Thief of Time
October 17, 2023 9:25 PM - Subscribe

The Auditors of Reality have come up with a plan to finally rid existence of human unpredictability once and for all so that they may finally bask in a universe of perfect order, a plan which sweeps up the Disc's greatest clockmaker, a centuries-old temple-sweeper, a former thieves guild member turned troublesome apprentice monk, a very effective schoolteacher, and the schoolteacher's grandfather who also goes by the name of Death... (Discworld #26, Death #5) By Terry Pratchett.

The Way of Mrs. Cosmopolite says that we're back in the Discworld Book Club, where we're continuing on through any as-yet-uncovered books in the series. Previously:

The Color of Magic
The Light Fantastic
Equal Rites
Wyrd Sisters
Guards! Guards!
Moving Pictures
Reaper Man
Witches Abroad
Small Gods
Lords and Ladies
Men At Arms
Soul Music
Interesting Times
Feet of Clay
The Last Continent
Carpe Jugulum
The Fifth Elephant
The Truth
Night Watch
Monstrous Regiment
Going Postal
Making Money
The Shepherd's Crown

By this logic, our next entry should be The Last Hero


There once was a fairytale on the Discworld about a princess who was trapped in a crystal clock. Perhaps inspired by this old story, Myria LeJean has commissioned a similar device, hoping for a clock that is perfectly accurate. Of course, LeJean is an Auditor of Reality posing as a human for this scheme, so it's probable that there are more nefarious motives at play here. Who's to say, really?

Jeremy Clockson is that Clockmaker, a man of extremely singular talent and focus, who cannot bring himself to focus on anything not clock-related. He's recently just hired on an Igor, who finds himself incresingly troubled by his new master's undeniable sanity.

Lobsang Ludd is a former member of the Thieves Guild of Ankh-Morpork who has recently become an initiate of the History Monks charged with making sense of time on the Disc. Highly intelligent and preternaturally talented, he is of course an utter pain in the ass to his would-be mentors.

Lu-Tze is not a monk, but rather a humble sweeper at the Monastery, and it is under his tutelage that Lobsang soon finds himself. Also, Lu-Tze is thousands of years old, learned long ago that he can learn more things, and get in more places, as a sweeper than he ever could as a monk (because nobody notices a sweeper), has developed his own philosophy based on the "teachings" of his former landlady, and I guess isn't so humble at all, now that you mention it.

Susan Sto-Helit is an astoundingly gifted schoolteacher of the sort that everybody wishes they had had. She also, on occasion, is visited by an anthropomorphic raven and rat at the behest of her grandfather, Death, whom she sometimes has to fill in for.

Death is the Grim Reaper, the human personification of the end of life.

All of these characters are wrapped up in a plot that threatens the entirety of existence, but they haven't necessarily considered the way that a box of chocolates can throw a monkey-wrench into things...
posted by Navelgazer (15 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What to say about this one that conveys how good it is despite how bizarre it is? Pratchett was clearly inspired by The Matrix to make the Discworld's own version of a Wuxia movie. (Though the only direct reference I remember from this read-through was the "Weaponry. Lots of weaponry" line, vs. the extended Reservoir Dogs riff on the auditors arguing abut their color-derived names.) Susan is always one of the best characters, and the early scenes with her in her element as a teacher are a highlight. Lu-Tze is much better here than in Small Gods (an amazing book where his treatment is a minor sour note for me.) The Death books are always off the wall even by Discworld standards, and this one is probably the high bar for that (though Hogfather comes close!) But this one is just gorgeously ambitious and wild.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:37 PM on October 17, 2023 [4 favorites]

This one has been my comfort read for a long time. I could enjoy being rocked to sleep by the long gait of a yeti..

Anyone this is the one I reread as soon as I heard about the finally passing of Sir pTerry.
posted by nat at 11:53 PM on October 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

Incredible book, for so many reasons. How Myria LeJean decides to go out. Lots of people have taken a whack at creating a fifth horseman of the apocalypse, but no other effort has created someone as unique as Ronnie Soak. And the time-balancing scene early on is one of my favorite scenes in all of Discworld.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:50 AM on October 18, 2023 [2 favorites]

This is a very good one, but I initially found myself put off by the pun of the name. I should reread it.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:58 AM on October 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

This was my first Prachett book. I'd never heard of him before. I just found it randomly at a book store and it sounded weird and cool. It was amazing. I was telling people about it and I found out Discworld was a whole series and that my favorite teacher had bee recommending it to other kids for years - but despite lots of other recommendations she had never told me about it. I was furious. In retrospect, I get it. She was trying to broaden what I was reading and she didn't want me to spend the next few months reading and re-reading the 30 or so Discworld books that were out at that time.
posted by Garm at 8:37 AM on October 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

What's the title pun?
posted by Sebmojo at 2:24 PM on October 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

What's the title pun?

Also curious. My only guess is that Lobsang turns out to be a Thief (how he was raised, anyway) but also be "of time" by nature, so rather than the book being about someone stealing time (though it is, kind of) it's about Lobsang, the Thief (who is) of Time?

But again, I'm guessing.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:29 PM on October 18, 2023

'procrastination is the thief of time' is the saying that the title is referencing, it's not really a pun though. Given pratchett it's entirely possible there's a third level I've never seen.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:34 PM on October 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

Oh, I meant "Jeremy Clockson." Some of Pratchett's puns are outrageous enough to break the immersion for me. But since "Myria LeJean" was a chosen name, it didn't bother me. And I don't hate his wordplay in general -- I love "Sator Square" and "the Scone of Stone." I guess it just annoyed me because I don't care for Jeremy Clarkson.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:03 AM on October 19, 2023 [3 favorites]

we're young, we have all the time in the world, let's go clubbing
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:05 PM on October 19, 2023 [2 favorites]

Sator Square, omg.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:38 PM on October 19, 2023 [2 favorites] for those who aren't familiar with this
posted by Sebmojo at 5:42 PM on October 19, 2023 [1 favorite]

The chocolates were an ingenious bit of writing.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:40 AM on October 20, 2023 [1 favorite]

I knew this one was next and just re-read it. On reflection, it may be my favorite novel in the series, though there are a few titles which also vie for that spot. There is very little not to love in this story--the only thing that is at all tedious is the scene with Qu, and even that is ok, if entirely predictable.

The interaction between Lobsang and Lu-Tze is always fun. And I really enjoyed the growth of Unity as a character.

I'm the most pleased that, in the end, Susan gets to spend time with someone like herself. (One trusts that the "perfect moment" in the stationary cupboard lasted at least a dirty weekend.)

Hopefully Lobsang was able to restore "Man with Large Fig Leaf" when he patched history back together.
posted by maxwelton at 2:24 AM on October 22, 2023 [1 favorite]

The reference is to The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, & Immortality (1742) by Edward Young:
Be wise to day, ’tis madness to defer;
Next day the fatal Precedent will plead;
Thus on, till Wisdom is push’d out of life:
Procrastination is the Thief of Time,
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a Moment leaves
The vast Concerns of an Eternal scene.
posted by cyanistes at 10:45 AM on December 30, 2023

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