In the thirteenth part of Thief of Time, Lady LaJean tries to stop the clock, while Lu-Tze and Lobsang race to do the same thing. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
THIS WAS SO EXCITING AND THRILLING. The jump from one point-of-view to the other so rapidly was a lot of fun, but from a technical standpoint, it was a fantastic way for Pratchett to hone in on the intensity of this moment. Two sets of characters were trying to do the same thing, AND YET???
We’ll get there.
Before things got really harrowing, I gotta admit: I loved reading the Auditors being super awful at being human. That was expected, of course, and Lady LaJean was banking on their unpreparedness so that she could control the situation. Up to a point, I’d argue that she was! Like, how could the Auditors actually remain in control while openly bickering about what their individual names were and whose name was the best? Y’all, they assigned an hierarchy to COLORS, then argued over WHICH ONE OF THEM GOT WHICH FAKE NAME.
It was hilarious while simultaneously being the best demonstration of how the Auditors struggle with individuality. There’s a lot of physical humor here as well, such as them thinking that “shaking hands” means to just… stick your hand out and shake it in the air. BLESS. Within this, though, Lady LaJean has her greatest epiphany yet: she doesn’t want to end humanity. She doesn’t want the Glass Clock to be built. Pratchett had been leading to this anyway, but never had LaJean been so open and forthright with it, at least in her thoughts. Like this part, for example:
But there wasn’t time. If only she could persuade them to eat something that would… yes, that would bring them to their senses.
She wanted them to begin the same transformation she was currently experiencing! That’s so explicit in terms of naming her intentions here, you know? Which is why it’s so thrilling to see the other Auditors behave openly and directly, too, though for different reasons. Many of them are quite obviously struggling with the “darkness behind the eyes,” that solitary experience of being a living thing within a physical body. But then there’s Mr. White, who appears to reject every possible temptation. Instead, he consistently escalates matters in order to get that Clock closer to completion. That includes BRINGING A STORM TO ANKH-MORPORK IMMEDIATELY, and Igor be damned! He doesn’t even care that Igor is far more aware of what’s going on than anyone else. And why should Mr. White be worried? The world is about to end in a few minutes anyway. Who cares about one Igor?
THEN DR. HOPKINS SHOWS UP AND MAKES MATTERS WORSE. Because of course he does! He exacerbates the situation by trying to get Jeremy to take his medicine. (What for is still left unsaid, though.) But he does bring with him the “protocol” that LaJean tries to latch on to in order to distract the Auditors so she can focus on something else:
The hammer was inches away from her ladyship’s hand. She didn’t dare look around, but she could sense it there. While the Auditors started at the trembling Jeremy, she let her fingers walk across the bench. She wouldn’t even have to move. A brisk overarm throw should do it.
ESCALATION, EVERYONE. That’s why this sequence (and the one between Lobsang and Lu-Tze) is so satisfying: Pratchett consistently dials up the intensity of these characters, and this is a great example of that. While Mr. White is being straightforward about his desire to accelerate the construction of the Glass Clock, LaJean is willing to destroy it front of everyone.
I mean, she fails at it, since Mr. White was aware of what she was doing the whole time. But that still feels like a significant moment for her character. She was willing to throw it all away to stay in a human body.
So, remember that whole bit where Pratchett made it clear that if an Igor began to suspect that something is wrong, then it’s really fucked up? There’s another version of that here, and in this case, it’s Lu-Tze getting serious. See, after they “land” the broom in a cabbage field (MY CABBAGES!!!), Lu-Tze tells Lobsang that they’ve got to hurry up because the completion of the Glass Clock is imminent. It was easy to imagine that this situation, while transpiring in a different location, was very similar to what Lu-Tze went through the last time he tried to be on time. Didn’t he describe in terms much like what we see here?
At the very least, pushing Lobsang in Zimmerman’s Valley, the closest most monks can ever get to the void of time while slicing it, is a vital lesson for Lu-Tze. And like pretty much all of Lu-Tze’s lessons, he doesn’t hold hands. He doesn’t gently guide. His style is to throw Lobsang in the deep end and hope desperation and ingenuity provide the kid with what he needs to survive. It’s kind of frightening here, though, because of how visceral this seemed to me. Like, the way Pratchett described the physical affect on the body? THAT IS VERY INTIMIDATING. So it made perfect sense to me that Lobsang resisted this. He had never done anything so dangerous in his life, and he didn’t believe he had the proper training to pull this off.
And that is when Lu-Tze got real serious.
“Think I’m daft, do you? Orphan boy, strange power… what the hell are you? The Mandala knew you! Well, I’m just a mortal human, and what I know is, I’ll be damned if I’ll see the world shattered a second time! So help me! Whatever it is you’ve got, I need it now! Use it!”
This is like when your super nice teacher who is always funny and odd suddenly starts yelling and you didn’t know they had it in them, and EVERYTHING FEELS SO SERIOUS NOW. But it is a big deal!!! I didn’t expect that this would be happening so soon, which makes me wonder why so much of this book is devoted to what happens after the Glass Clock is complete. I’M SCARED. I’m also shocked because I DON’T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO LU-TZE! How did he get injured? Did slicing time finally take too great of a toll on him?
AHHHH, THEY WERE TOO LATE (AGAIN) AND THE CLOCK GOT COMPLETED (AGAIN).
And finally, we get to the human quality that has taken over War: forgetfulness. (Or the fragility of the human mind, you could argue.) After years of relative peace on the Disc, War has virtually nothing to do, so he got married and lives a quiet, unbothered life. I did not expect that Death would be able to find a single member of the Horsemen to join him, certainly not after Famine. But now I wonder what he’s going to do. He’ll be truly on his own if he goes on the Ride, you know? And is it even worth it if you’re doing it by yourself?
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