ISBN : 0-060-81522-1
Author : Terry Pratchett
Title : Thud!
Pitch : Sir Samuel Vimes, Commander of the Watch, His Grace the Duke of Ankh, is a very worried man indeed. The Watch is busier than ever, and it seems like the Battle Of Koom Valley Day will see dwarves and trolls reenact that famous double-sided ambush. To complicate matters a bit more, a dwarf seems to have been murdered by a troll. The Watch officiers will have to set aside their differences to dig into history and customs, or to see Ankh-Morpork burned to the ground.
Every book from Terry Pratchett that takes place in the Discworld is like Christmas coming early (or late, or … well it’s like Christmas, OK?). His wits and humor always turn a somewhat “standard” plot (a king accessing to the throne, a murder in a city, some psychology education, …) into a deep and hilarious journey. I don’t think I have ever skipped a single line in any of his books yet, they all contain something that will either advance the plot a little bit further, or make a cunningly accurate remark on human behavior, or twist everything upside down, inside out and sideways, too.
In the Discworld series, there are several different “styles” : the heroic-fantasy, with Rincewind or the mages as central figures, the theatre/classics, with Esme Weatherwax and the other witches, the detective stories, with Sam Vimes and the Watch, the children books, with Tiffany Aching and the Wee Free Men,… Each one follows the rules of it’s “parent” category, and twists them to accept the Discworld oddities, such as races, magic, etc…
I have a thing for the Sam Vimes series, as it is usually considered very dark compared to the others : Sam Vimes is not incompetent like Rincewind, not encrusted in old rules like Esme Weatherwax, and not naive like Tiffany Achings. He is a somewhat regular copper, and has to follow through mysteries that usually involve a plot to destroy the world as he knows it. While he is generally out of his depths after a few pages, he compensates by being driven by sheer anger at everything, including his hard-earned situation.
In this installment, he has to dive into one of the most carefully hidden secrets by dwarves and trolls : the reason behind the hatred between the two races. Through this metaphor, Terry Pratchett shows that history is not always what it seems, and that two clans may think they have a good reason to hate each other, but in the end it’s always self-fueled. We fight because we’ve always fought. Sounds Shakespearian to you?
It seems that the darker the story, the brighter the humor and flashes of wit. I though Night Watch was the best book written in the Sam Vimes series, I guess I’ll have to update that… “Thud!” shows characters out of balance, forced by the outside events to change and adapt, and a Samuel Vimes definitely on the road to Enlightenment… however bloody that may be.