In the tenth part of Thud!, Vimes worries. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Well, this book has introduced something new to Vimes’s characterization: his son. We’ve already seen his dedication to Young Sam, but there’s a horror spelled out here in Vimes’s little daydream that I imagine will continue to play out in this novel. It’s one I don’t personally understand, since I don’t have children, but I know plenty of parents who begin to experience this sort of anxiety once they have children. My brother has spoken about some of the dreams he’s had that he wasn’t really prepared for, and I imagine Vimes is also adjusting to the fear of his son getting harmed. I suspect that Pratchett is including this here for another reason, but I haven’t figured out what that reason is. Regardless, it’s something I have to keep in mind: Vimes’s life is so different now. Well, not entirely different. Amidst this all, there’s a comfort in Sybil, who darns socks terribly, who sits near Vimes while he gets updates from his Watch officers. As chaotic as this world is, Sybil is not, and I like that she’s just a constant presence in this entire scene.
So! We finally get information on Hamcrusher’s body, and… this is real bad. Which we know! Pratchett manages to pass along a whole lot of dread to us here, and a lot of that comes from the unknown. Exactly how did Hamcrusher die? If the opening scene is an indication, he was hit over the head, but this scene confirms that the troll club hit Hamcrusher’s head after he was dead. The last section made it clear he was killed elsewhere, so the reader is confidence in feeling like this was all staged. But I like that Pratchett makes a distinction between this—which feels obvious—and the fact that this solves nothing. It’s still possible that the trolls and the dwarfs will fight one another on the anniversary of Koom Valley anyway. How can Vimes succinctly explain the reality of this murder so that Ankh-Morpork doesn’t descend into chaos? He can’t. He may have suspicions, but that doesn’t translate to something that can diffuse this nightmare.
This whole “The Following Dark” bit isn’t helping either. There’s wonderful work done here to build the world of the mines, and I still love that there’s so much worldbuilding in the Discworld books that has nothing to do with a joke. I’m sure this is nothing new to any of you, but I am now aware of how some people talk about the Discworld series in the genre world. These books are obviously comical, but there’s a dismissive way the world itself is described, as if Pratchett was only doing all of this to make fun of fantasy rather than participate it. And the whole collective emotional and spiritual vibe in the mine that is described here is just straight-up great worldbuilding. It’s something Pratchett crafts so that we understand this almost psychic energy created by a culture that lives its entire life underground. These signs are a method of communication and expression that doesn’t have a clear analogue to what the other characters understand about graffiti or life in a mine, and I love that!
Also, it’s just so CREEPY. it’s a means of confirming how bad things have gotten or are about to get. One phrase hit me the hardest: “rancid with fear.” It implies a degradation, a way fear spreads from one to another. It felt notable because of what we learn at the end of this scene: the trolls and dwarfs are gathering for some sort of fight. It’s like this fear and this aggression are contagious, that they can jump from person to person and, collectively, make matters worse than they already are. How do you counter that kind of fear? Quickly? I don’t know! Which makes me think that I’m about to read something real messed up. I’d say it’s Koom Valley part two, but it’d be part… 18? 19?
You know what? Maybe that’s the point of all this. Maybe someone wants the dwarfs and the trolls to be at one another’s throats. That’s not exactly a radical theory, but I have exactly zero suspects on my list. Who would benefit from another version of Koom Valley? I DON’T KNOW.
Mark Links Stuff