I’ve read a handful of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. And The Truth is by far the best of them. Admittedly, I haven’t read a wide selection: The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Making Money, and Raising Steam. So the first two and and then the Moist von Lipwig ones. The Truth sits in what must be considered the central section of the series. It is book 25 out of a total of 41. And if it is indicative of this period, it’s a very good sign.
The Truth tells the story of the creation of the newspaper industry — and The Ankh-Morpork Times in particular. William de Worde is a young man from a rich family, who wants nothing to do with it. So he scrapes by as a writer of newsletters about the goings on in Ankh-Morpork for rich clients in other cities. But everything changes when the dwarfs bring movable type to the city. Once dependent upon engravers, who took a long time to produce his newsletter, he is now able to print on a daily basis and he finds that there is more than enough content to justify it — even if some of it has to do with vegetables that grow in obscene shapes.
The other major characters include Sacharissa Cripslock, the granddaughter of William’s old engraver. She comes to complain about William putter her grandfather out of a job, and William ends up giving her a job. They are soon joined by Otto Chriek — a temperate vampire photographer who is in love with light — and Gunilla Goodmountain — an entrepreneurial dwarf who brings movable type to the town. Together, they fight the engravers’ guild and eventually even hired assassins who have been brought to town to take Lord Vetinari out of power. The novel ends with William and Sacharissa trying to go on a date, but the news just never stops.
What sets The Truth apart from the other novels is that William de Worde actually grows as a character. For all of Pratchett’s cleverness, he is not usually that interested in the development of his characters. Moist von Lipwig is still very much the same man in Raising Steam as he was in Going Postal. But William, being the black sheep of his family very much comes to terms with that fact — taking what’s good and leaving what’s bad of the nature of his father, Lord de Worde. And it is very nice to watch the transition, because at the start of the book, he seems very much like he’s hiding from the world.
Maybe I liked it so much because I feel rather like William: hiding out. And, of course, I like the newspaper business. But especially in Raising Steam, there isn’t much happening at a human level. In fact, the Moist von Lipwig stories seem more like television shows where Moist is forced to do something he doesn’t want to do and ends up having some adventures. That’s true of the Rincewind novels as well. And certainly, William gets dragged through some adventures. But he’s self-actualized — and he becomes more so the further we get into the novel. I know many people around here are much bigger Discworld readers than I am. So if you have any recommendations, I’d be glad to hear them.
It’s also true that there is a certain His Girl Friday aspect to The Truth. And that is one of my very favorite films.