Terry Pratchett,
The Truth
(HarperCollins, 2000)

The Truth is out there -- OK, someone had to say it -- way out there on Terry Pratchett's Discworld, and its publication marks Pratchett's 25th Discworld novel.

William de Worde is the lesser son of the noble de Worde family, happy enough to eke out a living composing a monthly letter of social news and scribing the occasional document or letter home. But his life changes forever while on his way to the engraver with his latest job when he collides head on with the fourth estate.

After regaining consciousness, he finds himself among a group of dwarves who have set up a printing press. The press is nearly magical to William, used to the handful of pages the engraver, Mr. Cripslock, produces from a carved wooden block. The idea of printing so much so quickly intrigues William, and almost before he realizes it, he's the editor of the Ankh-Morpork Times.

In addition to the dwarves, his staff consists of a crew of homeless men who hawk the papers (perhaps a bit too literally in some cases) on the streets, Sacharissa Cripslock, the very proper granddaughter of the engraver, and Otto, a b[lood]-totaling vampire photographer with a little problem with photosensitivity. The popularity of the Times is mind-boggling, and William is further boggled by the power his notepad seems to wield, even for some of the most powerful men in Ankh-Morpork -- that is, when he's not having to look at funny vegetables.

Meanwhile, a group of "good citizens" -- i.e., members of Ankh-Morpork's upper classes -- are hatching a plot to depose Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. To this end, they bring in Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip, professional, well, "facilitators" -- men who "make things happen." Together, Mr. Pin (brains) and Mr. Tulip (brawn) make an unsavory pair indeed.

Shortly after their arrival in town, Lord Vetinari is arrested for attempted murder, and his dog, Wuffles, is missing. William's dogged pursuit of the truth complicates things for the conspirators and their henchmen, and his intervention is not entirely welcome by the long-suffering Captain Vimes of the Watch, either.

The Truth contains the usual cast of odd and original characters, including Gaspode, the talking dog, Dibbler the so-called "sausage" salesman, Harry, the King of the Gold River, a rather pungent entrepreneur, and the various and sundry denizens of the Unseen University. Otto, the recovering vampire, is up there with Igor as a terrific new character but all are as quirky and appealing as Pratchett can make them.

As always, the plot is laced with delicious deadpan humor, oodles of allusions and more footnotes than you can shake a lead slug at. The lunacy accelerates throughout the book, but at the same time, there is a foundation of substance and penetrating insight into human behavior. This title stands alone well and is sure to attract more Discworld devotees.

Looking for an escape from the everyday doldrums of life? The Truth shall make you fret -- er, free!

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

Buy The Truth from Amazon.com.