Mark Reads ‘The Truth’: Part 2

In the second part of The Truth, a plot is hatched as the world changes. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of xenophobia and racism, ableism.

So is this a book about the wizards? The Watch? Oh god, is it about none of them??? I’M SO EXCITED.


So, making some assumptions here: the person Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip brought into Ankh-Morpork is a dead ringer for Havelock Vetenari, so much so that their associates are freaked out once this person is revealed. This is a neat idea for a story, but I’m far more interested in what one of these men says to the group:

“Let us not overcompensate matters, though. We are a bodyguard of lies, gentlemen. We are all that stands between the city and oblivion, so let us make this one chance work. Vetinari may be quite willing to see humans become a minority in their greatest city, but frankly his death by assassination would be… unfortunate. It would cause turmoil, and turmoil is hard to steer. And we all know that there are people who take too much of an interest. No. There is a third way. A gentle slide from one condition to another.”

OH, LORD, THIS IS GOING TO BE FUN. While the Discworld books have always been loosely serialized – at least if you compare each of the individual series within the whole thing – this book is a direct reaction to The Fifth Elephant. And Jingo. And probably the entire Watch series, for that matter! Over the course of these books, we’ve watched as Ankh-Morpork was a character in and of itself. It’s changed so much since I was first introduced to it twenty-four books ago! That’s especially the case with the Watch and Vimes’s attempts to recruit a force that’s diverse and representative of the people who actually live within the city. That was, of course, allowed by Lord Vetinari, and so I can see why someone would focus on him rather than Vimes.

Still, it’s a racist dogwhistle, isn’t it? HOW MANY OF US HAVE HEARD THE SAME BULLSHIT? I hear it all the time here in California when some of the more conservative factions whine and complain about how white people are now a minority and what a tragedy that is. (California is not a liberal paradise; it’s actually quite terrifying in certain pockets, most of which aren’t on the coast. I grew up in a fairly conservative city and there were far worse east of me. We have actually hate groups monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center up in Northern California, too.)

So that’s what this has come to. People who believe that humans should remain a majority in Ankh-Morpork have gathered together to take down Lord Vetinari. I mean… they’ll have to do something truly awful to get the guilds to turn against him, right? Oh, lord, I’m not ready, am I?

The Wizards

Broken record time: I still hate how the Bursar is portrayed, and his characterization felt particularly gross here. Like, what’s the joke anymore? I can’t tell! It just seems like he exists to make fun of the mentally ill, and now, there’s the added joy of making fun of medication. Can we not?

William de Worde

On a non-repetitive note, I was glad to get more information regarding William’s history. I did want to know if he had always lived on the fringes of society, and no, he hadn’t! He came from a rather prestigious family who hated that William wasn’t their idea of successful. Y’all, DO YOU REALIZE HOW MUCH I RELATE TO A CHARACTER WHO WAS BASICALLY OSTRACIZED FROM THEIR FAMILY FOR CHOOSING TO BE A WRITER??? Thankfully, that’s no longer the case for me, but when I was thinking about colleges, I was told to get a practical degree. When my parents found out I was initially an English major, they hated it. They thought it was a waste of time! (Well, it was, but for an entirely different reason than theirs.) And my peers? Oh, don’t even get me started. The point is that I imagine William is, on some base level, very recognizable to a whole lot of us. Families are messy, complicated things all by themselves, but adding in the sort of familial expectation of a legacy makes that so much worse. I’ve written before about how much pressure my father put on me to join the military, and I distinctly recall him telling me to put my dreams on hold until after I served because otherwise, I’d be missing out on an opportunity of a lifetime. That’s… well, that’s not a fun thing to hear from people who should be attempting to support someone in their attempt to be happy.

It is William’s love for words that has put him in the right place at the right time, and it satisfies me on a petty level because William did what he wanted. I don’t even know what his fate is going to be (PLEASE DON’T KILL HIM OFF AFTER I JUST GOT ATTACHED TO HIM), but I loved this singular element of his. His newsletter morphs into something new just because he happens to overhear that conversation between the dwarfs with the printing press and the Bursar. If that’s the start, then what’s next? In a way, he’s turning into a reporter, even if he doesn’t know what that is. I CAN’T WAIT.

Hughnon Ridcully

Okay, forgive my memory, because the High Priest has definitely been in multiple books at this point. I FORGOT, SORRY. Anyway, it’s hard not to see a similarity between Hughnon’s views of the city and the logic that was hinted at at the opening of this part. The High Priest wishes that Vetinari was much more strict about who was allowed in the city. Or what sort of religions are allowed. Or what sort of technology is allowed to flourish. But the Patrician isn’t a dictator, and we’ve rarely seen him clamp down on… well, pretty much anything. He’s overseen a great deal of the progress that the city has made, too, and he tries to make the point that this is a good thing to the High Priest. I loved that example he gave regarding how people once viewed the world. For a while, people were certain that the Disc was a globe, and they believed that with an intense certainty. Of course, that’s not the actual truth, and Vetinari’s point is a powerful one:

“Don’t you wonder what shape it will turn out to be tomorrow?”

Look, it’s hard to deal with change. I am more amenable to it because I’ve lacked stability most of my life, so I adapt incredibly well to change. But Vetinari is also referring to the expansion of knowledge and wisdom. How is it a bad thing if we learn something new about the world we live in? Well, there’s a reason why some people don’t want to change people’s understanding of the world: because then they’d lose the power they have over those very same people. And I wonder how much of that plays into Hughnon’s thinking, you know?

I am thrilled to confirm that I will be a Guest at CrossingsCon 2017! Badges are now available, so COME HANG OUT WITH ME THIS SUMMER.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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1 Response to Mark Reads ‘The Truth’: Part 2

  1. Skye Requiem says:

    I kinda have to disagree with your take on the Bursar, it’s not there to satirize his insanity, but his treatment by the wizards. He suffered a nervous breakdown and withdrew from reality in a fugue state due to the stresses the arch chancellor inflicts on him, and they could probably have brought him back with a little care and understanding. Instead the wizards have no interest in his personal well being, what does matter to them is that he fulfill’s his role as Bursar, since their group as a whole neglects personal identity (how many of the wizards’ actual names do you know?). Their pharmacological philosophy isn’t all that different from theoretical approaches popular in the middle of the 20th century, and the philosophy that a functioning bursar is more important than a functional person in that role to them is sadly somewhat reflective of even many contemporary approaches to treatment.

    There is a weird detail in all of this, which is perhaps a distorted sense of loyalty on the part of the wizards, or possibly just their commitment to stagnation, in that it really doesn’t matter to them that the man in the role of bursar has long since gone mad, since he’s the one that is supposed to slot into that role they haven’t shown any desire to replace him with someone else who wasn’t in the middle of a psychotic break, but just continue to make sure that he could keep being the bursar.

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