charlieblue: (s: drunk under the proverbial duckpond)
Something like a crossroads song ([personal profile] charlieblue) wrote on October 23rd, 2010 at 12:23 pm
Stop the Press!
The Truth, by Terry Pratchett

My reading of this book was greatly enhanced by the notion that Tom Hardy should play Mr. Tulip, closely followed by the logical conclusion that Joseph Gordon-Levitt should play Mr. Pin.

Mr. Tulip, essentially, is what you would get if Quentin Tarantino got ahold of Tom Hardy's character Freddie from The Take.

In fact, I'm pretty sure Mr. Tulip and Mr. Pin were Terry Pratchett's inimitably satirical version of Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction. (Having started writing this while still reading the book and now having finished I can say that they most definitely were a very on-the-nose satire of gangster movie tropes) Mr. Tulip is a failed junkie, who attempts to get off on everything from powdered mothballs to horse-strength water retention pills, has a horrific and terrible past that leaves him screaming in the night and with a constant, incandescent rage that functions as a kind of what-if? of Vimes. What if Vimes had never been able to tame the beast with justice and iron will? Mr. Tulip is a vicious, violent brute of a killer, but he also has the most perfect aesthetic genius ever to walk the Discworld:

It was astounding, and Mr Pin had been so enthralled that he had all but forgotten to slip a few small valuable items into his pocket. But in truth he was familiar with Tulip on art. When they had occasionally to torch a premises Mr Tulip always made sure that any truly irreplaceable pieces were removed first, even though that meant taking extra time to tie the inhabitants to their beds. Somewhere under that self-inflicted scar tissue and at the heart of that shuddering anger was the soul of a true connoisseur with an unerring instinct for beauty. It was a strange thing to find in the body of a man who would mainline bath salts.

Mr. Pin, for his part, is described as dapper, a political savant, and as slimy and psychopathic as a murderer can come, all the more dangerous for his pragmatism.

Together, they form what they call the 'New Firm', fixers for powerful people who need problems taken care of with anonymous, efficient, deniable viciousness.

You can see why I had such a brilliant time traipsing through the book once I'd mentally cast Tom Hardy and JGL as my villainous protagonists.

As for the rest of the book, it functioned on one of my favourite Discworld tropes: giving modern phenomena the patented Ankh-Morpork treatment, this case being that of printing presses and journalism. One reviewer described this trope as a kind of time-lapse photography, in which Ankh-Morpork is so devilishly matter-of-fact about little things like morality, truth, justice, freedom and beauty, that any phenomena to hit it gets accelerated through the various social movements with comedic speed. This does not disappoint.

I particularly enjoyed the bit where a crowd gathered below a suicide jumper, on the basis of it being a free city after all, rather than attempting to stop him or comfort him, offered him advice as to buildings better constructed and situated for the best suicide experience. I really like the way Pratchett, so obviously so very angry himself, with a wellspring of irritation with the world to draw from in writing his books, does not use this to denigrate or rhapsodize on the failings of the human race but, as evidenced by his benevolent and indeed enthusiastic treatment of the citizenship of Ankh-Morpork, delights in the nastier, opportunistic, selfish, but essentially human traits that make a city click.

It also struck that had this been my entrypoint into the Discworld series, I would have envisaged Vimes in a completely different way to the way I did, informed as I was by all the watch novels. Here, without context and from an outside point of view, Vimes comes across much more viscerally as the angry, brutish, cold and predatory man just barely reigned in by the law, and perhaps even revelling in the legitimacy it lends his nature of violence. In watch novels, observers always talk about how angry Vimes is, and there is often a tint of a very instinctive fear at work there, and while I could always see the anger, in this novel, I could very definitely see Vimes from an outside point of view. To tell the truth (ha) I actually quite enjoyed it. One of my favourite things in fiction is to see the lawful good become a chaotic neutral-badass normal-off the deep-end kind of force. Vimes isn't that, and I don't think he could ever become that in anything more than a temporary capacity, but it is so enjoyable watching others tread lightly around his heavy stick.

Quite unexpectedly, I really enjoyed getting to know Otto. I'd never liked the gimmicky accent and general, all-round campiness of his character, but scraping off a bit of that and seeing the genuine discipline and intelligence that goes into shaping who he is and how he dedicates himself to his art and his honour really won me over. Especially the gracious, graceful way he maneuvers around the damaging, insulting privilege of the people around him.

All in all a rip-roaring read, though not as gripping as the Discworld book I read previous to it, Nightwatch. I could talk forever about this book, but I've already meta'd a bit about Vimes, and I'm tapped out at the moment. Suffice to say that this was probably my favourite of all the Discworld novels so far. Brilliant plotting, and I was in love with the irreverent treatment Pratchett gave some very high-end, abstract and theoretical physics.

I keep hearing great things about the Witches arc of Discworld, but remain unconvinced. I think I'm just too much in love with the Ankh-Morpork capers.
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