Mark Reads ‘Thud!’: Part 23

In the twenty-third and final part of Thud!, the future has arrived and it is uncomfortable. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

Trigger Warning: For extended discussion of racism, bigotry.

Just drops on a mountain. 

(Just for the record, somehow my Kindle skipped the very small interstitial scene about Methodia Rascal when I turned the page. These scenes always had a full page break on either side, so I don’t know what happened, but that’s why I missed it on video. Weird!)

So, I should start here: 

It would be a lot simpler, Vimes thought, if this was a story. A sword is pulled out of a stone, or a magic ring is flung into the depths of the sea, and with general rejoicing, the world turns.

But this was real life.

It’s an interesting but necessary way for Pratchett to open the ending of this book. Because as fantastic and exciting as this huge discovery is—Diamond and Bloodaxe DIED PLAYING THUD!!!!—it does not really solve anything. It suggests a solution, and the message these two kings left behind is a very, very loose guide, but what’s so great about this ending is that Pratchett is still basically saying: You have to do the work.

And work unfolds. As Pratchett puts it, this chaotic valley “couldn’t be left to its own devices, not anymore,” and that’s one of many succinct summaries of this entire conflict. If Koom Valley represents this epic racial struggle, then there’s the message: you cannot just let it fester and bleed and sit there. It cannot be left to its own devices, and this book has highlighted the many awful things that have transpired since history was lost, changed, and grossly misinterpreted. So, no, nothing is changing overnight, but maybe just the act of trolls working alongside dwarfs without either side breaking into a fight is a step in the right direction. Maybe it will help them understand one another, much like the game of Thud! has done for those who have played it. Even then, as things progress, it’s still not a path in a single direction. There are always going to be setbacks, and that’s why of every memorable line in this split, this one is my favorite:

But it’d never be simple. And for every new generation, you’d have to open it again, so that people could see that it was true.

This struggle remains cyclical. It remains a hard, dirty, and challenging thing, and as we claw ourselves toward real, substantial, meaningful progress, there will always be people desperate to cling on to the past. Or, in the case of this book, people desperate to change perception of the past to suit their own needs. Look at the world we’re in today, y’all. There’s a reason this book is so relevant right now: because it needs to be opened, because there will always be people who need the reminder of what came before and what could be. 

NEXT UP: Sally!!! The reveal that she is, more or less, a spy for the Low King was not what I had guessed at all in the lead up to this resolution. I get it now; Rhys saw the opportunity, and Sally had a personal motivation for doing this, too. That part is just as important, and I really do believe that she enjoyed being part of the Watch. She’s good at it! So I’m glad that she gets to stick around, and my hope is that if there’s another Watch book in this series, she gets to play a part in it. 

Hmm… was this how Vetinari thought all the time?

That’s a fun revelation for Vimes, isn’t it? He sees himself as nothing like Vetinari, and yet look at how he handled what could easily be described as an impossibly complicated situation. This moment is in response to Sally’s attempt to resign and his rejection of it, but there’s something else here. In the beginning of the book, Vimes could not even tolerate the thought of a vampire joining the Watch. He barely warmed up to it, and yet, here, in the end, there are very few references to her being a vampire, and none of them are all that direct. Instead, Vimes sees her for what she can do and what she can offer the Watch. And isn’t that exactly what he should be doing, instead of seeing her and judging her as a vampire first? 

“And what could we make it do in this city?”

He and Carrot turned questioning faces to Mr. Pony, who shrugged and said: “Everything?”

Like the end of Going Postal, I feel like this scene serves to give us just the hint of a future storyline. Well, it also allows for a great joke where Vimes says he has everything he wants from Vetinari, and then it cuts to Carrot asking the Patrician for SIXTY new Watch officers. But there’s a huge network of tunnels under Ankh-Morpork now that the city owns, and there’s a dwarf torque—one of the Devices—that can help power… well, anything. So… transportation underground? Something CALLED the Underground, perhaps???? Maybe???? LOOK I AM TRYING.

“That’s very modern of you, Nobby,” said Fred. He smiled in the gloom. Somehow, the world was back on course.

So, I’m not sure I know what the point of this subplot was. There’s an irony, I think, since Nobby was more modern about his opinions towards Tawneee than some of the other characters. And perhaps that’s the joke, too; Nobby could be accepting of Tawneee in a million ways, but once he finds out that she cannot cook, it’s a dealbreaker. So how do folks feel about this? It’s a little anticlimactic for me, particularly since all the other plots and subplots were resolved much more convincingly. 

What dey had been doin’ down dat hole was makin’ der worl a betterer place, Sergeant Detritus said.

And it seemed to Brick, as he smelled the food, dat Sergeant Detritus had got dat one dead right.

And here’s a great example of that. The subplot with Brick is SO SATISFYING. Here’s a character who was largely forgotten by society, who was mistreated or insulted, but was often too sad or too high to ever fully realize how bad things were. And then he’s taken in by a troll who genuinely cares for him, and his whole life changes. Oh, there’s still work to be done, and Brick’s story isn’t a fairy tale, either. But Detritus gave Brick a framework in which he could feel meaningful and useful, and that’s all some people need in life. I LOVE BRICK, I’M JUST SAYING.

“More important than this?” said the dwarf king…

Thud! ends on a sentimental note, but it’s one that’s earned, that reveals a new side to a beloved character, that shows us that there are things in the world that are just as important as the fight against injustice. Vimes has to read to his son at six, and it’s become a promise and a moral code. There’s something so powerful about that. Vimes, who was so furious and angry throughout this book that he attracted a VENGEANCE entity, only wants to give his son tenderness. Love. Joy. To me, that’s the Guarding Dark at work. Vimes deliberately keeps the darkness inside of him when he’s with Young Sam, and he does it so that his son only experiences the light. 

That’s love, y’all.

Whew, this book was SO GOOD! Next week, we jump into Where’s My Cow, and then move on to Discworld book #35: Wintersmith! I WAS TRULY NOT READY FOR THUD! Oh, wait… isn’t there an actual version of this that you can play? I feel like I heard someone mention it at the Discworld convention. Regardless: thank you. This was a blast!

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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