Mark Reads ‘Thief of Time’: Part 12

In the twelfth part of Thief of Time, Lady LaJean schemes, while Lu-Tze and Lobsang approach Ankh-Morpork by interesting means. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

I know I’ve said this before, but this section of the book deserves a bit of repetitive praise. Honestly, I find this to be the case more so in these latter books than the early ones: Pratchett writes parodies of fantasy worlds while also writing really cool fantasies. They’re not mutually exclusive by any means!

Yet I do feel that these are just better conceived worlds, even if the earlier books featured Ankh-Morpork or Lancre as settings. Let me start by talking about how fucking cool Lady LaJean is and the implications of what Pratchett’s done here. It’s a great example of this! It’s not like the Auditors are new to Discworld, but Pratchett uses them here to explore humanity in a way that’s far more physical than I expected. Death had long wondered what it is like to be human, and lord, there was basically an entire book about that.

However, the Auditors are OPPOSED to humanity, and that makes the crucial difference here. There is virtually nothing about them that is human, unlike Death, who is at least shaped by humanity in some sense. So, it comes off as even more shocking to watch how Lady LaJean comes to understand the complications of being human while being IN a human body.  Which, I believe, is a first for the Auditors, no? She has no means of even comprehending this experience, no prior history or context to give her insight. All she has is the Auditor disgust for humans, which is then CONSTANTLY challenged. Like, virtually everything she’s ever thought about humans is proved wrong, and this is happening over and over again.

Pratchett gives us a number of examples, and I found it fascinating that he focused mostly on the experience of being in a body. Culturally, there’s a lot that’s probably confusing to the Auditors. (Like the scene where, upon six of them making themselves humans, they don’t understand why they can’t just wear their grey cloaks outdoors.) but what about emotions? Biological needs? Impulses and cravings and hatreds and desires? The human body is liberally full of these things and they often contradict one another, and everything in a human body is chaos all the time, but the Auditors NEVER knew that. As much as they judged humanity, it seems to me that they assumed that there was at least some internal logic to humanity’s messy nightmare. NOPE. NOT REALLY. There’s pain. Anxiety. Attraction. Aversion. And Lady LaJean is learning in the absolute most difficult manner that this is true, y’all.

That’s one of the things I loved so much about this world. Pratchett didn’t explore the Auditors in nearly the same manner prior to this, and so it feels refreshing and exciting. Plus, it’s clearly going to be integral to this story! Lady LaJean has been delaying the construction of the Glass Clock for a while now, all because she enjoyed being a human, despite how ridiculous and jarring it was for her. Now that she’s got six Auditors alongside her to guarantee that Jeremy finishes the clock that very day, she has a new conflict: does she go through with what’s been asked of her, or does  she sabotage this further? And if she does, will Jeremy stop, or is he too far along to do so?

There’s another thing here that blew me away along the same lines. Time travel isn’t new to the Discworld books either, but time-slicing (which technically turns the term “time travel” into a pun OH MY GOD) is just about the coolest thing in the fucking world. There are “rules” to it, which are mostly, “I don’t know what this will do, so I won’t do it,” but it’s also described in full beauty by Pratchett in a way that made me DESPERATELY wish I could do it. RIGHT?

It was marvelous! Birds hung in the sky. early morning bumblebees hovered over the opening flowers. The world was a crystal made of living things.

Lobsang slowed near a group of deer cropping the grass, and watched as the nearest eye of one of them swiveled, with geological slowness, to watch him. He saw the skin move as the muscles underneath started to bunch for flight…

THAT’S SO INCREDIBLE. So I totally understand why Lobsang wants to do this all the time. Wouldn’t you? Well… yeah, I’d want to be able to fly on a broom, too. I’M SELFISH. I HAVE LOTS OF DESIRES, OKAY. Can you blame me, though? At the same time, I feel like stealing one of the Lancre witches’s broomstick is a terrible idea, and my guess is that they just took Nanny Ogg’s stick. Yeah… don’t? DON’T GET ON HER BAD SIDE, OKAY?

The only other thing I wanted to address is this pattern with the Four Horsemen. I now understand that Pratchett is giving them specifically human behavioral characteristics, a commentary on how shaped they are by humanity. Pestilence was afraid of the end of the world; here, in this section, Famine is arrogant. What does that leave for War? Bored? Satisfied? Oh, I am eager to find out. And what happens if Death can’t get any of them to ride? Will he still do it on his own?

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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