In the sixth part of Thud!, Vimes reveals how his meeting with the deep-down dwarfs went, and a troll wanders. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For brief discussion of drug addiction
I feel like I’m going to be able to start every one of these reviews with, “Oh, NO,” and it’ll be perfectly applicable every time. Because OH NO.
I don’t think this is as obvious as it seems on the surface, and I say that not just because this is Pratchett. Brick’s official introduction—since it’s clear he is the same troll from the opening scene—provides us with the first bit of context about why there was a troll in the mine underneath Ankh-Morpork. It’s because Brick was high. This time it was Scrape, and it left him in such a state that he isn’t so sure he knows what he experienced and what he imagined. So I’m curious where a character like this goes from here. It certainly doesn’t look good that he was high in a mine where a major dwarf was murdered, but that doesn’t mean he did it. Oh, I’m sure he’ll get blamed for it, but that’s because of the bias against trolls and, I suspect, against people who use drugs. Will the book address that stigma? I have no idea. But I’m theorizing now that Brick wasn’t the cause of this. I don’t think it fits the story.
I’m always fascinated by the choices writers make about how their stories are told, and truthfully, it’s probably the most rewarding part of doing Mark Reads. I feel like dissecting storytelling is the education I didn’t get in college, and I’m glad that I did all of this BEFORE I ever got published. So, let’s talk about a major choice here: I assumed that this would pick up immediately where the last section left off. We’d see Vimes’s meeting with the deep-down dwarfs and find out if they would let the Watch investigate Hamcrusher’s murder.
Instead, this opens after that moment, and we only learn what happened later. Why is that? Why not share that with the reader immediately? My gut reaction is that it is a means by which to build tension. We are thrown into the daylight with Vimes as he realizes how bad the mob is outside Hamcrusher’s home. Thus, the scene has an immediate tension and terror to it. Will Vimes be able to leave? What happens when Ringfounder is hurt by a thrown halfbrick? Will this mob turn into a riot? Is there going to be a point of no return where the crowd becomes uncontrollable? (Very relevant to a conversation I am having with Babylon 5 right now.) Instead, it’s Ardent who has the most power in the situation, and that’s pretty chilling, isn’t it? Vimes reaction is so telling, because he recognized that Ardent could have sent matters in a different direction. That’s frightening, no???
In terms of craft, the reader’s attention is directed elsewhere as a means of reminding us what the situation is like in the city, despite that we may want to know something else. It’s a clever choice in this sense, but then it’s also brilliant because it allows Pratchett to give us this information during a conversation that Vimes has with Carrot. Thus, Vimes has someone on hand who can help him (and us!) understand what might be going on.
Do I understand it all? OF COURSE NOT. But Carrot’s presence is almost like an interpreter for what transpired. It’s still all a mystery, of course. I had theorized on camera that the group Vimes had met was something like a cult, but perhaps this is all a religion that has spawned in reaction to the way that dwarfs have changed over the world? That seems possible, given that the Low King was once respected by dwarfs, but has now changed too much for the deep-down dwarfs’ beliefs. But why the cloaks? I understand speaking in a language only they understand. ALSO: WHAT WAS ON THAT NAIL ON THAT DOOR? Something fucked up is happening to Vimes, y’all, I CAN’T IGNORE THIS.
But it’s that damn symbol for The Following Dark that worries me. I was going to say “the most,” but you know what? I’m equally worried about the way in which this conflict is already changing the way in which these various species interact with one another. Things were already bad, but now the species want to have segregated patrols? I get the reasoning for it, but I also understand why Vimes is worried about the precedent that it will set. Where does it stop? I’m barely a quarter of the way through this book, and I am certain this conflict is going to spill out onto the streets of Ankh-Morpork in ugly, ugly ways. How long can Vimes maintain control of it all?
Maybe he can’t, and maybe this story will be about him losing control. I do appreciate, though, that this section ends on such a high note. If you’ve ever been bullied like Sally is here, you probably found her revenge just as beautiful as I did. She not only deflects the situation back on the cadet who targeted her, but she humiliated him in the process. Which shouldn’t have to be what she needs to do to make these people accept her; there’s a root problem here that needs to be addressed. But I’ll take that sweet (and spicy) revenge, too, because sometimes, assholes need to learn the hard way. No harm done, eh?
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