Terry Pratchett’s The Truth

Terry Pratchett's The TruthI’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.

Afterword

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.

15 thoughts on “Terry Pratchett’s The Truth

  1. Small Gods SMALL GODS SMALL GODS SMALL GODS!!!!!

    I may have mentioned this before. Also, Hogfather both of which speak of origin stories and the nature of being human. If you want some awesome female characters-read the stuff about the witches because Granny Weatherwax is the best female character of them all.

    There is a book for almost everything you could want to read and the stuff in the middle (by the time Going Postal was released it was pretty clear he was ill) from about Wyrd Sisters to Night Watch is good. You can read the first and second Tiffany Aching books as they are decent enough (Wee Free Men is mainly good because of the Nac Mac Freegles but the storyline was otherwise not spectacular.)

    But the absolute best are Small Gods, Hogfather, Maskerade, and Feet of Clay.

    Since many of his major characters are repeats-Granny Weatherwax, Rincewind, Commander Samuel Vimes, Susan Sto-Holit, and DEATH…they tend to grow over books rather than grow within the novels. Granny Weatherwax starts out as merely a village witch and ends as one of those people’s passing is felt by even the people who have never met her. Commander Vimes starts out as a drunk as a skunk fairly stupid man but evolves into a quick thinking man of the people-someone who does what has to be done because someone has to do it.

    I could go on forever but I need to get home and walk Amara.

    • Dammit, Granny dies? But she was getting on in years.

      I’m probably only ten books or so into the series (I tend to save them for when I need a cheer-up) and Granny is definitely one of my favorites. She starts out as someone who just wants to be left in peace — she only begins fighting evil because evil has Pushed Her Too Far.

      • It was in The Shepherd’s Crown and I knew it was going to happen (like how I knew we were going to have to say good bye to Sir Pratchett) but when I read it, I did something I rarely do any more, just sobbed like I was Frank listening to that piece on NPR. It is funny how the people in stories can touch you more than the real people in your life can at times although I am sure it also had to do with it coming out shortly after his death, being obvious it was incomplete and just damn it I am crying again.

        Anyway, yes, she does pass however there is a sense that she is still there after her passing like how we don’t have Sir Pratchett anymore but we do have his voice in books.

        • Shit in a blistering sack, I don’t want to read that book. I love her dearly. But I do want to read her final conversation with DEATH. I suspect that, as always, Granny holds her own. She’s pretty much the only character in Discworld who knows what DEATH is and never backs down.

  2. Terry Pratchett books are not meant to be read.
    They are meant to be listened to, and listened to only if read by Stephen Briggs.
    Download a Pratchett/Briggs audiobook, give it a listen, and you will understand that this is The Truth.

  3. As Elizabeth says, some growth of character is over several books, not just in one. But Sam Vimes’ first appearance (first significant one, anyway – I couldn’t swear he doesn’t turn up as a minor character in earlier Ankh-Morpork based books) in ‘Guards! Guards!’ involves a fair amount of character change – refinding his sense of responsibility. I’d suggest trying that, and then moving on to later City Watch novels if you like it. Their overall themes are discrimination, class and politics, I’d say.

    • I’m talking about something else. Lord Vetinari changes over books, but it is more Pratchett understanding him in different ways. What I’m talking about is motivated character growth. I’ll definitely look into the city watch novels. Thanks!

  4. I’m not much further into the series than you are. And I’ve read a few duds, so I’m worried I’ll run out of the ones I like! (I suspect one person’s dud is another’s favorite, but everybody loves “Small Gods.”)

    I also loved “Truth.” So much good stuff. The dwarves explaining their marriage customs. Otto the photo nerd. Mr. Tulip, the closet antique assessor. Ignorant conservatives who say “everyone knows.” But the best part really was the de Wordes. The descriptions of Lord de Worde are chilling. Pratchett let the satire slip for a moment and let his full vitriol fly on the super-rich, and it was wonderful.

    Some of my favorite books of his, the ending doesn’t quite work. There’s sometimes a lot of action, and action is hard for any novelist, much less one trying to maintain a comic tone. The end in “Truth” really satisfies. (And the ending to “Small Gods” actually got me weepy.)

    One you might try is the first Pratchett I read, “Good Omens.” I read it because I was trying to read Neil Gaiman to impress my brother, who is a fantasy nerd (it’s co-authored.) And my brother suggested that he thought Pratchett was actually much better than Gaiman, and I agree. (The best stuff in that book is clearly Pratchett’s . . . and, naturally, DEATH shows up. Who doesn’t love DEATH? He’s the greatest.)

    • My absolute favorite Pratchett quote is a line from one of Brutha’s letters-in the dark we shall make a great light.

      I think what it means to me is how even when things are their worst there still is hope.

    • You’re quite right: Pratchett doesn’t work very hard on endings and that is one of the big reasons that The Truth works so well. I’ll look for Good Omens. Yes, Death is great, as he was in The Truth. I also loved the business about having a potato.

      • The potato! Oh, that made my heart sing with happiness so hard. There’s mockery, and there’s satire. Satire is much more difficult, and, unlike mockery, it doesn’t presume to be smarter than the conventions being satirized.

        Despite what English bishops might have thought, “Life Of Brian” is satire, not mockery.

        • Very true — about LOB.

          The potato does, however, lead to perhaps the nastiest thing I’ve ever read in Pratchett. The guy is going to fry the potato. Ultimately, I didn’t really dislike Mr Pin. By the end — after Otto takes the picture and allows him to “see” things — I felt sorry for him. But it does make Death very much like the creator of the Monkey Paw. “Ah, you brought your potato…”

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