Thief of Time. Discworld book Nr. 26. And the last one of the Death subseries, featuring our favourite character Death himself and his granddaughter Susan, who is something of a gothic Mary Poppins. This time, all sorts of things happen, like last time.
It is a book about time and cosmic forces who mess around with it. And the story moves like clockwork too. Pratchett is in full strength here, flinging inspired comedy pieces and funny characters at you with the rhythm of a grand swinging clock. He even sort of does this on purpose by separating his paragraphs with tick tock sounds.
It is one of the Death books and of Susan Sto Helit who gets flashed out some more here. She first appeared as a proper character in Hogfather (1996) as a governess but now she is a school teacher and some sort of unwanted sidekick to Death. You can imagine that she has some interesting teaching methods. All that the headmistress knows is that the noise and screams of full medieval battles come from her classroom.
The book is also about losing time, and what to do with it, and about a clockmaker named Jeremy Clockson. It is also about quantum physics and Planck time and about Tibetan monks and Kung Fu and a thousand other things. This is typical Pratchett, to drag by the ears all sorts of seemingly unrelated topics together, but it all sort of fits together well, like a Swiss watch.
A highlight is the character Lu Tze, a History Monk. Never trust small bald wrinkly men and their wise sayings. We are given an extended storyline in his mountain monastery, which is an absolutely brilliant and genius creation by Pratchett. Igor (one of them) also plays a big role, and Pratchett takes the time to flesh out, as it were, the Igors and their existence a bit more.
In the second half, the story bogs down a bit, and this is something that happens for me in every Pratchett book. I would be happier with them if 50 pages were cut out. In Thief of Time, Pratchett switches in the second half to a stronger focus on so-called Auditors, and most of the comedy about Lu Tze and Jeremy Clockson and Igor disappears. I didn’t think these parts were all that funny and Susan Sto Helit becomes a bit too stern and boring. Death himself also barely enters the book here.
I was about to say that this is perhaps the best Discworld book of the series so far, but because of the second half it is more like “one of the better” ones. Pratchett sustains a quality throughout though and I never got the feeling that his inspiration started to lag.