The Truth – Terry Pratchett

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It began with dwarves pushing a wagon and three men in a boat, sneaking into a city, and a rumour about dwarves making gold out of nothing.

William de Worde, scribbling news to distant lords and letter writer for homesick dwarves, doesn’t know what’s about to hit him and accidentally creates the Discworld’s first newspaper, The Ankh-Morpork Times.

All of this shortly after nearly being flattened over by a runaway printing press. Within a few days, he has a team of dwarves manning the press, a plucky lady reporter who’s can churn out headlines and men are very friendly to her, a vampire photographer which turns to dust with each flash, a troll as head of complaints and Foul Ole Ron is just Foul Ole Ron. Or is he?

While William struggles to come to terms with what he has created and compete against the Ankh-Morpork Inquirer, which hopes to put him out of business, sinister schemes are afoot as two ‘enterprising’ men and a kidnapped shopkeeper arrive in the city with a job to do. A job for a boss who uses a zombie solicitor to conduct their transactions and has grand plans for the city.

This could possibly be my favourite Discworld novel or any piece of work from Terry Pratchett but don’t take that too seriously, I say that after each Discworld book I finish.

As every Pratchett story, The Truth has an all-star cast of loveable misfits and eccentrics.

William De Worde is enjoying a content, quiet and aimless life, writing newsletters to lords and ladies who are interested in the news from the city. Now he has the responsibility of feeding the press with news and he’s not quite sure what that is.

One of the most interesting characters I’ve come across is Mr. Slant who appears prominently in The Truth. For some, death is only an inconvenience. When Mr. Slant of Morecambe, Slant and Honeyplace died, it only made him a better solicitor. How can you kill what is already dead and ready to file a lawsuit?

Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip, otherwise known as the New Firm, are fantastic villains and make a wonderful team. There’s Mr. Tulip, a cunning little bastard who knows how to put a plan together and when to carefully employ violence. Then there’s Mr. Pin, who is senseless violence and art lover. The duo is disgusted by how crime in Ank Morpork has become so civilised and aim to change it. 

Legally speaking, Mr. Slant is not a criminal, a fact he knows all too well. Though he is clearly not a goodie. This zombie, who is one of the few people who reads those big stuffy law books, floats throughout this novel exacting his client’s will.

This cast of fantastic, misfit characters is brought to life by the wonderful Stephen Briggs, which is no small feat. From the slow, calculated talk of the trolls and Mr. Pin to the slick patter of DeepBone and Mr. Tulip, he does a wonderful job. 

Though minor characters in this stories, I love the back and forth between Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs in The Truth as well as other Pratchett novels he narrates.

Throughout the novel and the birth of The Times, The Truth explores the unwritten rules of journalistic ethics, the relationship between power, the press and the truth as William De Worde makes up these rules as he goes along. Pratchett’s parody or satire (whichever applies) around modern journalism asks and pokes at how we receive the news and our faith in journalists and broadcasters.

I feel it is incredibly relevant now as everyone has the capability of publishing their own newspaper and many do.

There are wonderful funny scenes around the table of William’s lodging house reading the newspaper. The lodgers representing a cross-section of the public and these hilarious, satirizing a newspaper’s audience.

A common phrase heard over the table is “They wouldn’t print it if it wasn’t true.”

 

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