I’ve had a very ambivalent relationship with the Discworld novels. While I loved two of them (Going Postal and Guards! Guards!), I found some others merely mediocre and got quite annoyed with the humour – it was just too much of the same, repeating itself within one story. However, Discworld never quite let go of me so I gave it another try. And was very much rewarded.
published by: Corgi 2008 (Doubleday, 2001)
series: Discworld # 28
my rating: 8,5/10
first sentence: Rats! They fought the dogs and killed the cats, and- But there was more to it than that.
It’s a rat-eat-rat world …Every town on Discworld knows the stories about rats and pipers, and Maurice – a streetwise tomcat with his very own plague of rats – has the perfect insider-dealing scam going. Until he runs across someone playing a different tune. Now he and his rats must learn a new concept: evil. And it’s time for everyone to stop relying on stories and to start using independent thought …
I haven’t read many Discworld novels because I usually get annoyed by the repetitious kind of humour once I’m halfway through the novel. This one, however, was one of those rare specimens that – while not laugh-out-loud funny – kept a content grin on my face the entire time. Being aimed at a younger audience, I expected it to be simple with less deep characters. Boy, was I wrong. Terry Pratchett manages to strike a tone that will resonate with young adults (or smaller children, for that matter) and grown-ups alike.
I thoroughly enjoyedthe constant, clever undertone mixed with utterly thrilling scenes. I felt like humor and suspense had a banter going on in this story and the readers are the ones who benefit from it. The way Pratchett plays with tropes of fairy tales, mostly by using his magnificently named character Malicia, gives this book a very Disworld-y feel, even though none of the known characters show up (except for Death, obviously).
Whether you consider yourself a dog person or a cat person, you cannot help but fall in love with Maurice, as amazing as he calls himself, as well as the Clan of rats. Giving such a number of characters a convicing personality must be a difficult feat, but Pratchett pulls it off with ease. Yes, it’s true, Maurice can talk and, what’s more important, think, but he still retains a very catlike personality. I came to care about him so much, Pratchett almost had me in tears at certain points of the story.
It was very unusual for Maurice to feel sympathetic to anyone who wasn’t Maurice. In a cat, such sympathy is a major character flaw. I must be ill, he thought.
Terry Pratchett wouldn’t be Terry Pratchett if he didn’t use his stories to explore – in Discworld – some real-world issues. Again, this may be a book written for young adults but grown-ups (are we ever really?) can get just as much out of it. The miraculously thinking rats see themselves face with some serious problems. They talk and think about what’s wrong and right and who decides on that anyways. Ethics and euthanasia, leadership and culture, are all cleverly incorporated into a tale that can be read just for the fun of it or to reflect upon our own world.
On a sidenote, I have to mention how very cleverly swear words are incorporated into the story. Whenever a cuss word would naturally come up, it is replaced by a word in rat language. For me, that made the read all the more fun because my filthy adult brain inserted whatever swear word I found most appropriate. If you want to read this story to your kids, though, you can simply make a ratty hissing sound. The message getrs across but no “evil words” are used. Well done, Mr. Pratchett!
Pratchett truly is a great story-teller and he shook out a young adult (I’d even say middle-grade) novel that rivals authors who write exclusively for children.
This was tremendous fun and definitely redeemed the Discworld for me. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next one. And who knows, maybe I’m lucky and Maurice will once more cross my path as I make my way through
THE GOOD: Clever, funny, entertaining read about a cast of lovable animal characters.
THE BAD: Where’s the sequel? I want more Maurice!
THE VERDICT: An all-age Discworld novel that turns the world a little bit more magical and makes you want to some pet rats and name them “Dangerous Beans” or “Sardines”.
RATING: 8,5/10 Excellent
The Discworld is a large and hilarious place. If you’re new to Pratchett’s work, just dive right in wherever you want to start. If you are completely lost, however, check out this wonderful Discworld Reading Order (by the L-Space), click to see it in full size. This way, you can first read all the books about the City Watch or the Witches or Death or whoever is your favourite character. But really, it doesn’t matter. They do cross-reference each other and you’ll notice Death always makes an appearance, but each Discworld book is a story by itself and can be read without reading any of the others.