Terry Pratchett,
Thief of Time
(HarperCollins, 2001)

The Monks of History monitor time for the Discworld, gathering time from points in history where it is not needed and sending it out to where better use can be made of it. In their midst, a novice named Lobsang, formerly a Thieves' Guild apprentice in Ankh-Morpork, demonstrates a knack for twisting time. He is sent to be the apprentice of Lu-Tze, a legendary hero often mistaken for an aged and doddering sweeper.

Meanwhile, in Ankh-Morpork, Jeremy Clockson, a young and, well, focused clockmaker, gets a new customer. She wants him to build a clock out of glass -- a clock that would be utterly precise. What Jeremy doesn't realize is that his customer is a representative of the Auditors, ancient beings who would like to make time stop -- the very purpose of the clock. The unsuspecting Jeremy gets to work, assisted by an Igor, fresh from Uberwald.

Death, who notices this sort of things, enlists his granddaughter, Susan Sto Helit -- that's Miss Susan to you -- to track down the clock. For Miss Susan, already a practical and formidable young schoolteacher who has mastered the defense of the Stationery Closet, this should be relatively simple. Of course, it isn't, and before long, Miss Susan is swept up in strange circumstances, time and again!

If she thinks she has problems, she should see her grandfather trying to round up the rest of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who really don't want to be bothered.

As usual, Pratchett takes a handful of disparate threads and weaves them into his tale which, as expected, is often laugh-out-loud funny, from the Abbot who undergoes very interesting reincarnation to the chocolate war Miss Susan conducts at various levels.

The difference between Pratchett's novels and other comic novels is that there is substance in Discworld. Pratchett doesn't just appeal to your funny bone -- he makes you think and makes sure that you have a blast at the same time.

Thief of Time introduces a number of new characters and stands alone well, requiring little in the way of back story or Discworld knowledge. Familiarity is not required, although it would enhance the book.

This is Pratchett's 26th Discworld novel, and his imagination hasn't flagged yet. Steal some time for yourself and use to read Thief of Time.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 22 September 2001

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