Customer Review

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as he ever was, 18 Nov 2002
This review is from: Thief of Time: A Discworld Novel (Paperback)
It is difficult to write about this the twenty-sixth Discworld novel, without having ever written about any of its predecessors. It seems to lack context. Much the way, I would imagine, that new readers must feel in opening the first page of a later Pratchett book without, like myself, having grown up with the Discworld series. It is hard, also, to be objective when I can chart the passage of my life by what the characters in these books were up to.
But, for new readers, Thief of Time surely represents the best way in. There are new characters at the centre of events - Lu Tze, Lobsang Ludd, Jeremy, a renegade Auditor. There is no Granny Weatherwax, Rincewind or Vimes, with all their associated baggage of sharp, subtle characterisation and well-earned history and affection, to contend with. True, Nanny Ogg appears, but her role is that of a big film star making a cameo in a film: notable and warmly received, but not integral to the understanding of the story. Susan is also in place, and her role is entirely central, but she has been growing up with the series, and she is now a very different woman to the one who appeared in Soul Music, for instance. Death also performs a role that he has not previously investigated in earnest - that of a horeseman riding out in the face of an apocalypse - and so even the (almost) unchanging face of mortality appears fresh for the new recruits.
There is another reason that this novel represents the ideal entry point for the novice. It is as sure-handed a book as Pratchett has produced. It is funny, it is warm and it flows with the incredible pacing that Pratchett has made his hallmark. Out of thin air he can form a thriller of plot and anticipation. Imagine Waiting For Godot reading like a Raymond Chandler story. That is what the unquestionable genius of Pratchetts's timing can do for anything he chooses to tell us.
And, as ever, the narrative is filled with light touches of wonder that collapse myth and storytelling and history into atoms of glowing humour. A smile can break out on your face like an infectious rash at any time in the course of the story. Take an example: War, personification extraordinaire, and one of the four horseman of the apocalypse (apologies to Ronnie), has, with the passing of time and the increasing maturity of humankind, become a different man. He has settled down and married Mrs War. A once blood-thirsty, unrepentant force of nature, he is now a brow-beaten husband who is not allowed to eat red meat because his wife tells him that it will bring on his trouble. He thinks that, in this day and age, he may as well change his name to Negotiated Settlement in keeping with how humans now resolve dispute. He has taken up a hobby even, now watching the unflinching battles of ants at the bottom of his garden. His hacking arm isn't what it used to be. It is just a short scene showing us War's home life, but it is a snapshot of perfect and quiet humour that steals its way into your affections just as so many of Pratchett's characters do.

I won't say that this is the best Discworld book, as I think we are no longer in those realms. But I will say that Thief of Time is a wonderful book. It is impossible to put it down once you pick it up. It bids your body to stay up late at night when your mind knows that you have work in the morning. It draws your eyes towards it when you should be looking at the football match you've been waiting to watch for months. It is wonderful because it inspires wonder. It is enchanted. It is magic.
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