In the first chapter of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, we meet Maurice, who is not who I expected. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. You would think that in a re-telling of the Pied Piper folk tale, the main focus would be on the Pied Piper himself, but this is Terry Pratchett we’re talking about. Few things are what we expect, right?
So as I begin my thirtieth (28th, in terms of the “official” count) Discworld book, I’m impressed that after all this time, I can still be surprised. Now, I don’t know who will be the main point of view throughout The Amazing Maurice, but it seems clear that Maurice is the focus. I figured the kid—the young stand in for the Pied Piper—was the main character, and thus, all the talking rats were his titular rodents. But Pratchett twists my immediate take through a clever reveal that there’s another speaking animal in the boy’s coach, and it’s a CAT. Maurice is a cat? All these rats are listening to a cat?
And it’s not like Maurice is particularly likable. Indeed, he might be the most immediately unlikable main character in a Discworld book. Through his narration, we discover that after he was Changed—granted sentience and more human-like awareness—he set out to make money. Because that’s how the world works around him, right? Yet from this, he builds a complicated con that involves the rats and the boy who plays the flute, and it means they move from town to town, intentionally infesting them. Then, they’re “paid” to eradicate the rats, and they all move on to the next town.
It’s brilliant. IT REALLY IS. It’s like Pratchett took that tiny aspect of the Pied Piper myth and has made an entire story out of it! Yet it’s all the shit between the lines that makes this chapter so interesting. As far as I can tell, the rats are exhausted. They aren’t interested in doing this anymore, and the boy even remarks that the last few cons barely succeeded. But it’s that moral objection to theft that I loved the most. I just… rats developed a complex consciousness, and they immediately started to wish they hadn’t been stealing things or destroying property. THAT IS SO FASCINATING TO ME. Moral rats! Who just want to get on a boat and go to a deserted island and start their own little society! WHERE CAN I CONTRIBUTE TO THIS KICKSTARTER!!!
And their names! Dangerous Beans! Peaches! Donut Feed! HAMNPORK. Please, I am already ready to PROTECT EVERY ONE OF THESE RATS.
But I don’t know that I trust Maurice. He seems to enjoy this con a lot, and I imagine it’s because he doesn’t do most of the work. Plus, he’s a manipulative asshole, and he outright admits to that within the text. He dislikes Peaches because he can’t manipulate her the way he does the other rats. He also doesn’t seem to think highly of the boy, either. To him, these characters are all a means to an end, right? So what happens now that they all want this to be the last job? Will he accept that, or is he going to fight to keep them?
I AM VERY INTERESTED.
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