by Terry Pratchett
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Thud! is Discworld satire at its best. Terry Pratchett focuses his barbs in two specific directions: violence in the Middle East and The Da Vinci Code and sprinkles in a mixture of mystery, the sort of threat against Ankh-Morpork which is likely to set Commander Sam Vimes on the offensive.
The anniversary of the Battle of Koom Valley is approaching and the dwarves, who claim the trolls ambushed them several millennia ago, and the trolls, who claim the dwarves ambushed them several millennia ago, are both itching for a rematch. The fact that it appears likely to occur in the streets, alleys, and undergrounds of Ankh-Morpork just gives Sam Vimes a reason to get involved. His face-offs, not with the dwarves and trolls, but with Lord Vetinari, the Patrician, can be read as a commentary on the current debate whether terrorism should be treated as a matter for police investigations or military involvement.
The Discworld stories featuring Vimes tend to be among the strongest, and most of the recent novels which deal with the traditional characters seem to focus on him. Thud! is no exception. The Watch Vimes has built up since the days of Guards! Guards! is practically unrecognizable, although Captain Carrot, Nobby Nobbs and Fred Colon all make the requisite appearances. Although Colon and Nobbs have practically been put out to pasture, they do play an important role in the mystery, as do newer members of the Watch.
Vimes' life outside the Watch is also important to the novel, and his wife, Sybil, and son, Sam, play important roles throughout the investigation. Seeing Vimes at home helps to humanize the character while at the same time, Pratchett shows that the Vimes of the Watch is the same man as the Vimes who comes home, despite his own efforts to separate the two. In reading his son's favorite book, Where's My Cow? Vimes is able to relate the simple story to the case he is working on.
As always, Pratchett manages to keep several balls in the air at one time, and despite his pseudo-Medieval/Renaissance setting (although one which is coming to resemble the modern world more and more), he makes his characters live in a world every bit as real as our own, even if it is being carried through space on the back of four elephants and a giant turtle. His characters concerns and the world in which they live is a funhouse mirror to our own, exaggerating imperfections so they can be seen more clearly and dealt with accordingly.