The Truth
March 28, 2023 7:35 PM - Subscribe

ANKH-MORPORK - Lord Vetinari arrested by City Watch after an apparent attack on his chief clerk, Rufus Drumknott. Vetinari's aged dog Wuffles missing after the altercation. Two criminals for hire calling themselves the "New Firm" have set up shop in the city. William de Worde, previously of a monthly newsletter to a handful of the Disc's influential nobles, joins with Dwarfs to create Ankh-Morpork's first Newspaper, though rivals are hot on his heels Details forthcoming. (Discworld #25, Industrial Revolution #2.) By Terry Pratchett.

Welcome (or welcome back!) to the newly-revived Discworld Book Club! We've been covering the City Watch subseries (Previously: Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo, The Fifth Elephant, Night Watch) but are currently detouring over to some of the "Industrial Revolution" books because we need them for context in the City Watch books and also they are flippin' awesome in their own right. As such, the next book will be Monstrous Regiment.


William de Worde is the second son of a real piece of work Lord in Ankh-Morpork, though Lord de Worde hasn't really been spending any time in the city since it's become so overrun with Dwarfs, Trolls, and the various Undead of Überwald. William prefers to set himself apart from his father, however, and has set himself up as a tradesman of sorts, writing dictated letters for Ankh-Morpork's dwarfs to send back home, and putting together a month Newsletter of stories from the city to be sent to nobles in Sto-Helit, Quirm, Lancre and beyond. He earns a modest but acceptable living and gets to live in a world of words, as is his wont.

After a chance meeting with some dwarfs carting in a printing press, William finds himself quickly in charge of the Ankh-Morpork Times, the Disc's very first Newspaper. Soon brought aboard are Sacharissa Cripslock, cub reporter, and Otto Chriek, Vampire Iconographer (like a photographer, but with imps and salamanders and eels and stuff.)

Meanwhile, "The New Firm" has come to town, consisting of Mr. Pin, the slick-haired, amoral brains of the operation, and Mr. Tulip, the towering and violent muscle with a keen eye for art and architecture. They've been all over the Disc making a name for themselves in smaller cities, and a special assignment has brought them to town - the type of assignment that you can't even bring to the Assassins' Guild.

As William and Sacharissa follow the stories around town, they make quick enemies of sorts with Sam Vimes and the rest of the City Watch, who see the new press as distinctly at odd with their mission of keeping the peace. But when Lord Vetinari appears to try to murder his chief clerk Rufus Drumknott, and Vetinari's dog goes missing, something smells fishy to William, and it's up to the Times to get to the bottom of it. Provided they can keep themselves in business for long enough to go to print.
posted by Navelgazer (14 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
God I love the Industrial Revolution books. And at this point in the narrative of the City Watch, it's so damn lovely to see them from somebody else's perspective. William de Worde isn't Moist von Lipwig, of course, and it's probably unfair to see him even as a rough draft of Moist (who is in the running for Greatest Pratchett Character Ever) but inevitable nonetheless, at least for me. Thankfully, William is fun in his own right, with his constant self-editing of even his own thoughts in order to get the phrasing right, and his inability not to say the thing that's gonna piss off the person across from him.

The themes here are writ pretty large, of course, at least in terms of "Freedom of the Press" and the value of The Truth, but the fun is in the nitty-gritty of how the Engravers' Guild tries to take down The Times, and how William and Sacharissa and Otto and Goodmountain respond. This is also, I believe, the introduction of Harry King, an important figure in understanding how Ankh-Morpork works on an infrastructural and societal level.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:58 PM on March 28, 2023 [4 favorites]

SPOILERS IN THIS COMMENT, skip it ye who wish to remain unspoiled.

The punnery in this book is epic for this ex-typesetter. (All the dwarf names are based on famous typefaces except for Goodmountain himself, who is a transparent calque for Gutenberg.) This is also another mystery book where Pratchett plays fair -- it's quite possible to figure out who's at the bottom of the pile long before poor William does. (And it's not that William is slow -- we-the-reader just see a lot more clues a lot sooner.)

A lot of this book is about becoming independent, and rising above what others think you're supposed to be:

* The dwarves are innovating in their search for gold, which itself for Goldmountain and Boddony is all about independence.
* William struggles to let go of his upper-glass upbringing and the contempt and warmongering inherent in it. As Otto says to him, "every day in every way..."
* Otto clings tightly to his Black Ribbon, and decries stereotypes of vampires even as he sometimes exemplifies, sometimes adapts, sometimes rejects them. He is a delight throughout.
* Sacharissa tussles with capital-R Respectability and mostly wins.
* The canting crew is revealed to be hospitable (in their way) and kind, sheltering terriers at the least whim.
* Even Mr. Tulip's unexpected Antiques Roadshow-style art appreciation (which is definitely this book's fount of pure Wodehousian hilarity) and post-mortem repentance (once he's free of Pin) leads Death to think he had "something in him that could be better."

And then there's Mr. Pin, Mr. Slant, Lord de Worde, and the blowhards around Mrs. Arcanum's table. Enough said. They're unpleasant.

My parents weren't nearly as awful as Lord de Worde, but I definitely vibed with William's impassioned demand to buy himself off his father. I, too, had the experience of ungentle shoves in specific life directions, and getting grudging respect from them only after successfully rebelling.

This is one of my favorites, truthfully. A few Discworld books, this being one of them, come together so tightly both plotwise and thematically that they're damn near Shakespearian. And that's before we acknowledge the relevance of truth(iness) to today's world.
posted by humbug at 7:00 AM on March 29, 2023 [8 favorites]

This is one of my favorites, truthfully. A few Discworld books, this being one of them, come together so tightly both plotwise and thematically that they're damn near Shakespearian. And that's before we acknowledge the relevance of truth(iness) to today's world.

Came in to share exactly this sentiment, humbug, including it being one of my favourites.

TRUTH is one that distinctly made me wish I had appreciated Pratchett sooner. I tried a few times over the years to get into Discworld, bouncing off all the silly names (and general silliness) on the surface before I found the Something More, and I think there’s a lot of Something More in this book specifically.
posted by TangoCharlie at 6:44 PM on March 29, 2023 [4 favorites]

But also: a lot of my affection might have been bought by the typeface puns.
posted by TangoCharlie at 6:48 PM on March 29, 2023 [3 favorites]

This was the first Discworld book I read and it worked perfectly to hook me into the series, if that's useful for anyone out there who knows someone looking for an in. I didn't know anything about the backstory - had no idea there would be so much backstory lol - but loved the book and the characters and didn't feel like I was missing anything while reading. It's so good, especially if you love journalism, and yeah, is one of my faves in the series.
posted by mediareport at 7:08 PM on March 29, 2023 [1 favorite]

I think a lot about the pun on "news" and how what people want is "olds". The comfort of the familiar, that they do in fact understand the world and need to see that understanding reflected back at them.
posted by Merus at 7:23 PM on March 29, 2023 [3 favorites]

I also love the realization that several characters come into that making up the Enquirer stories is harder than it looks and that CMOT Dibbler is uniquely talented at it.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:05 PM on March 29, 2023 [2 favorites]

Otto is also a really great element - especially as played in the audiobook, the way he turns to dust every time his flash goes off is never not funny, AND the notion that he keeps doing the photography anyway despite the dustings makes his character admirable (imo), AND the blood vial with the note, that’s all fun stuff. But then at the end, the eels or salamanders (I don’t remember) give one of the thugs terrifying mystical visions, right? If I’m remembering right, that’s such a good twist on the comedy element AND it adds that good good fantasy flavour.
posted by TangoCharlie at 8:31 PM on March 29, 2023 [2 favorites]

Yar. The Salamanders are for regular flashes, the Eels for dark-light flashes. The dark light gives Mr. Pin some horrible visions that put him off of killing for a while, until he sees the end is nigh and he steals Mr. Tulip's potato and kills him so that he can stand on him during the flood of molten lead. It's an interesting twist to me, in that up until that moment, while Mr. Tulip had been by far the more likable of the two, Mr. Pin seemed like the one who was potentially on a redemptive arc, but in the afterlife Mr. Tulip actually regrets his actions, which Pin does not, hence their diverging paths of reincarnation.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:46 PM on March 29, 2023 [2 favorites]

Good spot to ask this question. I understood Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip as Pratchett riffing on Pulp Fiction (apropos for the print-revolution subject matter) but always got the feeling that there were other referents there that I was missing - something like their version of the dwarves all being named after fonts. Am I missing something or just hoping for more layers of meaning?
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 5:16 PM on March 31, 2023 [1 favorite]

It's almost always safe to assume that Pratchett has packed in references that weren't immediately or at all apparent. This is one reason Discworld rewards rereading.

One route to a headslapping good time asking oneself "why didn't I see that?" is to check out the TVTropes page for the book in question, specifically the Shout-Out segment (or page, for a few books that are Reference Overdosed). In this specific case... this thread has hit the major ones: Pulp Fiction, Antiques Roadshow, and typefaces.
posted by humbug at 6:50 AM on April 1, 2023

Also, while Pratchett said that Pin & Tulip are supposed to just be part of the grand tradition of criminal duos of that sort, but they bear a strong resemblance to "The Old Firm" from Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, plus there's the Watergate/All the President's Men stuff throughout the book.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:48 AM on April 1, 2023 [1 favorite]

Yes! I noticed that about the hitman-team in Neverwhere too. As another (remote) possibility there's a two-man hitman team, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, in one of the Bond novels - Diamonds are Forever I think - which also hits the same All The President's Men 60s moment of media paranoia, but I generally lump that in with "grand tradition of two-man teams." On the other hand, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd in the movie call each other "Mr. Wint" and "Mr. Kidd," and are gleeful sadists even on the curve of Bond villains, so maybe there's a stronger line of influence there.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 2:26 PM on April 1, 2023 [1 favorite]

Another thing on Mr Tulip, I love that his speech mannerism is understood by everyone in the book to be more or less text-based rather than speech-based - that is, that instead of the print representing how he speaks, he's somehow managing to vocalize a line of underscores in a way that's audible to the other characters in the book.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 2:34 PM on April 1, 2023 [5 favorites]

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