Terry Pratchett is a great social and political satirist – the Jonathan Swift of our time. His methods are not cruel, but gentle and compassionate with a bite, although provoking laugh out loud moments several times on every page. One need not be au fait with current social and political complexities to enjoy this or any other of Pratchett's novels. At times he has written specifically for children, but children can enjoy any of his writings by taking them at face value. Conversely adults have been known to enjoy his children and young adults' stories. Try I Shall Wear Midnight for starters, which this reviewer found in a "library" attached to a road workers' camp in North Queensland. The accompanying bookmark was from the Nimbin Health and Medical Research Council on Safer Cannabis Use Guidelines, so hopefully it was being perused by a consenting adult.
The topic of Thud is racial intolerance, mainly amongst the Trolls and the Dwarfs, but they are but the tip of the iceberg in the Discworld. The story reflects the racial problems of Britain based on decisions made decades ago in a different era to offer sanctuary to any of the peoples of the Empire whatever their colour or creed. Modern times have resulted in these decisions imploding. The story line could also be compared with the enmities which came to Australia with certain middle-European races. The apparently benign soccer field has often seen these enmities surface. In the Discworld it is on the streets of Ankh-Morpork as well as within the ranks of the Watch itself. There is certainly no love lost between Angua the Werewolf and the latest recruit, Sally the Vampire. The latter is Lord Vetinari's ploy to use political correctness as a cover for subterfuge. In the grand old Mad Magazine comic tradition, this is a story of Spy vs Spy.
Commander Vimes is on edge as he witnesses the gathering of mobs of Dwarfs and Trolls, each under the influence of mind-blowing substances, and carrying their usual weapons of choice. There is something odd going on underground amongst the workings of the industrious dwarfs, and it is not long before there are murder cases to be solved. But this is the least of Sam Vimes' problems. The Dwarf/Troll imbroglio is on the brink of full-blown warfare, and Sam must enlist the services of the wizards of the Unseen University, despite his distaste for employing magic, to reach Koom Valley before the combatants. Koom Valley was the scene of an historic battle between Dwarfs and Trolls many years before, and Vimes does not want to see it re-enacted. It was bad enough having it observed annually within the walls of Ankh-Morpork.
Whatever is on Sam Vimes' agenda work wise, he is determined never to miss the six o'clock reading of Where's My Cow? to young Sam, his beloved toddler son. This domestic bliss is under threat as Commander Vimes attempts to solve the murder mysteries and prevent Koom Valley II. It will come as no surprise to avid Discworld followers that Vimes saves the day through both clever policing and downright underhanded methods.
Pratchett's mind is truly inventive. It is difficult for his fans to come to terms with the fact that he is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, although he says he has a few good novels in him yet. For the definitive biography click here.