BooksOfTheMoon

The Fifth Elephant (Discworld, #24)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 4 stars

I haven’t read this book since the first time round, but a friend has been re-reading the Discworld books and suggested I give it another go. Re-reading it has reminded me what I disliked the first time round – Colon’s field-promotion and the Carrot/Angua angst – but also reminded me how good Sam Vimes is when he’s at his best.

There’s a new Low King of the Dwarves being crowned in Uberwald and the Patrician sends his Grace, the Duke of Ankh, aka Sam Vimes of the Watch, as his ambassador. But being Sam Vimes, he can’t keep his nose out of a crime, even when it’s as far off his turf as this. Soon he’s being sucked into politics that could have ramifications throughout the continent, and old, stale ideas are being brought kicking and screaming into the Century of the Fruitbat.

As I say, that’s good bit, Vimes getting stuck into a crime, failing to be diplomatic and generally being a clever bugger. The less good bits are much smaller in number, but obviously stuck with me. The idea of putting Colon in charge of the Watch has comedy gold written all over it, but it doesn’t feel that way, it just feels sad. It’s a perfect example of the Peter Principle, as acting-captain Colon relies on clamping down on the minutiae to cover his own incompetence. While the story moves back to the city more infrequently as the book goes on, it was enough to keep me away from it for years.

There were several of the little things that Pratchett is always so good at that I missed from before, from the name of Leonard’s deciphering machine to Vetinari’s desire for a code that is merely fiendishly difficult, not impossible, to crack.

The stuff with the dwarves and their lack of recognition of genders other than ‘dwarf’ felt a lot more smoothly handled here than it did in Raising Steam, and it was nice to see Cheery back, and the idea that freedom includes the freedom to not wear a dress resonates even more today.

So all in all, a better book than I remember. 3 1/2 from me, rounded up (Vimes’d go spare if I rounded down…)

Book details

ISBN: 9780552146166
Publisher: Corgi
Year of publication: 1999

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