In the seventh chapter of The Amazing Maurice, THIS BOOK IS TOO MUCH. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Okay, so this is truly upsetting and terrifying, right? Right? Like, none of this was funny to me at all (not that I thought it was meant to be, for the record), and it’s just… lord. This reveal was so intense, y’all, and guess what? I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT IS FUCKING GOING ON IN THIS CITY. What? The? Hell? Is? Happening? In? This? Town?
THAT’S HOW MANY QUESTIONS I HAVE.
But first things first: I really do want to lean on this “horror” element at the start of this review because Pratchett captures the sheer fear of this situation incredible well. It’s not that easy to pull this off when we’re talking about rats, especially since so many people dislike them and find them revolting. And I get that, so I feel like Pratchett set an obstacle up at the start of this. But through some excellent naming and the beautiful characterization of the rats, it’s… this might be weird to say, but I don’t think of them as rats or as a nuisance.
So when we finally discover what it is that was hidden beneath the rat catcher’s shed, it is a scene constructed to make us feel fear. To make us feel revulsion. To make us pity what is happening to these rats. The fact that the rats think that they’ve made up the word “evil” to describe it is so goddamn powerful, as is Hamnpork’s reaction to the sight of those cages, filled from floor to ceiling with rats that are so frightened and starved that they are eating one another. It is a bewildering sequence, and it’s written in an almost… detached way? Like, not in terms of character. I think that seeing this through Maurice’s eyes allows us to feel the panic when the rat catchers come back and find Keith and Malicia. But it’s presented to us so matter-of-factly, without context. We don’t know WHY the rat catchers are doing this. AND I CAN’T FIGURE THIS OUT. There’s a line that hints at it:
“Yeah, ‘cos Fancy Arthur is putting in his Jacko on a bet to kill a hundred rats in less than a quarter of an hour.”
And there’s bits about some sort of show—a possible gambling/sport ring???—that might give us a reason why they’re being held in cages. But this plot still doesn’t make sense to me! Is this a means to scam the town and to make extra money through a different venture? I DON’T SEE HOW THESE PIECES ALL FIT TOGETHER!
But let’s talk about Hamnpork. He is… somewhat unlikable? Which is a strange thing to say about a rat!!!!!! But he’s not an easy character because he’s struggling with the Change and what it means for him and the rat society. So when he sees that gigantic pile of caged rats, there’s so, so much that comes to the fore. He doesn’t reason that these rats are just rats and it doesn’t matter that they die. No, he deeply, deeply cares about them because he knows that what’s happening to them is absolutely wrong. And that’s a moral decision! It’s something he couldn’t have made before, and it’s a huge deal that he reacts as he does. This signifies a huge change in who he is!
And what of Maurice? Are his views going to change after witnessing this brutality? Does he still feel like his own interests are more important than others? How is he going to deal with how twisted this situation going to become? Look, he might not like Malicia, but she’s treated HORRIBLY here, too, and he needs to do something to help her. AND KEITH. STOP TREATING KEITH LIKE SHIT AND CALLING HIM STUPID.
Ugh, y’all, I am super into this book. It’s so different!
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