Terry Pratchett – The Truth (2000)

the truth

8/10

Book number 25 in the Discworld series. It is said that you can read the discworld books independently without having read others, but if you want to get the most out of them, that is not true. The Truth leans heavily on previously established characters and it is definitely a plus if you’re already familiar with them. It is not a book in one of the established subseries of the Witches, the Watch, Rincewind or Death, but features some of those characters. Old familiars such as Vimes and Nobbs, Vetinari and Gaspode the wonder dog make appearances.

Reading Discworld is a bit like following a comedy series on TV. Single episodes are not always jewels but you enjoy seeing the same familiar characters show up who you love. After a while, the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. You fall in love with the idea of the series itself and the whole body of work, and a single episode is only an introduction to what the characters are about. Single discworld books are like that as well.

The main character in The Truth is William de Worde, who is actually the least interesting character of the book. Luckily, Pratchett introduces a lot of new interesting ones, all fine additions to the Discworld universe. Especially notable are Otto the Vampire, a professional photographer obsessed with light and who turns to dust every time the flash happens. Also Mr. Tulip, a thug addicted to any kind of powdery substance at all and a foul-mouthed art connoisseur at heart.

What’s interesting is how the city of Ankh-Morpork changes throughout the series. At the start, it was a medieval fantasy city, in fact a homage to city Lankhmar of the series by Fritz Leiber. Through the discworld series, Ankh-Morpork changes into a proto-steampunk city with elements of industry and capitalism. In The Truth, a new development is added: the invention of the newspaper (“The truth will make you fret”).

In Discworld, things always happen fast. The worst excesses of the free press that we are familiar with are all introduced at rapid speed. It allows Terry Pratchett to satirize the world of journalism. By this time in the series, Pratchett is well on his way of making Discworld a personal vehicle for him to satirize every aspect of modern society. Previous Discworld books were about royal succession and reform, opera, war and so on.

The Truth is a fine addition to the series, and part of a kind of second renaissance in book quality. The first few books were a bit clunky, then a couple of real classics firmly pushed Discworld to a higher level, then the books turned more serious and lengthy and some humor was lost. But around book 24 the quality reached another plateau. This book is part of the last alternation of storylines between the Watch, the Witches and Death. After this, Pratchett branched out to new territory with the Tiffany Aching YA novels and Moist von Lipwig novels.

Pratchett continues to be a joy to read with wonderful characters and funny turns of phrases. It is also stunning how prolific Pratchett was during those heydays, churning out multiple high-quality books per year.

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