In the tenth part of The Truth, William visits a potential ally, and Sacharissa learns something about Otto. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of addiction.
Both of the large scenes in this section (and bless Dragon Elexus, Arthur, and rukbat3 for how brilliantly this split worked) involve a hefty amount of storytelling. Pratchett builds moments for a specific payoff, even though the reader might not be sure why he’s doing what he’s doing.
Let’s start with Harry King. I don’t know if we’ll ever see him in another Discworld book, but HOLY SHIT, WHAT A GREAT CHARACTER. Pratchett gives him a physicality that makes him distinct but never feels cruel or jokey. I love the details: his size. The smell. THE WAY HIS CIGAR PASSES FROM ONE SIDE OF HIS MOUTH TO THE OTHER. All of this gives us a good idea of what this person is like in terms of presence, but then Pratchett goes further. In order for there to be that quiet acceptance from Harry, we have to know why he feels an affinity for William.
How does that happen? Well, there are multiple things at work here. Pratchett’s narration introduces Harry to us with some background information about the incredible empire he’s built entirely of trash. That alone was fascinating to me because I have a thing for this kind of worldbuilding. Like, now we know how trash service works in Ankh-Morpork! Not only that, but Harry also introduced recycling in his own way. All of this is because he discovered at a young age that he had a knack for finding treasure in what other people discarded. So, in just a few pages, we get AN ENTIRE STORY for one character, and this is before Harry adds to it when William requests that he sell him some paper.
For what it’s worth, William does a fine job appealing to the part of Harry that would sympathize with him. It’s the David and Goliath tale; it’s the story of the underdog, and if anyone’s gonna relate to that, it’ll be the guy whose fortune is built on having a tosheroon stolen from him when he was a kid. I got the sense that Harry might have been a bit bootstrap-ish in terms of how he thought of the world, but we don’t really get too deep into that line of thinking. Regardless, I was enamored with how much thought was put into Harry and how he’d be a part of this story. The same goes for Sacharissa and Otto, who have an incredible interaction that combines the whole “dark light” bit we heard earlier with a touching portrayal of… well, I guess it’s Otto’s addiction, if you could classify it that way. It’s the closest real-world analogue we have, and Pratchett deliberately invokes AA meetings and their philosophy in his depiction of Otto. (Though it’s decidedly less religious; much of the resources available for addiction are distinctly Christian-themed here in the US, which is why I stayed away from them after going sober.) The whole sequence exists to expose Sacharissa to the strange potential of dark light, but Pratchett isn’t crude in doing so. On the contrary! Watching Sacharissa help Otto through an extremely difficult temptation to drink her blood was very fulfilling because Pratchett wrote the whole thing with a kindness to it.
Honestly, think about it: Otto is looming over Sacha and is seconds away from drinking her blood, yet she still manages to convince the dwarfs to bring her some meat while coaxing Otto away from killing her. She does it without condescension, and when he feels shameful and embarrassed by his behavior, she avoids making fun of him or furthering that shame. THAT’S A REALLY GOOD REACTION, OKAY??? The only real “joke” we get is Sacha clandestinely telling the dwarfs to support Otto, but even that shows that Sacha’s heart was in the right place.
Now, about all this dark light stuff… I suppose that’s going to provide them with a major breakthrough in proving Vetinari’s innocence. Though that photo of William’s father looming over his shoulder just creeps me out, y’all. So, dark light can manifest thoughts? Feelings? Ideas? It’s not just a matter of photographing the past or the future? Oh, this is going to be so fun, I can already tell.
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