Fantasy Review: ‘The Truth’ by Terry Pratchett

The Truth (Discworld, #25)Part 25 of The Complete Discworld Reread

“An’ then…then I’m gonna get medieval on his arse.”

There were more pressing problems but this one intrigued Mr. Pin.

“How, exactly?” he said.

“I thought maybe a maypole,” said Mr. Tulip reflectively. “An’ then a display of country dancing, land tillage under the three-field system, several plagues, and if my –ing hand ain’t too tired the invention of the –ing horse collar”

You can always tell when my favorite author is on his ‘A’ Game and when he is off. When the plot for a book is a bit weaker than the norm the easy jokes start coming through. The obvious ones, more likely to come from the fun guy at a party or a start up standup comic. I think of all the bad jokes that permeated through Soul Music and Moving Pictures and I cringe. So it is with great pleasure that I will point out that nowhere in The Truth did a character shout out some paraphrasing of ‘you can’t handle the truth.’

Finally breaking from his ongoing sub-series for the first time in quite a while The Truth is the first to feel like a success to me since Small Gods. While the last book in the series set the stage for the world to start changing The Truth finally picks and aspect of Anhk-Morpork’s society to change in the major way. And true to life what better way is there to shake everything up than by have the people learn what is going on around them; or at least the free presses’ version of events?

One of Pratchett’s funnier openings starts it off, people speculating that the Dwarves have found a way to turn lead to gold. Just another example of Pratchett getting more out of a page and a half than any one should be able to. Quickly we meet the protagonist of the novel when he runs right into this gold making machine (or more accurately, it runs into him); a movable type press a dwarven couple has brought into town against the wizard’s long standing order against it. But money moves all, and as long as the Patrician sees no issue then it is time to proceed with this new venture.

William de Worde has long told important people what is happening in the city and made enough to survive on by doing so (plus all the figs he can eat). Making copies was a time consuming process though, this new movable type makes it so easy. On a whim he tries selling these items to non-important people and quickly find the news waits for no one. Of course timing is everything and when the Patrician is suddenly accused of attempted murder de Worde finds himself working hand in hand with the watch to solve this case (without the watch wanting him around at all).

As a look at the impact of free press the book is hit or miss. This little venture becomes a full force in incredible time; a must read after two or three issues. de Worde and his cohorts, quickly joined by a reporter by nature named Sacharissa, fall into the game so fast there is no real transition of learning what power they have quickly found (most of their struggles are against the norm and involve supplies and competition rather than acceptance of this new idea). And of course de Worde is only interested in the truth, in no way influenced by money or political situations; a picture of what we hope free press could be rather than any reality we live in. The cash driven yellow journalism is presented as the outlier, the deviation, rather than any sort of norm.

But despite getting up and going so quickly the way they start interacting with the world around them is a highlight. A pen in the hand changes everything; the knowledge that things could be made public proves to be as effective as old threats. The City Watch finds itself in the position of being watched (whereas before when asked Who Watches the Watchman before Vimes was always able to ME). The public has to learn what role these papers actually play, and what role they play with the truth (sometimes in an over the top manner but this is a short book).

I would suspect that this book is most memorable for most folk because of the pair of villains, The New Firm, Pin and Tulip. They are not nice people at all. In some ways they are nothing new; the obvious comparison is Croup and Vandamer from Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Old James Bond fans would recognize their style in the villainous pair form Diamonds are Forever. Hell they remind me of a diabolical Abbott and Costello as much as anything. Pin is the thinker, Tulip is the muscle. They play to each other’s strengths and finish each other’s sentences. But Tulip makes them something special. Maybe it is a gimmick, giving the supposedly dumb muscle a reverence for things of beauty (another nod to Gaiman’s characters?). But listening to Tulip wax poetically about various works of art, even choosing to use a balled fist to knock someone out so as to save an antique, is a complete gem.

As an addition to this series The Truth is a welcome one, one of my favorites truth be told (feel the pun people). I am not sure it says what it wants to in the way it wants; it tackles little issues with an ease that its handling of journalism never grasps. But it is real damn funny, a kick to read, and basically a standalone outside of knowing a bit about the Watch in the background (something that was common early in the series but getting rarer by this point). Right now I am going to call it a top five Pratchett book, let’s see where I stand with that when I have reread them all.

4 Stars

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