Mark Reads ‘The Fifth Elephant’: Part 1

In the first part of The Fifth Elephant, I’M IN, LET’S DO THIS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Well, I’m starting my twenty-fourth Discworld book today. And after twenty-three of these things, I was ready for some familiarity. Indeed, this book employs a few repetitive themes or motfis. We’ve got the massive scope of the introduction, the detached narration, and the hint of something, somewhere, that’s hiding. Or happening. Or sneaking around. Or plotting. You get the idea. (And usually, I completely forget about it until later.) It’s a common method that Pratchett uses for foreshadowing, so not exactly revolutionary or anything. Thus, the fifth elephant must be important, as well as the dwarfen myth that a fifth elephant crashed onto the Disc. (Right as I typed that, a light went off in my head: that must be the reason for the fat deposits in the ground!) The same goes for the sleeping “thing” in the wagon. IT’S IMPORTANT, I KNOW IT.

But all is not the same in Ankh-Morpork! I was honestly surprised to get another Watch book so soon after the last one, but I am not complaining at all. Why? Here’s what’s changed since the last Watch book:

  • The installation of “cameras” in busy intersections that automatically photograph anyone who speeds. WHICH I CAN’T BELIEVE IS NOW A THING.
  • BOOTS! Like, the ones attached to cars, except these are attached to carts of anyone who breaks parking laws. Which… that’s a pretty huge thing to do right off the bat, right? Here in the States, we use car boots for people who have delinquent accounts, meaning that they had to have a certain number of unpaid tickets. (Or it’s an amount or it’s a time that it’s gone unpaid.) The boot cannot be removed until the outstanding balance is paid off.
  • Departments! That had been suggested in the last Watch book, but those departments are much more defined here, with different Watch members working in various places.
  • THE SEMAPHORE TOWERS!!! Okay, granted the first use of one in a Discworld books is hilariously unnecessary, since the trolls who can remove the boot are literally right down the street from Colon, but they’re still awesome!!! It’s a brilliant development for a city as large as Ankh-Morpork and with the Watch growing so frequently. Hell, it works well during he scene of the dwarf riot.
  • Based on Vimes’s conversation with the Patrician, there’s a new training school, the repair of the carrier pigeon network, THE RIVER WATCH (!!!!), and a new station on Chitterling Street.

These elements of progress are exciting for the reader because it’s a sign of just how much Pratchett has grown the Watch since they were first introduced. Gods, I can barely fathom just how run down, ignored, and dismissed the City Watch used to be, and now? Meetings with Lord Vetinari all the time. More rigorous patrolling. Departments. Technology. How many people actually work for the Watch these days? I don’t even know!

The Watch has come a long way, so I understood why Vimes felt so impossibly busy with the job. (Again, what a huge change for his character, too.) However, I am selfishly thrilled about the RIDICULOUS set-up for this book, which Pratchett gives us in the first twenty pages: the dwarfs of Überwald have a very important crowning (of the Low King!) coming up. It is vital that Ankh Morpork have a presence so that they can continue to benefit materially from the things that the dwarfs export to other nations. (Including those fat deposits.)

Guess which Duke has to go?

Look, on a very base level, I love the idea of Vimes being annoyed. HE’S JUST SO FUNNY WHEN HE IS UNCOMFORTABLE AND IRRITATED. But I’m actually more excited about who he is going to bring along with him:

“I suggest Sergeant Angua, Sergeant Detritus and Corporal Littlebottom.”

“Ah,” said Carrot, nodding encouragingly.

“Sorry?” said Vimes. “I think there must have been a whole piece of conversation just then that I must have missed.”

“A werewolf, a troll and a dwarf,” said Carrot. “Ethnic minorities, sir.”

“…but, in Uberwald, they are ethnic majorities,” said Lord Vetinari. “All three officers come from there originally, I believe. Their presence will speak volumes.”

I didn’t recall Detritus or Littlebottom coming from there, but I’l blame that on my memory, not Pratchett, and WHO CARES, THIS IS INCREDIBLY EXCITING. Y’all, I definitely did not expect another trip to Überwald after Carpe Jugulum, but we’re gonna get one AND it’ll be in the midst of the complicated and dramatic Low King ascension, AND three of my favorite Watch characters will all get to be along for the journey AND Vimes will most assuredly have to wear silly outfits.

THIS IS MY THING. I can’t wait!!!

Mark Links Stuff

I am now on Patreon! There are various levels of support, from $1 up to whatever you want! You’ll get to read a private blog, extra reviews, and other such rewards. I POST A LOT OF CUTE PHOTOS, OKAY. Think of it like a private Tumblr blog that only SPECIAL PEOPLE get to read.
– I have updated my list of conventions and events for the remainder of the year and much of next year.  Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches have been announced here.
– Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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