35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2000
The title of this review notwithstanding, I'm not *quite* a blind fan of Mr. Pratchett. I have a particular fondness for his bits with Nanny Ogg in, "Pyramids" is one of my favorites, and there are some of his books I can take or leave.
This one, I'm honored to inform you, is the former. I'll take it. Pratchett himself is a former newspaperman, and one gets the impression that most of his pokes at the press industry are dead-on, if couched in fiction. We're back in Ankh-Morpork, in which his knack for the surreal and head-scratchingly amusing always seems to be let loosest. Several honored characters return: Death, the Bursar (whose cameo prompted hysterical mirth on my part) the Patrician, the City Guard, Gaspode the Talking Dog, and Foul Ole Ron, among others. New folks who one really feels ought to join the regular cast are introduced: Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip, most notably. Chances are they won't be back, but I look forward to again encountering Otto.
Diversified Pratchett fans may notice a faint resemblance of these two to another pair of black-suited, unscrupulous gentlemen in "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman, with whom Pratchett has collaborated in the past. The resemblance is largely superficial, however, and Mr. Tulip particularly is a cleverly made and vastly amusing character, given to the peculiar mode of cursing permitted by Discworld's Universal Censors: "-ing!" Otto, the reformed vampire and Anhk-Morpork Times staff photographer, is a further joy to read. The complications with his salamander-flash camera made me laugh until I got a cramp.
If there is one failing in this book, it is that the 'side' characters are so fantastically interesting compared to our protagonist, a comparatively normal human citizen. He *is* a disenfranchised noble with family strife, and it is he who, in traditional Pratchett style, conveys the true and even serious 'lesson' of the book. He's a good character, and serves his purpose well, and pushes the story along. But it's the other characters who steal the show.
This is really one of his better offerings. Not just in recent years: I'd rate it as one of his ten best out of his bajillion-some in print. Its obvious and pointed grounding in experience leaves one feeling sager about the business of journalism, as well as delicate about the ribs and damp about the cheeks. Good, good stuff.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Two random images occur frequently when reading a Terry Pratchett Discworld book. The first is of time lapse photography, the type used in nature or wildlife programs. One can see a seed planted, germinate, sprout, and then blossom into a flower in a manner of seconds even though it might take weeks to occur in `the real world'. The second is of a frog in a pot of water. It is a time worn cliché that if you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water it will leap out immediately. However, if you drop a frog into cool water and gradually bring it to a boil it won't think about jumping out until it is too late.
Terry Pratchett has a marvelous habit of taking devices or institutions that have developed over time in our word and subjecting them to the literary equivalent of time-lapse photography when he imports them into Discworld. Typically, the devices, be they guns (Men at Arms), movies (Moving Pictures), or the modern postal system (Going Postal), are introduced and evolve very quickly., In presenting us with guns, movies, or postal networks formed in such short order Pratchett highlights the perversions these great inventions are subjected to over time that are not so readily apparent when you live through the gradual changes. The reader, like the frog, is presented with a proverbial pot of boiling water and, no doubt, on reflection must ask him or her self, how in the world did we ever let things go this far? This is exactly what Pratchett does with the newspaper business in The Truth. As you witness the time-lapsed development of the institution known to us as the press you cannot help but shake your head and say, how did it ever come to this?
The plot has already been well summarized on the product page. Suffice it to say, Pratchett does his typically splendid job setting up the establishment of Ankh-Morpork's first newspaper by the aptly named William de Worde. The cast of characters includes Otto, the vampire photographer. Otto is fresh from the vampire equivalent of a 12-step program and struggles mightily to avoid a relapse.
Of course the press needs to have a story and Pratchett gives us the Ankh-Morpork version of Watergate. A crime has been committed and the Patrician, Lord Vetinari, is the prime suspect. It appears in fact to be something of an open and shut case. Of course, the truth is not always what it appears to be. De Worde soon comes to suspect that perhaps, just perhaps, the oligarchs that don't suffer Vetinari all that gladly just may have something to do with all this.
Every investigative reporter needs a source and Pratchett gives us the Ankh-Morpork version of Deep Throat, this time in the form of Pratchett's most intelligent creations, Gaspode, the talking dog. Call him "Deep Bark" perhaps. The words Pratchett puts in Gaspode are pure Pratchett and are funny and insightful. Also worthy of note is Pratchett's characterization of the inevitable collision of the press with the police in the form of the dealings between de Worde and Command Sam Vimes.
Events wend their way to their inevitable conclusion. Will Commander Vimes be forced to `round up the usual suspects' or will de Word uncover that elusive thing called the truth? Inquiring minds want to know!
The Truth is up to Pratchett's usually high standards and will be enjoyed by both Pratchett old timers and those new to Discworld. For newcomers, the Truth is an excellent place to start.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2000
"The Truth," the twenty-fifth Diskworld novel by Terry Pratchett, is a great way to celebrate a silver anniversary! Pratchett fans already know that his different novels cover several paths: certain ones follow the witches of Lancre, others Death, the Wizards of Unseen University, or the Watch of Ankh-Morpork. This is an Ankh-Morpork novel, and much in the style of "Moving Pictures," "Soul Music," or "Maskerade," a familiar cultural aspect of our own world becomes public and popular in Diskworld--creating grief and strife for everyone and a lot of fun for the reader!
The usual concoction of magical, political, and sociological troubles are afoot in Ankh-Morpork when dwarves bring movable type to the city and Diskworld's first newspaper, "The Ankh-Morpork Times," (motto: The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret") hits the streets. Many of Pratchett's well-loved and familiar characters are here: Sam Vimes, Carrot and Angua, talking dog Gaspode, the irrepressible C.M.O.T. Dibbler--but the spotlight's fully upon William de Worde, determined to make the written "Truth" public. There's a solid mix of old and new characters: a vampire photographer who crumbles into ash each time his flash goes off, two ruthless assassins vaguely reminiscent of a pair from a recent pop-culture movie (down to a discussion of what they call a sausage-in-a-bun in Quirm: 'le sausage-in-a-bun'). A running subplot featuring a dastardly conspiracy against Lord Vetinari moves the action along, but it's actually the story of the struggle of William's conscience and means to bring the truth to Diskworld's population...whether they can handle it or not.
A good deal of sociological truth is neatly and unobtrusively sandwiched between the witty writing, including allegories on the rise of the Internet and the ways to deal with flood problems in our own society. But it's Pratchett's sharp wit and unparalleled turn of phrase that drive the book and justly attract the fans, and his writing is as golden as ever, from the off-handed mot juste to the groan-out-loud pun (photographs taken with magical 'dark light' are referred to as 'Prints of Darkness'). I'd go as far as to say that Pratchett is the twenty-first century heir to P.G. Wodehouse (and that's the highest praise possible from me). No other contemporary writer can make an elaborate joke or off-handed comment seem so casual, so easy, so natural, that we all think 'I could do that' until we actually try to sit down and dissect what's so funny about the sentence. In the UK Pratchett sells more than Stephen King and John Grisham--he's not quite at that point here in the US, but certainly deserves to be.
Finally, in my review last year of "The Fifth Elephant," I chided American publisher HarperCollins for not publishing that book simultaneous with the UK edition. I'm happy to report that we'll be able to get this one on the same date as the British friends. Thanks, HarperCollins!
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2001
"The Truth" is up there with Pratchett's best. I don't know if it is because I enjoy the Guards series most or because Pratchett did something special for the 25th Discworld novel (can you believe it?!) but this book just rocked ... (it was a book with rocks in, even).
"The Truth" is another social semi-satire, like "Moving Pictures" or "Soul Music" but one which does not set out to preach a social message as much as just create plain good fun. All of the favorite Ankh-Morpork characters are in there but there are some great new ones, particularly Otto von Chriek, a reformed vampire hired as an iconographer for the Discworld's first newspaper, the book's namesake. Once you recall Pratchett's favoured method of creating flash photography and the effect this may have on said vampire, (not to mention the general nature of vampires) you should start to glimpse the boundless humorous possibilities.
As always, Pratchett's knowledge of the human psyche (headology) is superb and his characters are a joy to watch (er, read?). The dialogue and behaviour of the Patrician, in particular, is a study in mastery of human psychology and behaviour. Many of this book's passages made me laugh out loud, (as always, embarrassing on an aeroplane), and this is always a good yardstick -- I laughed more than I could remember than for any other book in the last 2 or 3 years.
If you are a Discworld reader, grab this book and dive in. If not, read a few of the Guards series and those with a similar theme ("Guards, Guards", "Moving Pictures", "Soul Music" should do it) in order to best appreciate this one.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2001
"The Truth," Terry Pratchett's latest Discworld novel, is, by definition, better than most other stuff out there. I think it's also one of the better Discworld books, but since people seem to have such idiosyncratic favorites, I can't really predict whether anyone else will agree. Nevertheless, if you like Pratchett at all, you will like "The Truth."
"The Truth" is like "Moving Pictures" or "Soul Music," which take cultural staples from our world and introduce them to Discworld, where they always end up slightly...wrong. However, it appears that, unlike movies and rock and roll, newspapers don't drain the reality from Discworld, and so are here to stay.
Early in "The Truth," William de Worde, the disaffected son of an old noble family, meets a group of dwarves who have introduced the printing press and movable type to Ankh-Morpork. Shortly, William and company are printing the Ankh-Morpork Times, Discworld's first daily newspaper, and competing with Discworld's first tabloid. On a more serious note, Lord Vetinari has apparently attacked his secretary and attempted to flee with embezled city funds. William suspects the Patrician has been framed, and invents investigative journalism, which is likely to get him killed.
"The Truth" offers an outsider's view of the Watch and Vimes -- very interesting -- and continues to modernize Ankh-Morpork, in a sideways, upside-down fashion, of course. Many old characters make cameos, including the Bursar, Gaspode, Carrot, Angua, C.M.O.T. Dibbler, and Nobby. It also introduces Mr. Tulip, a criminal who wants to have a drug habit; Sacharissa, William's partner and chief reporter; and Otto, a vampire who has sworn off blood and taken up flash photography, a dangerous profession for a creature sensitive to light.
There aren't as many footnotes in "The Truth" as in some other Discworld novels, but the satire is dead on, and the humor is still present, just more intertwined with the actual story. "The Truth" will probably also appeal to first-time Pratchett readers more than some other Discworld novels.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2001
I think that perhaps no modern fantasy writer is as likely to have a graduate seminar in the humanities taught about his works in a hundred years than is Terry Pratchett. Pratchett is the only modern fantasy writer I can think of that successfully mixes parody, social commentary, allegory and themes of the humanities into stories that you have to read on multiple levels to fully appreciate. Thankfully, he continues this with "The Truth".
For the first time since "Men at Arms" - or "Soul Music", depending on the chronology you use for the series - we are given an invention of the modern world and shown how the semi-medieval city of Ankh-Morpork copes with it. In this case, it's the printing press. Pratchett is back in full form after a couple of worrying books and in this one he does a good job of mixing the methods that made his Ankh-Morpork City Watch subseries so wonderful with the allegory of books like "Moving Pictures" and "Soul Music" while being far lighter and somewhat more subtle than he has been in the past.
"The Truth" also introduces a new subseries to the Discworld that hopefully we will see a lot more of. The staff of the newspaper works wonderfully together in this book and I hope we see as much plot development from them in future books as we've seen from the subseries that focus on the Ankh-Morpork City Watch or the Witches of Lancre.
All in all, I thought this book was a return to the glory days of Pratchett that I remember reading from "Witches Abroad" to "Interesting Times". If you're a serious Terry Pratchett fan you've probably picked it up already, but in case you haven't - do so. If you're a new fan of his and looking to find a place to get into his works, there are worse books than this to start with.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
This review is aimed at the handful of people in the English-speaking world who, like me, have had no prior acquaintance with Terry Pratchett and his Discworld novels. The millions of Discophiles who want to know how "The Truth" compares to the twenty-four previous books in the series are advised to consult the reviews of others.
The blurb-writers compare Pratchett to Carroll, Tolkien, Baum, Vonnegut and Douglas Adams. Everyone seems to agree that he is a satirist. Judged only on "The Truth" he is a rather mild-mannered one -- fearlessly exposing the excesses of the media and making the case for ethnic toleration (vampires are people too). Pratchett is most obviously a zany and original humorist. "The Truth" is a very funny book in its own right -- regardless of its literary antecedents.
Ankh-Morpork, locus of "The Truth" is a pre-industrial city on Discworld ruled by Lord Vetinari and dominated by hereditary nobles and guilds. There is a plot afoot to replace Vetinari because he has been too tolerant toward the trolls, werewolves, vampires, and,especially, the dwarves who are migrating to Ankh-Morpork to seek their fortunes. Golems run the fire brigade and a closet werewolf is a sergeant of the Watch. The central character is William deWorde, a disaffected member of the nobility, who has been eking out a meager living selling hand-engraved tablets of gossip to a few wealthy clients. He falls in with some dwarves who have just set up the first printing press in the city and The Ankh-Morpork Times is born ("The news shall make you fret"). The guild of engravers get their own press and begin publishing a sensationalist tabloid ("Woman Gives Birth to Cobra"). Two hit-men imported for the Vetinari plot are ordered by a zombie lawyer to put the Times and its editor out of business permanently.
The book teems with interesting off-center chracters like Otto, the vampire photographer deWorde soon hires. Otto speaks with a Lugosi accent and is in a twelve-step program for vanpires. He is also an inventor. He uses an imp-powered "iconograph" with slamanders for flashbulbs. Unfortunately he is turned to dust by the flash and must be reconstituted with a drop of blood after each shot. DeWorde exposes the plot against Lord Vetinari with the help of "Deep Bone", a talking dog named Gaspode. Death puts in an appearance and proves that he, too, has a sense of humor.
Underneath the humorist, Pratchett proves to be a moralist. Death explains atonement. DeWorde defends journalistic values and freedom of the press, while confronting his own prejudices towards his co-workers. Pratchett's hand is heavier when he gets serious, but fortunately, that never lasts for long.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2000
The UK/non-American version of The Truth has quite possibly the best Josh Kirby cover drawn yet - and right under Terry Pratchett's name in the title is heralded: "The 25th Discworld Novel". This really ought to be evidence enough of the quality of the work. And "The Truth" shows exactly why Discworld is still going strong. This is another one along the lines of, "Soul Music" or "Moving Pictures" except this time, the press is the target of the allegory. And it's all dead-on. William de Worde, the most normal person present, looks suitably bemused by all the goings-on, until he settles on the traditional newspaper-editor approach of banging his fist on his desk alot. Otto Chriek, vampire iconographer, eventually invents the traditional lensman's attire, even if he has to add a small vial of animal blood on a string to bring him back to life whenever he's disintegrated by the camera flash. And every other facet of the modern press gets similar treatment, from the Ankh-Morpork Inquirer ("Woman Gives Birth To Cobra"), to the traditional not-always-friendly relationship with the police. Even the dwarf printers have names resembling newspaper typefaces (e.g. Boddony vs. the typeface Bodoni). A fantastic read. And it's our first chance to look at my personal favourites, the Watch, from an entirely outside perspective. Go get it.
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
When William de Worde of Ankh-Morpork learns that the dwarfs have invented a movable type printing press, he sees a business opportunity. William establishes a daily newspaper, The Ankh-Morpork Times. To even his surprise, his paper succeeds as the city's unwashed sell the daily and some of the undead serve as night reporters and photographers. However, a competitor The Ankh-Morpork Inquirer, provides sleazier innuendoes, half-truths, and outright fabrications that are more popular than William's honest journalism.
When the city's ruler Lord Vetinari is found fleeing with $70,000 after stabbing his clerk, William investigates the crime. He remains naive of the danger that he will soon confront because investigative journalism is a new and unexplored but perilous field since most people want the truth buried along side the reporter.
The twenty-fifth entry in Terry Pratchett's long running satire, Discworld, THE TRUTH, is one of the fresher entries in several years. The author disses journalism for excesses, abuses, and ignoring THE TRUTH that is out there in the quest for revenue. The tale is often humorous as the idealistic William learns that tabloid reporting is more lucrative and safer than honest hard working investigative journalism. As is his want, Mr. Pratchett exposes the power of the media in an amusing novel.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Terry Pratchett's 'mirror of worlds' is staring us right in the face. He wants us to take him and ourselves more seriously. Fantasy is on the decline on the Discworld, humour becoming more cynical and real-life issues reaching out to claim our attention. The origins of this trend aren't easy to pinpoint. Certainly all of the Sam Vimes series demonstrate it, with FEET OF CLAY and JINGO prominent in presenting us with the round world Discworld mirrors. This latest product of one of our world's more penetrating writers challenges us to look at ourselves closely. Which values do we truly subscribe to today?
Many who use Pratchett to escape from the realities of life will grizzle about this trend. This book is easily the least 'escapist' of any he's written. We are given a dedicated newsman who's challenged by business 'ethics'. A tabloid competitor emerges, offering readers glaring sensationalism, but false "news". Supplies of paper dry up, the press is demolished and survival of both the Ankh-Morpork Times and its publisher comes into question. This book isn't fantasy, it's history. It just happens to be Discworld's reflection of Round world's chronicle of business ethics. The only thing missing in this account is the "market survey" to assess what will sell to the population. Indeed, the most telling line in the book is Vetanari's comment that "people don't want news, they want olds" - the confirmation of what they already believe. "News" will simply cause people to think, and we all know how dangerous that is.
William de Worde's choice of "newsboys" an interesting touch. Foul Ol' Ron, the Duckman, and, in particular, Gaspode, purveying the A-M Times on the city's streets, would have been a memorable sight, but Pratchett pushes them into the background. Foul Ol' Ron as a reporter might have led the Times down an interesting path. The biggest news, however, is an almost murder. Vetanari is again placed in an unusual position for a City Manager, and the twists of that tale are Pratchett at his finest.
One thing missing in this book is the progeny expected by Sam Vimes and Sibyl at the end of FIFTH ELEPHANT. It's too soon for that in the Discworld timeframe, of course. Since Sam appears in this book, the image of Ol' Stoneface as a parent would have been priceless. Printing and spreading the news immediately called up anticpation of The Librarian making an appearance, but we have to do with Foul Ol' Ron instead - not a bad trade, just a small disappointment. Foul Ol' Ron might have been puffed a bit. After all, the only coherent expression he's uttered 'Queen Mary says to watch your back, mister' might well have been enlarged on here. Leaving all communication to Gaspode, who has his own agenda to follow.
Long-term fans of Pratchett shouldn't be disappointed that the light-hearted days of Rincewind and the Wyrd Sisters seem to be fading into the background. We should be glad he's still producing. Years ago in the US, a similar voice in the person of Tom Lehrer used humour to awaken Americans to some of their dearly-held follies. The election of Ronald Reagan drove Lehrer into retirement, a sad loss. That Pratchett is able to keep reminding us of who we are, and do it in such entertaining fashion, is a tribute to him and encouraging for us. He's telling us that he believes there's hope yet.