The Truth

Reviewed: April 4, 2003
By: Terry Pratchett
Publisher: Corgi Books
243 Pages, $9.99

Discworld is Terry Pratchett's alternate universe playground, a silly, magical place where nothing works quite as you might expect but where people (even when they aren't quite people) still behave in quite natural ways.

In the beginning Pratchett  used his creation to poke fun at the heroic fantasy genre of which it was a spoof, but he keeps branching out.

One of the books took on the works of William Shakespeare; another lampooned the New Age movement; still others have had delicious fun with such concepts as Death (well, DEATH - everything about HIM is in CAPITAL letters and he never has to raise his voice), feminists, sensitive men, and politics.

This one plays fast and loose with newspapers. William de Worde is a down at the heels scribbler who makes ends meet with some degree of comfort by penning a chatty newsletter about the doings of his city of Ankh-Morpork for important citizens in other cities. Once he's finished a letter he runs down to the local engraver, has a few copies made from his original, and send them off.

It's all quite mundane until the dwarves come to town. The dwarves, you see, have invented movable, reusable type and a found a new use for the engraver's printing press.

William writes enough material for one broadsheet folded edition and thinks it's a bit of lark, until it sells out, the money comes rolling in, and he finds himself asked to do some more ... and some more.

Up to this point he's been a writer doing a bit of chatty scribbling, kind of a gossip column for a few select clients. Suddenly he has a public, and a set of what he thinks of as responsibilities. He's entering a whole new world.

Before you know it he's got a girl Friday in the office and she's outgrowing the original concept. He's got a reformed vampire (on a 12 step program) who has figured out a way to take a sort of a photograph, even if the flash does run the risk of reducing him to ashes when it's too bright.

He's got paper supply problems, advertising woes, silly season stories, a political scandal, the engravers' guild on his back, low brow tabloid competition, and someone trying to cover up a coup d'etat.

In other words, in one swell foop he's entered the world of the fourth estate and gone from being a poetic dreamer to a person whose opinions shape those of others.

All of this goes according to the fullest expectations of Murphy's Law, which, with a slight alteration, seems to be the prime directive of Discworld.  In other words, anything that can go wrong usually will, and generally with the funniest possible consequences.

There are over 25 novels in this series now.  I've read half a dozen of them, in no particular order. You can actually step into this world anywhere and probably still end up giggling hysterically.