In the tenth chapter of Making Money, They Are Coming and Then They Arrive. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
As soon as I’m certain this book is going down one path—in this case, towards Moist’s possible downfall—it careens wildly down another. The arrival of the four golden golems is a billion times more shocking and chaotic than I had anticipated, and I had already believed it was going to be ridiculous because… well, four golems made of solid gold! In a city that currently values gold higher than anything else! It was going to be a nightmare, and I braced myself for that. I braced myself for the confrontation between Cosmo Lavish and Moist, though I admit it happened way sooner than I expected. I didn’t think Cosmo would be right outside the door when Moist opened it, but even then, what Cosmo did wasn’t surprising. Of course the man would suddenly care deeply about the rules and about regulations and would want Moist to be thrown under the bus of legality as soon as possible. And on top of that, circumstances had landed perfectly in his lap with Mr. Bent’s breakdown, the missing gold, and the arrival of Cribbins. He was gonna exploit it all and succeed and get away with everything because that’s what has always happened. Well, and that’s not just a commentary on wealth and privilege. There’s an element here of Cosmo’s desire to transform in Vetinari. I bet the man felt like he was perfectly orchestrating this entire thing, you know?
And then the derailments start to happen because this is Terry Pratchett and nothing is as it seems. The first comes in the form of Harry King. Just as Sacharissa lays out the worst of the news, just as Moist realizes he has maybe thirty seconds left before the mob loses hope in the bank, Harry King arrives… to deposit ten thousand more dollars into his account. LITERALLY RIGHT AS THE RESULTS OF THE AUDIT ARE ABOUT TO COME BACK. It is a confusing moment at first because… what the hell is this man doing? Why now? I loved what he said, though:
“I know you’re up to something, he whispered, tapping the side of his nose. “The bastards are out to get you, I can see that! I know a winner when I sees one, and I know you’ve got something up your sleeves, eh?”
This works, first of all, as a fantastic callback to the scene Harry King was in earlier in Making Money. Moist’s dealings with him showed King that he was shrewd and smart and that he was willing to shake things up. So it does make a ton of sense that King would return! He clearly knows about the bad press, and it’s not like he’s wrong in his assessment of the situation! The “bastards” are out to get him, though at the time, Moist did not have something up his sleeve. That came later. But it’s such a great moment of confusion and characterization! King has watched Moist make moves in this city, and he’s a good bet for him.
But nothing here is more disruptive, ridiculous, and shocking as the arrival of the four golden golems. I loved that this coincided with the collision of practically every other subplot (except Mr. Bent’s, and I NEED TO KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON) that’s been in this book. The whole bit with Professor Flead has the most remarkable significance because he finally translates the Umnian that Adora Belle gave him:
“—although it turns out that the word in context doesn’t mean ‘gold’ at all. There are more than one hundred and twenty things it can mean, but in this case, taken in conjunction with the rest of the paragraph, it means ‘a thousand.’”
Four golden golems.
FOUR THOUSAND GOLEMS.
And Pratchett just knocks it out of the park here, describing the surreal, frightening sight of THOUSANDS OF GOLEMS marching “six abreast, wall to wall and ten feet high, water and mud cascading off of them.” It’s such an eerie sequence, and it’s supposed to be! Because these golems don’t just represent what they seem on the page. Pratchett is working with multiple metaphors here. They are the unknown, first of all. They are the Other. And that’s a subtext that has often been The Text at times throughout this series. (More explicitly in Feet of Clay and many scenes in Going Postal, for example.) Golems were tools, and they’re now becoming People, earning their way out of their previous class and into another one, one that makes them subject to a lot of violence, deliberate misunderstanding, and bias. Hell, even in the last chapter, we saw Carrot struggling to understand how a golem can have a gender, and that’s from one of the most accepting, kind characters in the entire Discworld series. So, how does Ankh-Morpork react to a wave of the Other? To a whole group of beings entering their city without invitation and who are unstoppable? Well, there’s a stampede to avoid them, which is both a logistical thing—no one wants to get trampled by a golem—but which also has a tinge of a different kind of flight, one in which the understanding is that golems are to be feared.
But this conversation changes drastically once many heads of the city convene to discuss what to do with the golems. Suddenly, the golems are not People at all, but, as Vetinari decrees, tools, things to be used by the city in some fashion. There’s a fierce argument here about that, and let me just say that I continue to adore Adora Belle and her fearless commitment to the golems. Seriously:
Moist shuddered. Sometimes Adora Belle just didn’t care.
Which I understand as a comment on how she gives zero fucks about Vetinari’s position. But she does care deeply in this moment. She does not want the golems to be conscripted into slavery for Ankh-Morpork, particularly as the wretched Lord Downey insists that the golems be used to RESTART THE ANKH-MORPORK EMPIRE. He’s not even subtle about it!!!
The views of the various people here of the golems is important because all of them, aside from Moist and Adora, view them as things. They’re a workforce, not people. They’re defenders, not people. They’re an army, not people. They’re a threat to a workforce, but still not people. Notice that when Moist says that he thinks he can communicate with them, no one pays him any attention. That act—communication!—is a deeply human thing, and it is not something you suggest to deal with a Thing. It’s what you do with a Person.
And so, Moist separates himself from the group, escapes from the meeting, and pulls aside Dr. Hicks to suggest a plan. That plan is… well, a good deal of it is kept from the reader, but what I can parse out is that it’s an “inscorsim” meant to take Professor Flead out of the Department of Postmortem Communications and stick him in the Pink Pussy Cat so he can go be a pervert there, and in exchange, he’ll translate some phrases into Umnian for Moist. Those phrases are things Flead has tried, but Moist insists that:
“Well, Professor, it’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it, isn’t it? Sooner or later it’s all about style.”
Which is a very Moist thing to say, but I haven’t figured out exactly what he’s planning to do. So, send the golems “ten miles hubward of the city” for… something? Why? Why hubward instead of the other direction? And how will he talk to the golems that will get them to listen in a way that hasn’t worked for literally anyone else?
What about Mr. Bent??? There’s not much left of this book, and I still have a million questions!!!
Mark Links Stuff
– The paperback edition of my debut, ANGER IS A GIFT, is now up for pre-order! It comes out on May 7, 2019. If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.