Oh yes, I know. Another Discworld book? Like this series needs more praise. Well, we’re just going to roll with this one today because A) I have nothing else to review, B) I finished this book like a few hours ago, and C) this book is about newspapers so I feel like I should comment. So here’s what we’re going to do. You’re going to sit back, all quiet like, and I’ll go over the plot of the book, which involves a man with words, a vampire photographer, and a pair of ruthless –ing thugs who are up to their necks in some good old Ankh-Morpork plots and schemes to remove the enigmatic patrician from office. Also: Dogs.
Writing isn’t a skill that many people can claim to have in Ankh-Morpork. This might have to do with the fact that a good selection of the population can’t actually read. William de Worde is kind of an exception. Words are about all hecan do, so he severed ties with his family somewhat messily and set up a writing shop in the city. de Worde’s shop has two main tasks: to write up a series of near-identical letters that immigrant workers can send home to the family to say all is well, and to produce a small newsletter full of items of interest from around Ankh-Morpork for a few dollars a month.
And then the dwarves arrive with something new. A printing press. After it nearly runs William over in the street, he forms a bit of an alliance with the dwarves, and before long de Word and proper-woman-in-training Sacharissa Cripslock are combing the city to present the news to a wider audience. The trick, in this case, is to figure out exactly what news is. The other trick is to avoid the guild of engravers, who are suddenly very, very unhappy to have competition.
And thrown all in that mix are Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip, two brutal thugs who are the literal movers and shakers of the world. Tulip is a bear of a man who likes to injest what he assumes are narcotics but are mostly just home cleaning chemicals. Pin is the smart one who leaves the bloody work to Tulip.
The two assassins are hired to do… something involving Lord Vetinari, Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. And when it all hits the fan, it also falls square in the lap of de Worde. Alas, the fate of the news reporter. I feel your pain, bro.
First, what I liked about the book: As with most Discworld novels, Ankh-Morpork takes center stage. You can almost picture the grimy streets, hear Cut-My-Own-Throat Dibbler selling highly questionable sausages on the street corner, feel the tension between the trolls and the dwarves. If you’ve read enough Pratchett novels you can even get a good idea what the cobblestones look like.
The assassins Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip are also interesting to see. Tulip has a brilliance about him that you wouldn’t expect from a man who snorts powdered mothballs, and Pin is… well, calculating. They only exist in this novel to bring pain and suffering. They don’t pretend to be anything other than what they are, which is either a facilitator or a murderer, depending on which side of their paycheck you landed.
I also loved the portrayal of the news. Sometimes the most frustrating thing about being a news writer is the sense of general apathy. It turns out, the news is subjective. What one person finds interesting, most people will actually not. Political scandals are all well and good, but when it comes right down to it, the average resident’s life is not going to be affected one way or the other if the forerunner for President has had sex with ALL the interns in America. The only people who would care about that would be the politicians, the campaign financers, and more than likely, the interns.
But man, put in a picture of a parsnip that looks like a man’s…. well, never you mind, and the papers are downright flying off the shelves. Sometimes the truth of the matter isn’t what people care about. But that doesn’t make the truth any less important. The truth will set you fred I mean free.
What I didn’t like about the book? For most of it, William de Worde seemed just like an average, everyman protagonist. This changes at the end of the book, but he spends most of the story being slightly bewildered and put upon. Also, I wasn’t too fond of the ending, wherein we learn that “the truth” is actually subjective to the person who is writing it, and to put it more accurately, what parts of the truth can be omitted if it makes the journalist and his family look bad.
Maybe it’s an ethics thing? I don’t know. Journalism has always been tip-toeing around ethics. It’s a matter of whether or not you should be putting names in the paper of juvenile victims, of what is truth and what is rumor, and what you need to do just to meet that next deadline. The truth may set you fret I mean free, but it’ll also lump a lot of legal trouble on your head if you’re not careful.
(Protip: “Allegedly” is a journalist’s best friend)
Anyway, The Truth is a pretty solid Ankh-Morpork novel, especially if you’ve ever dabbled in journalism. If not, well, there’s plenty of screaming vampires and insane homeless people to keep you entertained either way.