Mark Reads ‘Thud!’: Part 7

In the seventh part of Thud!, Vimes gets some much-needed help, and then he offers some much-needed support. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

You know, it’s weirdly satisfying that Vimes appears to have finally found a real purpose for his Gooseberry after always seeing it as a nuisance that he uses because he’s expected to use it. Wasn’t it originally a gift from Sybil? Regardless, I feel like he’s had this thing (or some variation on it) for a long, long time, and it rarely, if ever, has actually done anything he wants it to do. However, in the midst of an utter disaster, Vimes has discovered that the imp inside the Gooseberry just needs to be given a well-defined task. And to be fair, that is what the imp has been saying the whole time. Use the manual, Vimes! Find out how the imp needs to be spoken to so it stops bothering you! I feel like there’s a joke buried in here about people who refuse to adapt to technology and blame the technology itself when it’s just doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing. 

And this little nugget of plot, while very adorable, has a greater meaning: it’s allowing Vimes to have information processed for him in a way that was previously unavailable to him. Well, he probably could have done the sums himself, but it wouldn’t have been accurate enough to determine if there was a real change in carts through the gate near Treacle Street. One thing I didn’t really comment on in the previous review that deserves attention is just how HUGE it is that there is now a complicated mine underneath Ankh-Morpork. If it’s still there by the novel’s end, it’s going to have an enormous impact on Ankh-Morpork as a whole. A mine! Underneath the city! Has there ever been a major metropolitan area existing on top of a mine? As far as I can recall for previous mines, they were generally not all that close to major cities. Thus, this conflict feels even more immediate. These two worlds are sitting so close to one another, and I feel like that makes this a lot more intense. So, when did the construction of it start? Why here? Did dwarfs immigrate to Ankh-Morpork and then create the mine so that they’d feel more like they were home? Because that would be a fascinating phenomenon. I love when cultures craft their own piece of home in a new place, which is what I believe this book is attempting to talk about. That makes me interested in what sort of real-world parallels Pratchett was working under, of course, and if he was commenting on the very-real reactions to immigration you see in the UK and even more specifically in London. (Though a cursory examination shows that they don’t match up once you compare Roundworld with the Discworld. Like, there’s not the same analogue to British Imperialism in this book and how that sort of system influences migration patterns and behaviors. ANYWAY, THAT IS A TANGENT.)

Sometimes, those parallels seem clear. Other times, perhaps not, and I do have to wonder what is intended by, for instance, the “bad” trolls that we meet here. On a surface level, I did enjoy the joke of people trying to appear “tough” but largely being unable to actually pull it off. As someone who is pretty heavily tattooed, I have seen far too many people behave as if having tattoos or body modifications means that you also have a personality? Because it doesn’t. It’s not really an indicator of anything, really, though tattoos are generally associated with a “bad” part of society. Still, I also grew up in punk rock and hardcore, and these trolls are like… half the dudes in those scenes. All image and swagger, no actual substance. And IT’S SO FUNNY TO ME. The sheep and goat skulls were a nice touch, honestly. 

So! Chrysophrase wants to see Vimes, and that is somehow not even the most uncomfortable thing here. I’d say that belongs to one of the Brothers Fick, who trots out what I am guessing is a terrible slur for a dwarf in a room full of dwarfs. The reaction alone is all I needed for confirmation of that. And it’s painful moment that Vimes rightly uses (along with the news of Schist and Ringfounder quitting) to address the officers who are still with the Watch. That’s how volatile this situation truly is. Officers are questioning whether it’s even worth it for them to be on the force in the midst of this disaster. Is protecting their family at home more important? 

Vimes’s words are honest and direct—very much in character, I would say—and they’re also necessary. In a species conflict like this, we’ve already seen how easy it is for everyone involved to think of this situation as an Us vs Them thing. (Or an Us vs. Us vs. Them thing, too.) How do you draw a line of loyalty and empathy through something like this? Where are the sides and where does each person belong? 

I still worry, though, that the specter of Koom Valley will continue to haunt the trolls and the dwarfs. It doesn’t help that the important painting of it was stolen, or that there are people on both sides of this who are eager to stoke the flames and encourage this to break out into violence. Add to it the responsibility of having to enforce the law against your own kind, even if you understand why they might behave as they did… I feel like Vimes does get it on some level, even if he can’t truly understand it as a human. He tries, though, and it remains to be seen whether his little pep talk will have the effect that he wants. How do you put a conflict like Koom Valley behind you as a community when everything seems aimed at reminding you it happened?

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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