Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book review- The Fifth Elephant

After months of procrastinating, I'm going to try really hard to post book reviews whenever I finish a book this year. I guess it's a resolution? The first book I'm reviewing this year is The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett.

Yup, another Discworld one (what? I love these books). This is 24th in the Discworld series and is the 5th City Watch book, so needless to say, if you're new to Discworld, don't start here. I'd say to begin at the beginning with The Colour of Magic or if you're interested in just the Watch books, start with Guards! Guards!. To post my usual Discworld summary from the Wiki page, Discworld is a comedic fantasy book series by the British author Terry Pratchett, set on the Discworld, a flat world balanced on the backs of four elephants which, in turn, stand on the back of a giant turtle, Great A'Tuin. The books frequently parody, or at least take inspiration from, J. R. R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft and William Shakespeare, as well as mythology, folklore and fairy tales, often using them for satirical parallels with current cultural, political and scientific issues.

And now that that's out of the way, onto some ramblings about this book. For a quick bit about the plot (I don't like to give much away in my reviews, so I'll try to keep this simple), this book largely takes place in Überwald but, since it's a Watch book, also has scenes in Ankh-Morpork. The story starts with the theft of the replica Scone of Stone (the dwarven king sits on a lump of dwarf bread. Yum?) and the main plot involves Sam Vimes (Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch who is also a duke, as much as he doesn't like that), the troll Detritus and the dwarf Cheery investigating that in Überwald, where the real Scone was also stolen. Überwald is not a good place to be, what with vampires, werewolves, and strange dwarves (which I think Pratchett spells "dwarfs", but that spelling looks wrong to me, lol), and Igors, of course, but those are the good guys in the strangeness of that country. Oh, and I should mention that a lot of those werewolves are related to Angua, so she and Carrot (as well as Gaspode, the talking mutt) are thrown into this mess, as well. During all this, it's gotten rather messy in Ankh-Morpork, too, mainly because with Vimes and Carrot gone, that put the horribly incompetent Sergeant Colon in charge of the Watch. Since it's a Discworld book, things work out in the end, but the chaos getting there is quite enjoyable.

And if you're curious "The Fifth Elephant" refers to the legend that at one time there were five elephants on A'Tuin, but one came crashing to the disc and created fat and ore deposits, which are largely in Überwald.

I know that's not a very interesting summary, but trust me, this book is funny and just as good as the rest of the series. And that's coming from someone who loathes vampires and undead- Pratchett is pretty much the only author who can write those kinda of characters in a book and I'll still want to read it. I'm generally not too keen on dwarves, either, but I have to say that Cheery is one of my favorite Discworld characters; I love that she's herself, even if that means being *gasp!* a female dwarf (generally on the Disc, all dwarves are "he"), and she's so smart (I think she's the entirety of of the Watch forensics unit, or something like that). And speaking of dwarves, I really like Carrot in this book, too (yeah, he's a 6 foot tall human, but he was raised by dwarves, so he's a dwarf). There's just something about a character who is so good-natured, friendly, noble, and honest- that kind of character always appeals to me. He also has pretty much no biases about people, even if they're on four legs; he seems genuinely impressed that Angua's brother is a champion sheepdog, and it doesn't bother him in the least that she's a werewolf. Add to that the fact that he's not as naive as he seems and can be mean when he needs to (as Angua notices "You do know how to do nasty, don't you. But you use it like a claw; it slides out when you need it, and when you don't there's no sign that it's there") shows that there's more to him than you'd originally think.

I think that's one of the reasons why the Discworld books are so good; the characters are just so well-written and interesting. The comedy and wit are other reasons, too, of course. ;) I'll give this 4 1/2 stars out of 5.

1 comment:

Cat said...

This one has always been a 5 on my list :-D
See you to the next one!

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