The Truth by Terry Pratchett
|Book Name:||The Truth|
|Formatt:||Paperback / Audio Book / eBook|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy / Comedy|
|Release Date:||September 4, 2001|
After being convincingly won over by Pratchett’s latest, Snuff, I just had to get my hands on another. Rather than go back to the very beginning and the books I’d read many years ago (and was, in all honesty, disappointed by), I settled for a jump back of a dozen years to his 25th Discworld novel, The Truth.
The Truth covers the birth of the Discworld’s first newspaper, brought into somewhat accidental being by the book’s protagonist William De Worde. His staff include a mass of dwarves who operate the printing press, a vampire photographer (complete with a suitable Bela Lugosi accent) who combusts every time his flash ignites, and a go-getting reporter lady who may or may not turn out to be a love interest. Oh, and a talking dog, too. Of course, nothing ever goes smoothly, and danger and high jinks abound in equal measure.
Initially, I was somewhat disappointed to find that The Truth reminded me of Pratchett’s later novel Going Postal, which I also enjoyed immensely (hmm, that’s becoming a constant whenever I read a Pratchett – you’d have thought I’d have learned something by now…). There seemed to be a lack of depth to The Truth, a depth that had made Going Postal and Snuff appeal to me so much. Inevitably, despite these two being later novels, they will always be my yardstick with which to gauge the strength of any Pratchett novel.
I persevered, though, thinking it unfair to judge this novel against those that were written after it. I’m glad I did, for the more I read, the more I found myself enjoying a ripping yarn of a tale, one that was making me smile and – yes, I’ll have to admit it – laugh out loud. Its depth grew as the plot thickened, but that didn’t seem to matter anymore. I was being drawn in, thrilled and surprised; surely the purpose of any work of fiction is to first entertain the reader?
Whilst recording the latest happenings in Ankh-Morpork – the ‘news’ rather than the ‘olds’ – William stumbles across a conspiracy that intends to reshape the governing of the entire city. As he investigates further, he finds himself getting deeper into trouble; added to this is a rival newspaper finding greater success with headlines based on speculation and word of mouth rather than fact.
I liked William as a character; he’s a good and honest man doing his best in the chaos that surrounds him. Not so ideal as to be too good to be true, but a grounded, decent human being who develops through the course of the novel to a final, satisfying end. Every hero should have a villain worthy of the name, and William has two in the duo of Mr Tulip and Mr Pin, brawn and brains. They’re an amusing pair – particularly Mr Tulip’s swearing represented as “-ing” on the page, the same also being a word the other characters can’t hear – yet there’s a sinister edge to both of them that is made all the more apparent in such a light-hearted tale.
Like myself, Tulip and Pin are relative newcomers to Ankh-Morpork, and often find themselves perturbed at what they see. As for myself, I was nothing short of impressed. Yes, he’s had twenty four books before this with which to build his world, but this city is a stunning creation, populated with a wealth of personalities great and small. It’s rich in description, so much so that you can almost smell the turds floating down the river.
So, what we have here is essentially funny characters placed in funny situations, Pratchett doing what he does best. I found The Truth contained more belly laughs than Snuff, but the price paid for this is less depth of comment. That’s not to say The Truth isn’t a very thoughtful novel, for it is. It’s about the use and misuse of words, about the damage that can be caused and the help that can be given by the right or wrong word. Ultimately, writers should ensure they do so responsibly, for words can cause damage as well as heal.
Perhaps this message isn’t as subtly spun as those of his later works, but this is Terry Pratchett twelve years earlier; not as mature, but still brilliant, and – perhaps worryingly – with a book just as topical now as it was at the turn of the century.