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on 11 January 2008
Once an author is turning out a novel a year in a growing series he can be forgiven for getting rather stale. That isn't really a problem with Terry Pratchett: his output can be a bit uneven but overall the Discworld fantasies just seem to be getting better, and "The Fifth Elephant" is one of the best.
The wonderful Sam Vimes - clever, upwardly mobile but basically honest and down-to-earth chief of police of Ankh-Morpork - is sent with his aristocratic wife on a diplomatic mission to troubled realm of Uberwald. Why did the city's ruler Lord Vetinari, a man who could give Machiavelli lessons in deviousness, chose Vimes of all people for this delicate task? What exactly is going on in Uberwald, where the uneasy balance of power between dwarves, werewolves, and vampires seems to be breaking down? All is revealed in a book that is both dark and humorous, engrossing and highly entertaining.
Many of the usual characters we have come to know from the Discworld novels are here, and trying to make the best of an unfamiliar and threatening place and understand the peoples and their politics.
Once again Pratchett is the master not only of plot and character but also of the little aside, the fascinating but not overdone individual, the sly and amusing reference. We learn, for instance, that it is a social blunder to use the word "bath" to an upper-class werewolf when he is in human form, it makes him uncomfortable. We are introduced to a vampire equivalent of AA where members help each other keep off the human blood and get through "vun night at a time". We discover that the Low King of the Dwarves must be crowned sitting on a large, hard item called the great Scone of Stone - a clever one this, referring not only to the durability and lethal solidity of dwarfish bread as explained in previous novels but also to the Stone of Scone (pronounced "Skoon") on which for centuries the kings of Scotland were crowned. And much more...
If you know the characters you will enjoy the book even more, but Pratchett newbies could find a worse place to start than this one.
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HALL OF FAMEon 15 January 2006
Role models are a major topic these days. Who are the good ones, and who the bad? Once we had monarchs, presidents, explorers, all good and/or bad with some migration from the first to the second. In Sam Vimes, we may have a unique example of the reverse.
When we first met Sam Vimes in GUARDS! GUARDS!, he was sodden in a gutter, soddin' drunk. Hardly an auspicious beginning for a heroic figure. Discworld heroes are often found in unusual circumstances, rarely admirable at first sight. Sam's a copper, Commander of Ankh-Morpork's Night Watch. It's a job to send any man's hand groping for support, even if the brace is in the form of a bottle. Now he's on his way to Uberwald. Trolls, Dwarves and Werewolves have all emigrated from this region, taking up residence in Sam's city. He hasn't shed his resentment at this intrusion, nor his suspicion of these bizarre life forms. His earlier cultural challenges came from the likes of Klatchians, who were at least human. The Patrician has made him a diplomat, a real challenge for a man with so little tact. He must deal with all these creatures he resents. Failure to deal successfully may result in his becoming part of the local cuisine.
Sam has an advantage over many of us. Strongly self-aware, he manages to control his temper and intemperance. He's pulled himself out of the gutter. Now the Duke of Ankh- Morpork, he's married into the city's aristocracy. His diplomatic skills are going to be put to severe tests. To ease the pressure, Sam is accompanied by his recently acquired spouse, Sybil Ramkin. Her presence with him on this venture is an indication of his newly elevated status, and recognition of her well established one. Ironically, Sam is also supported by some of his mates from the Watch, Detritus the Troll and forensic expert Cheery Littlebottom, a Dwarf. Both are originally from the Uberwald. Sam's diplomatic assignment is a commercial treaty and attendance of the Coronation of the Low King. Regrettably, not all Uberwald is happy with the new monarch, and Sam is drawn into a miasma of plots and counter plots no diplomat should enter.
Sam Vimes is anything but a hero of the ideal romantic stamp. His blemishes are apparent, but, to his credit, he recognizes them and deals with them. His temper, which he controls with effort, leads him into difficult situations. His prejudices blind him to unexpected values in people [and, in this case, a scruffy dog], but when he finally recognizes the truth, he acknowledges it. Maybe with glum grace, but without rancor. Pratchett has drawn him as a strikingly real figure. He's unique on the Discworld. And that's sad in one sense because both the Discworld and our world could do with more like him.
Pratchett's plots have never been overly convoluted or difficult to unravel. His wit more than makes up for that. His characters are immensely significant in these stories. Those of us who've followed Sam along the cobblestoned streets of his life will rejoice at this portrayal. They will also encounter an Angua with enhanced reality. And Sam and Sybil are . . .
[stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on 24 January 2012
As we all know the Discworld is carried on the backs of four elephants that in turn stand upon the carapace of the giant galactic star turtle, the Great A'tuin. However, some time in the past there was another elephant. One that, for some reason still to be determined, plummetted to the surface of the discworld and whose fat deposits have become a lucrative dwarf mine. Things are afoot and Sam Vimes is on the case.

A good read and a good title pun. Adventure, humour, crime, deep insights and a wonderfully skewed perspective on the human condition as usual. Terry Pratchett can do no wrong in my eyes, although I do have to confess this story is not my most favourite.
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on 2 August 2016
Classic Pratchett. Couldn't put it down. Sam Vimes at his best , put in a situation that he doesn't seem fit for but as always he finds the solution in his own style. Underhand plots, fights against despicable baddies, love plots, steadfast loyalties and a talking dog, all racing along with lots of humour. What more could anyone ask from a book. If you want to escape from the harsh realities read this book.
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on 26 June 2014
This is one of the later books of this series where Sam Vimes and Lady Sybil are together, and things getting complicated as we move outside the big city. As usual it is clear and well written, with some very human/non human tragedies as well as the usual humour. Where would we be without the city watch?
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VINE VOICEon 18 April 2015
I have been reading my way through the Discworld novels and for some reason I have noticed an significant upgrade in the quality of the writing and story telling in the last three novels. This one has continued in the same vein and is a cracking story. I think having read the previous stories you may get a lot more out of it than just reading it on its own but it really is a great novel.
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on 29 December 2013
I bought this for my elderly mother who has a selection of the infirmities that come with getting on. She is partially deaf and this form affects the upper range of her hearing. She has though come to love an audio book in the evening when she can just close her eyes and drift off to a good story. She loves the Terry Pratchett Discworld series so this was a natural choice.

My mother's condition means that she prefers a male voice for its lower range and needs words to be spoken clearly and relatively slowly. Mr Robinson is excellent in this regard; an exponent of his art He maintains the expressiveness and excitement that makes the story flow and conveys beautifully the emotions intended by the author. Mr Robinson is a true craftsman.
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on 24 May 2016
The city watch stories never fail to amuse and entertain and this one does not disappoint. A fabulous story of love, politics and cultural differences with the classic marks of Terry Pratchett humour.
Can't wait to read again
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on 18 July 2014
Another Discworld book that i've read for the first time,having read the first fifteen books (give or take) years ago.It's a good book

and although it took me a while to get into the groove,once i did it was well worth it.I'm not going to spoil it by telling you the story,lets

just say Sam Vimes is the Ambassador to Uberwald and there's a few werewolves and Vampires involved.Great stuff!
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on 23 April 2015
Just so readable - lots of the familiar characters, and a slightly darker set of circumstances and politics than the usual Pratchett. Yet another brilliant book. Wish I could add a suitably witty review - read it and enjoy.
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