In the twentieth and final part of Thief of Time, Lobsang and Unity bid goodbye. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
This was a solid book, y’all. I’ve liked a lot of the recent ones more than this one, but it really came together in the end in terms of characterization. What I needed in this last section was closure of some sort, especially since I never really know if I’ll ever see some of these characters again. How do their stories end? What does it say about the story as a whole?
One of the truly great treasures of this book was getting to see Lu-Tze as a protagonist instead of a bit character or someone who only made a very brief appearance. Lobsang was another surprise, not only because of who he really was (I imagine y’all will never let me forget that, but that’s fine), but because he grew into such a fascinating character. Throughout Thief of Time, he thirsted for knowledge: about himself, about the world, about his powers. He just wanted to know things, and that sometimes meant he was frustrated by Lu-Tze, who appeared to know everything but wasn’t always forthcoming with details. Though, I’d argue that Lu-Tze constantly taught Lobsang, even if Lobsang didn’t think that was happening.
You can still see that here, as Lobsang materializes to beg Lu-Tze to tell him the fifth surprise in his garden. Rule One comes up again, but only after one hell of an introduction, in which Lu-Tze urges Lobsang to defeat him in the Iron Dojo so that he, as the master, cannot refuse to tell Lobsang anything. It’s precisely the kind of convoluted set-up that seems absurd and pointless on the surface, but that’s the point. Lu-Tze exploits the misconceptions that people develop all the time, and it’s why he’s able to get one last major lesson in before Lobsang moves on. Appearances can be deceiving, and there’s nothing to suggest that you shouldn’t use that to your advantage. That’s a fancier and more general way of summarizing Rule One, but it’s how Lu-Tze takes out Time in the Iron Dojo, only to then reveal that the fifth surprise is:
The sweeper produced a cheap carnival mask. It was one of those that consisted of a fake pair of glasses, glued above a big pink nose, and a heavy black mustache.
He put it on and wiggled his ears once or twice.
“Boo,” he said.
“What?” said Lobsang, bewildered.
“Boo,” Lu-Tze repeated. “I never said it was a particularly imaginative surprise, did I?”
It’s a lesson, and it’s utterly ridiculous. Sounds like Lu-Tze, doesn’t it? Thus, it was fitting that Lobsang’s ceremony, in which he officially transitions out of his apprenticeship, was just as ridiculous, at least to the other officials. It was also symbolic that he decided to take the robe and broom of a sweeper rather than the official yellow robe that other graduates got. It’s a touching tribute, isn’t it? As were the cherries that ripened as Lobsang left Lu-Tze behind! These two developed an incredible respect for one another within Thief of Time, and I’m just happy that the text respects that.
If you were going to choose the manner of your death, I think death by chocolate is a pretty good way to go. It’s a poetic ending for Unity, who believed that she’d outlasted her experience within a human body. Maybe it was all just too overwhelming for her, you know? Yet her death was so decadent, along with it being entirely her choice. There’s a dignity in that, but what happens afterwards is what pleased me the most. There’s life, which Unity got to experience in a relatively minuscule amount of time. But the other part of being human is Death, and now, she gets to experience that.
I have hope that there will be another Susan book before I complete reading the Discworld series, and I’m even more excited about the mere idea that Susan and Time might become a thing. EVEN JUST FRIENDS WHO KEEP IN CONTACT. THAT WOULD BE GREAT. At the very least, they are part human, part immortal beings who probably will always have something in common.
So how does Susan return to such normality after the experience she just went through? Slowly, it seems, though as much as she talks a lot of shit about the Death of Rats, she’s got a craving for the kind of adventures he brings her. I’m just glad that Lobsang appears to Susan at the end of the book. Yes, it would have been lovely to get their conversation on the page, but the way Pratchett leaves this hanging suggests possibility. So I’m hoping there’s more, because their friendship was a fantastic part of Thief of Time.
I’m thrilled that I’m moving on to The Science of Discworld next! IT HAS REAL CHAPTERS, HOLY SHIT. I hope you’ll join me!
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