Feet of Clay
by Terry Pratchett
Discworld is Terry Pratchett’s comical satire series that pokes fun about everything in our world paralleled in this fantasy flat world. There are mini-series within the Discworld series. This is one of the Watch books, starring the commander of the Watch, my favorite character, Sir Sam Vimes.
It’s a who dunnit and Vimes is too thick to figure out just that. He’s annoyed at these pesky things called Clues that don’t seem to work properly in a chaotic and complex world. What he does know is that two old men were murdered and someone’s poisoning the Patrician with arsenic.
With the Patrician out of the way, the city guild leaders ban together to select a new king, someone they can boss around, someone…exactly like Corporal Nobby Nobbs, a man so common he has to carry around a piece of paper declaring that he is, in fact, human.
And what’s going on with the golums? They’re just human-shaped machines made of clay. But if they’re not “alive” how have they decided to create themselves their own king to teach them about freedom?
While Ankh-Morpork flouders in crime, escaped livestock, and rivers of shit (literally) without their ruler, it’s up to Vimes to discover what all these goings-on have to do with each other and to agitate every authority figure in the city.
Not the best Discworld book, perhaps, but certainly not bad. There’s a lot going on. I didn’t get lost in the stories individually, but you do really have to pay close attention to fit all the stories together to create the large picture that finally comes into view at the end of the book.
This book was especially pun-heavy. Colon goes up shit creek without a paddle. The Watch makes enquiries of the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker. Oh, and the vampire that creates Coat of Arms shows Vimes who dunnit right in the beginning of the book by showing him a cryptic Coat of Arms, but Vimes doesn’t put together the puns until the end. It definitely looks like the plot was assembled AROUND some really complicated puns. I can’t see how it would come together any other way.
Favorite moments. I liked when the guild leaders spend all night buttering up Nobby and then ask him to be their king. Nobby says he can’t because Vimes will “go spare!” They explain that he could rule Vimes and have him executed, to which Nobby says “I can’t! He’ll go spare!” Which pretty much sums up Vimes. You don’t even think about crossing him. There’s a great moment when we think he’s finally broken his sober streak, but he’s playing the guild masters and beats the crap out of Lord Downey, the #1 assassin in the city. We get to see into Vimes’s past a little as he revisits Cockbill Street where he grew up–a place where people are so poor, they don’t know they’re poor. Poor and proud. It helps us understand Vimes more. Another good line (from Drumknott): “If Commander Vimes did not exist you would have had to invent him.”
The story is basically about freedom. It focuses a lot on kingship. The golums try to make themselves a king that should teach them about freedom, rule with wisdom, and create peace and justice for all. That’s what a king should do, but when it’s a golum, it tries to do exactly that just right, which is impossible, so lots of things go wrong. It’s a comment on our expectations. And then it’s also about slavery. The masses believe that golums are not alive despite that the golums think they’re alive. Yet, when one golum tries to free the other golums, they just go back to work. The point is summed up in the line spoken by Dorfl:
“You Say To People ‘Throw Off Your Chains’ And They Make New Chains For Themselves.”