Truth : A Novel of Discworld by Terry Pratchett
US Edition: Hardcover - 336 pages 1 Ed edition (November 7, 2000) Harpercollins; ISBN: 0380978954
UK Edition: Hardcover - 319 pages ( 2 November, 2000)
Doubleday; ISBN: 0385601026
Review by John Berlyne
Check out this book at: Amazon US / Amazon UK
I haven't read a Discworld novel since Moving Pictures. In that time Pratchett has churned out a dozen more and with The Truth the tally now reaches twenty-five. I'd be forgiven (I hope) for thinking that the franchise (for so it has become, spawning as it has PC games, graphic novels and collectables galore) might have become a little stale by now, but no - Pratchett's writing is a fresh as ever, which is more than can be said for the air in Ankh-Morpork!
Pratchett has always had huge fun introducing what we think of as everyday concepts (such as rock music or movies) into the Discworld and seeing how it's inhabitants deal with them. In The Truth he examines the effect the arrival of a newspaper has on the people of Ankh-Morpork. The very likable protagonist, William de Worde, earns a pittance sending occasional one-off letters of happenings to a few choice clients. (The sign above his office reads "William de Worde : Things Written Down".) This labor intensive vocation receives a jolt (quite literally) when de Worde is hit by a runaway cart that just happens to be carrying a printing press, one that has been modified by some enterprising dwarfs (they're are good with their hands). This chance encounter changes Williams life.
At first he is uncertain about what his newspaper can do but soon sees how his "news" effects those who read it. He recruits some very particular staff (a troll as a sports writer, a vampire iconographer etc) and soon he's discovering also that there are those who read the paper that would like to effect the content.
Behind all this there is a plot by a group of shadowy city elders to discredit Lord Vetinari, Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. With the help of two hired thugs, Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip, (truly wonderful and frighteningly psychotic Pratchett creations) they manage to frame the Patrician for murder but of course various things go wrong and trouble ensues in which our hero de Worde finds himself involved neck-deep.
The laugh-out-loud gag quota in The Truth averages out to at least one per page - even the corny ones, and there are plenty of loud smiles too. Underneath the comedy Pratchett is making some sharp and astute observations about the nature of news, particularly the fact that just because it's in the paper doesn't mean its true and the maxim that what is in the public interest isn't necessarily what the public is interested in. He takes a swipe at the way the populous can be manipulated through the way stories are reported acknowledging also that the media ranges from helpful tool to heavy-weight weapon when in the hands of politicians. (Thankfully de Worde's paper is able to remain mostly independent.). Observed also is the public's hunger for tittle-tattle. At breakfast time in de Worde's boarding house the news stories that are discussed are not, much to William's frustration, the political intrigues he's been chasing up but rather those about the man who grew a carrot shaped like a U-Know-what or (my favorite) "Elves Stole My Husband"! This type of parody is dotted unobtrusively throughout Pratchett's work and makes me wonder how many similar references I must have missed. They're great when you get them though! (You'll laugh at the Pulp Fiction one).
It is TP's ability to make these wry observations through the situation comedy of his writing that give depth to the "Discworld" novels. They are so much more than a string of jokes about wizards - indeed I'd venture that this is satire at it's most sophisticated. It is no accident that books by Terry Pratchett now reportedly account for 1% of all books sold in the UK. His position and it's rewards are well deserved - and that's "The Truth". Highly recommended.