroadbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Small Godsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Men at Armsbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Soul Musicfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Maskeradebook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Feet of Claybook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Hog FatherJingobook review Terry Pratchett Discworld The Last Continentbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Carpe Jugulumbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Carpe Jugulum, The Fifth Elephantbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld The Truthbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Thief of Timebook review Terry Pratchett Discworld The Last Herofantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Thud!book review Terry Pratchett Discworld Making MoneyTerry Pratchett Unseen Academicals DiscworldTerry Pratchett Unseen Academicals Discworld, Snufffantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

Discworld for Kids:

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Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at deedsandwords.com, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

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2 comments

  1. Ryan /

    Most people recommend this to me as one of the BEST novels in the series. I think it might be top five to ten on the Goodreads Pratchett list. But I have a theory that once readers have gone through, say, a dozen Discworld novels, the rest lose their potency.

    • Ryan, many people do love it. Actually, and this is weird, even though it’s in almost the exact middle of the series, it might be a good place to start because it follows the Discworld formula so exactly, and introduces many of the various races who live in the city. It just failed to ignite for me.

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