Continuing my occasional series where I read my way through Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, one book at a time.
Today’s entry is the 19th book, Feet of Clay.
First appearances: Constable Visit, Dorfl, Cheery Littlebottom
Introduced to Discworld: Golem rights
Plot: Two seemingly unrelated old men die sudden deaths in Ankh-Morpork. Then the Patrician is poisoned, and though Vetinari doesn’t die, the city is in something of a state of confusion.
Enter the City Watch under newly married Commander Sam Vimes.
The Watch has been expanding its numbers of late, including adding a dwarf to do forensics work. To add to the confusion, a golem actually confesses to the murder of one of the old men. Golems are, outside urban legends, completely harmless, voiceless things that do what they are told and don’t stop until they are likewise told to stop. How could any of them murder anybody? Or did Dorfl, the Golem in question, actually do the deed? And how exactly is the Patrician being poisoned in the first place?
Questions like these need answers. Can Vimes and his squad find the answers before something worse happens, like Nobby Nobbs being crowned king of the city?
Commentary: Two things pop up in this book that become reoccurring themes in Discworld books set in Ankh-Morpork. The first is the idea that the city somehow makes people something other than what they were. This idea is exploring primarily through the dwarfs for the most part. Dwarfs in the mountains live to mine things. Dwarfs in the city go crazy for gold. In this novel we get introduced to the idea that female dwarfs, often impossible to distinguish from their male counterparts, may want to be a little more feminine. That comes across with Cheery (later Cheri) Littlebottom, a female dwarf hired by the City Watch to do crime scene investigation. First encountered looking like an average dwarf, she’s outed as female by Angua’s sharp sense of smell for the reader, and gradually changes her appearance. She takes to wearing skirts, heals, and make-up.
Granted, the heals are welded to her steel boots, the skirt is made of thick leather, and she never shaves her dwarven beard or removes her steel helmet, but it’s a start. More will come of this in later books.
The other thing that comes up is some fantasy creature is accepted as a person by the rest of society, or at least the small corner portrayed in the novel in question. This time around, the creature in question is a golem. Though believed to be mindless things that aren’t even alive and only do as they’re told, the Watch and the reader gradually learns these ancient machine men had attempted to build one of their own, a king golem, who would lead them to freedom. It didn’t work out at all, but Dorfl found a way to freedom on his own, and acceptance at least by the Watch if not the rest of the city.
Background comes into play in this novel. Vimes is initially sent to get a coat of arms for himself and learns from the master of arms (a vampire) that Nobby Nobbs may be the rightful Earl of Ankh. Vimes later finds his investigation of Vetinari’s poisoning leads him to the poor neighborhood he grew up in. Nobby’s learning of his possible Earldom leaves him feeling depressed, especially since it turns out to be a plot to put a pliable king on the throne, and Captain Carrot isn’t seen as the right man for the job as far as these people are concerned. Nobby consistently reacts the opposite of the way various individuals, including the reader, might have expected him to react. The bottom line should be, regardless of how he should be expected to react, Nobby always reacts like Nobby, and no one should take him for granted.
I did take note that with this, the third of the City Watch books, that Carrot is slowly receding more into the background in favor of Vimes. Now, Carrot never exactly goes away, and he does have some nice moments here, but Angua’s concerns over where their relationship may or may not be going seems to be more prominent than anything else. Carrot is more of a side character at this point, used to react to people and situation rather than to stand up as a hero, though he does a little of that as well.
NEXT BOOK: The Auditors once tried to replace Death. That didn’t work out too well. Now they’ve set their sights on the Discworld version of Santa, the Hogfather. Be back for, well, Hogfather sometime hopefully in the not-too-distant future.