on June 2, 2007
"Feet of Clay" is the nineteenth novel in Terry Pratchett's hugely popular Discworld series, was first published in 1996 and is the third to focus on Sam Vimes and Ankh-Morpork's City Guard.
Sam is the now the Commander of the City Guard, and - having married Lady Ramkin - a member of the nobility. It's fair to say he's not your typical hero : he doesn't like the Undead (particularly vampires), Assassins (they keep trying to kill him) and - in keeping with an old family tradition - Kings (not an ideal musketeer then). Sam has quit drinking - though it's still something of a struggle - and smokes the occasional cigar to ease the blow.
Although numbers among the ranks are rising, Sam tends to rely on those he knows best. His most capable officer is Captain Carrot - who was born human, although raised as a dwarf. Carrot is an incredibly innocent and very honest character and is widely believed to be Ankh-Morpork's rightful King. (Sam has - to date - refrained from beheading him). Carrot's girlfriend, Angua, is also a member of the City Guard though - being a werewolf - she isn't quite so popular. Sergeant Detritus, a troll who deals roughly with troll drug-dealers, seems a natural - not to mention likeable - cop, though Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs (a confirmed slacker and probably human) are the most experienced officers. The one newcomer is Cheery Littlebottom, an ex-alchimist dwarf who becomes quite useful in the City Guard's newly established forensics department. (Cheery left the Guild of Alchemists after, accidentally, blowing up the Guild Council. Alchemy is an unusual profession for a dwarf, though Cheery - as it turns out - isn't your usual dwarf).
"Feet of Clay" gives Sam a good, old-fashioned mystery to solve - a mystery that includes a couple of rather unusual murders. One of the victims is Father Tubelcek, who Sam considers to be one of the neatest corpses he's ever seen : eyes closed, arms neatly folded across his chest...and a slip of paper with some strange writing on it in his mouth. The other victim was Mr Hopkinson, curator at the Dwarf Bread Museum. Dwarf bread is much more useful on the battlefield than on the breakfast table, and Hopkinson had unfortunately been beaten to death with a loaf. There is a little white clay and a suspicion of Golems hanging around, but the murders are puzzling...however, it's difficult to focus on a puzzle, when you've also got to investigate the poisoning of the Patrician. (He's surviving, but only barely). The difficulties aren't confined to professional matters - there's even bad news for both Sam and Nobby at a personal level. Following a visit to the Royal College of Heralds, Sam learns he is ineligible for a Coat of Arms. (An ancestor, Old Stoneface, killed Ankh-Morpork's last king). To make matters even worse, news of his rejection is delivered by a vampire called Dragon King of Arms. Nobby, on the other hand, is devastated to learn he is Earl of Ankh.
Another very funny book from Pratchett, with a storyline 'underneath' it all that your standard murder-mystery writer would love to tell. Excellent stuff, highly recommended !
The Watch is made of the weirdest bunch of cops you can imagine, including werewolves, dwarves, trolls, gargoyles -- and those are the ordinary ones. If you like mysteries in general, and murder mysteries in particular, then "Feet of Clay" is an offbeat story that you might just enjoy.
First a priest is murdered, and found with a slip of paper in his mouth. Then a curator. And Vimes has no idea how this is happening, or why anyone would kill a couple of harmless old men. To make things worse, he learns that the extremely un-royal Corporal Nobby Nobbs may be the rightful king of Ankh-Morpork (if that doesn't warp your view of reality, nothing will), and that the Patrician is being slowly poisoned -- but no one knows just how the poison is being administered.
The answer to the mysteries may lie in the golems: Not-living-but-not-dead creatures made out of clay, who don't speak and always follow orders. Theoretically they can't kill . But they come under suspicion when, inexplicably, they start destroying themselves as the evidence starts to point toward a golem murderer. However, Vimes soon learns that the conspiracy is far more extensive -- and sinister -- than the golems...
"Feet of Clay" is not merely a murder mystery (although it has one of the coolest ways of murdering a person that I've ever heard of). Pratchett also offers some commentary on society, on what makes a person a person. His handling of the golems is remarkably thought-provoking. And their connection to the attempted murder is also very hard to unravel -- you won't guess who or how or why.
This is, in some ways, more serious at times than his other books; one scene has Vimes exploding over the death of a little child and a cleaning lady. But don't think he's abandond his skewed brand of Discworld humor: the rebelling dwarf, the unsuccessful assassination at the beginning, Nobby's outrageous behavior and seven grandmothes, and especially a vampire with self-destructive tendencies (sunglasses tester, garlic stacker, pencil factory worker, holy water supplier). Not to mention the organizer with the little imp inside.
As always, Vimes is the hard-boiled scrap of sanity among the weirder characters. Angua is, unfortunately, much flatter than the weirder characters; Carrot is his usual likable self, while Nobby gets to act more bizarrely than usual as he is accepted into the upper crust as an aristocrat (a thieving, unsanitary one). Detritus is a likable clod, and we get a new character in Cheery Littlebottom, a dwarf female who wants to start looking like one. And Pratchett outdoes himself with Dorfl, a secretive golem who never speaks or changes expression.
While not Pratchett's best, "Feet of Clay" is a solid mystery/fantasy/commentary with plenty of humor and suspense. Definitely worth looking at.
on May 8, 2002
First, I'll give a brief synopsis, then what I liked and disliked about the book.
Okay, the great mystery is who killed two old men, and where is this mysterious clay found at the scene of the crime coming from. Vimes and the watch struggle to solve this, and suddenly, Nobby Nobbses royalty is brought to attention, Cherry Littlebottom joins the watch, and the Angua Carrot relationship is heightened a few more steps. In the midst of all this, Lord Vetinari (a FANTASTIC character) is being poisoned. All these come together in one of the most satisfying climaxes I've witnessed in a Pratchett Book yet.
There, that's out of the way.
The Guard are among the best characters Pratchett has introduced, standing next only to... Death. And even though you don't get to see the Grim Reaper, you'll have to settle for the Grim Squeaker (the death of rats). Anyways, Pratchett, as always, delights the reader with the two most vivid main characters. I'd be speaking of Sir Samuel Vimes, and Nobby Nobbs. Vimes has so much of a Dirty Harry-esque feel to him, and he... ahem... prods buttock so thoroughly that you have to cheer him on. The cigar smoking, teetotaling commander is best portrayed in the opening pages in which a VERY foolish assassin tries to end Vimes's life. Bad move.
Onto Nobbs. Nobbs is such a fantastic character, Pratchett gives him great scenes, the best in my mind being the scene in which a few Puppetmasters are trying to get Nobby to assume his royal position. Through most of this, he is saying, "Vimes would go spare! I can't do that! He'd go spare!"
Okay, here is what I disliked about the book.
Angua is a very weak POV, personally. I understand the need for a strong anchoring character to counterbalance the nuttiness of Nobbs, Vimes, and Carrot, but Angua comes off as too whiny, and her chapters take away from the irreverance that Pratchett infuses his book with. I also felt that Vetinari should have been giving a larger role in the scheme of things, particularly around the mystery involving him. He and Vimes have an excellent scene together at the end, but that is all that really stands out.
My biggest problem, would have to be with the Dragon character. I don't want to spoil any of the plot twists revolving around him, but he is too much of a cut out, with no real idiosyncracies other than his "Ah-ha" in every sentence.
There, thats the review.
On the whole, Feet of Clay really does a great job of keeping you occupied. Its 4 stars is definitely warranted.
on January 7, 2002
I just finished the third book in the City Watch series, Feet of Clay. It is another home run for Pratchett. The book is not quite as funny as the first two, but it says even more about the human condition. No human institution is left unscathed as he hits politics, religion, social class, and racism. All in one book, while still filling it full of parody, jokes, and slapstick comedy. What more could you ask for?
The plight of the golem in this book is very well-staged. Pratchett presents some very biting commentary on life in general and our attitudes toward different people, using the golems as a focal point. Are golems really alive? Do they constitute a race, and thus they can be discriminated against? Some of the arguments parallel the Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode "Measure of a Man," where Picard asks some of these same questions. Once you create a group of "beings," at what point do these beings become a race? Do they have a soul? Pratchett doesn't go that far, but he does present some very good points about all of this.
The character development of Carrot and Vimes continues as well. Carrott is now a captain in the Watch, and thus has authority (authority which he's always really had, due to his charisma). Vimes continues his determination to have the Watch be a respected institution as Carrot's devotion to duty continues to rub off on him. He has grown from a character wallowing in drink to forget about the Watch and his problems, to a well-rounded person who's determined to make the best of himself and watch out for his people.
The Watch has grown in size as well, with many more members. They now have a forensic alchemist (a female dwarf who has decided to start actually showing she's female), along with a gargoyle and a man who likes to distribute religious literature. Of course, there are also many more unnamed ones. Pratchett does a wonderful job of giving each of these characters three dimensions.
I didn't find this book quite as funny as the first two, but it still does have many great moments. The lessening of the humour is off-set by some great social commentary. Don't be fooled, though. This isn't a social treatise. It's a funny book that makes some good social points. And isn't that what good social commentary is all about? Read this book, but read the first two before this one. I think you'll get more enjoyment out of this one if you have the basis of the first two books. It's certainly not mandatory to understand what's going on, but it helps.
on December 19, 2001
Terry Pratchett's Discworld series is a mirror of our world, but it's a funhouse mirror, with our world reflected back in a distorted way. The distortions are both amusing - sometimes hysterically funny - and thought-provoking. Sometimes the reflection is barely recognizable, and sometimes it is so close to ours that it cuts like a knife. His logic is rigorous, but skewed, and the twists reveal a great deal about the assumptions we make every day.
This is a quintessential police procedural novel, as reflected by Pratchett's mirror, combined with a Frankenstein theme. Instead of detectives and police, we have the Night Watch. Commander Sam Vimes is a classic recovering drunk and Sergeant Colon is fat and lazy - recognizable as stock characters; but another cop is a female werewolf with pre-lunar tension, the captain is a six foot, six inch human who thinks he is a dwarf, a third is a troll and the forensics expert is an out of the closet dwarf trying to get in touch with her feminine side.
Someone has killed two old men, and someone is trying to poison the Patrician, the closest thing the city of Ankh-Morpork has to a ruler. The suspects appear to be golems, the artificial men of Hebrew mythology, but golems can't kill. Golems are the perfect slave, only able to do the things they are told, the "words in their head." And how is it that Corporal Nobby Nobbs, a constable who carries a certificate establishing he is probably human, can be the long-lost Earl of Ankh and the heir apparent to the throne?
All these plot threads and more come together in the finest Pratchett tradition, in one of his best and most satisfying conclusions. Women have their biggest roles yet in a Night Watch novel, and the complex relationship between the Patrician and Sam Vimes continues to evolve. It's only later, when you think about what happened to the golems, that you recognize the reflection of our world and the important messages Pratchett is conveying.
The humor and satire are present in abundance. The scene in which three thieves try to hold up the Night Watch's favorite bar and, worse still, try to use Constable Angua as a hostage, is simply delightful. Pratchett's skills with dialog and characterization are in fine form. But it's the messages that occur to you afterwards that make the novel truly memorable, and make this book, in Captain Carrot's phrase, "seriously prod buttock."
Great fun; highly recommended.
on September 8, 2001
The summary on the back of the book has very little to do with the actual story. So ignore it. And read an *accurate* synopsis instead.
On the more plot-driven side, two old men have been killed, one with a loaf of dwarf bread and one with an unknown blunt instrument. White clay was found at both scenes. Poison-laced grease was under the fingernails of one of the victims. Oh, and did I mention that the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork is being poisoned? Commander Vimes and the rest of the City Watch are going absolutely *crazy* trying to figure out how the poisoner's getting to him. It's not the food. It's not the drink. It's not the air or in fact anything else their new forensic alchemist (a dwarf) has tested. And they've tested practically everything. A golem, one of those odd men of clay who don't- can't- do anything but work and follow orders, has walked on into the Watch House to give itself up for the murders of the old men- but when asked what the weapon was, it completely failed to mention bread. And the other golems have started to destroy themselves.
On the more character-based end of things, we've got a watchwoman werewolf with pre-lunar tension, a female dwarfish alchemist with an identity crisis, and the first golem ever to discover what being free actually is.
You have got to read this book.
on April 28, 2001
The early Discworld novels, to me, were lightweight, amusing stories with no staying power because there was nobody in them to like or admire. With the guards novels, he has provided several. Commander Vimes, commander of the Watch and reformed drunk (alcoholics have money). Lady Sybil, his loving and deceptively intelligent wife. Carrot, the 6-foot tall adopted dwarf,together with Angua, the vegetarian werewolf, and their growing love. How will it end? Will they have children or puppies? Will we ever know? On and on the list of good secondary characters continues to grow.
I rated this book at 4 stars upon my first reading, and increased it to 5 after my second. It is a thoroughly funny book, considering that it is, at least in its outlines, a murder mystery. The solution is obvious to some readers, not so to others, but that's irrelevant. It's the path to the solution that's so funny. This may be the most character-driven of his novels, and it ranks with the best of the Discworld series.
It's only after the laughter fades that you realize that Mr. Pratchett has slipped you a fast one. He has raised excellent questions about what it means to be alive and a moral free agent, and then leaves you to sort it out. Funny and thought-provoking at the same time - a rare achievement, indeed.
If pressed to choose a favourite Pratchett, it would likely be this book. Nearly every element is here, delivered with Pratchett's finest prose and wit. This a bit of a wonder, as it's a murder mystery, a genre I rarely delve into. Still, it's a Pratchett and goes from being worth a look to something to be cherished, its chief character a man to be admired.
Sam Vimes, who we first encountered in a sodden gutter, soddin' drunk, has risen to a knight's rank and is now Commander of the City Watch. He maintains a careful balance between being the Patrician's favourite and his nemesis. Vetanari knows he cannot truly control Vimes, yet for all Sam's resistance to the Patrician's deviousness, knows too that he cannot dispense with The Stoneface Policeman. Especially this time when its Vetanari himself who is the victim of a murder plot. An unsuccessful one, as it happens.
Sam's entered the realm of matrimony, a step which elevates him almost more than the
promotions the Patrician has granted. Lady Sybil, however, remains at the periphery of Sam's focus. He's still a copper and one of the biggest cases of all confronts him in this book. First, foremost and throughout this book, Sam Vimes is tasked with guarding his own back. Vimes is "a jumped-up copper to the nobs, and a nob to the rest", which gorges the ranks of his enemies. His thwarting of an Assassin is pure Pratchett; pure Vimes, for that matter. One can't help but wonder why Vetanari doesn't assign Vimes some bodyguards. Instead he gets a sedan chair - which he "drives" himself.
There are murders in this book, unusual in Pratchett. Two deaths arouse the City's ire against new Pratchett figures, the golems. Golems reach far into the depths of European history - mindless, man-like creatures from the soil who can be put to any task. Created only to obey, they are the perfect slave - rebellion isn't in their make-up. Except for their size, they are nearly defenseless. The perfect suspect, ultimately vulnerable, who can be destroyed without qualms of conscience. The situation is so clear-cut that Sam knows they can't be guilty. But who is?
In his quest for justice, Sam is supported both in the plot and in the characters of his Watch team. In this book, Angua reaches new levels of prominence, which brings Carrot forth in new ways, as well. Describing their situation as a "relationship" gives the term a whole new meaning. The Watch now has a forensic expert in the figure of a dwarf - Cheery Littlebottom. It's not possible to dwell further here on this unique Watch specialist. You must read this book to become acquainted with one of Pratchett's most engaging characters. Read further to discover one of his most devious creations.
As with most of Pratchett's recent books, there's a sub-theme running beneath all the hilarity and convoluted thinking. In this case, the issue is "freedom". This word has been bandied about by so many writers in so many circumstances, it's hard to believe that Pratchett could bring anything fresh to the discussion. As always, Pratchett is able to surprise and excel. His discussion freedom's worth and what it takes to be achieved adds lustre to an already superb story. Pratchett's ability to bring philosophical issues into what is still described as "humorous fantasy" is a unique talent. We must keep buying and touting this finest of purveyors of wisdom and values.
on December 12, 2000
Feet of Clay is a perfect example of why I love Discworld. In Feet of Clay we are once again following the efforts of Commander Vimes of the Watch to develop something like the rule of Law in Anhk-Morpork, largest city on a Discworld. Once again, the Man Who Wouldn't Be King, Captain Carrot, is there to help. Once again the expression "Who watches the watchers?" takes on a whole new meaning.
These books are satires on human habits and mores, a wonderful compendium of the fatuous in human affairs. But there is so much more to them than that. They are great adventure stories, great character stories,and often, great mystery stories.
This book is, don't get me wrong, very funny. No human institution is left unscathed. And believe me, no one scaths like Pratchett. But, like Commander Vimes, Pratchett's apparent cynicism about people hides an abiding love for those who struggle through life, just trying to get along(whether they are human, trolls, dwarfs, werewolves or golems), and an abiding hatred of those who hurt them for fun and profit.
I have watched the development of Terry Pratchett for a number of years now. He just keeps getting better. There has to be a limit, somewhere, I suppose. He has not reached it yet.
on September 4, 2000
There's a killer in Ankh-Morpork, and he's not part of the guild. First a old priest is killed, then a drawf battle bread museum curator; now Lord Vetinari is slowly being poisoned and Vimes has no idea why. To add to his troubles, his new wife wants him to get a coat of arms. While Vimes can't get one, he finds out that someone in the Watch can have one, because he is royalty. A certain . . . nobby sort of person. Many of the aristocrats, positive that Vetinari will died, have begun to refine `Lord de Nobbes' who hates the whole business. On top of all that, the city golems, which are creature made out of clay, have been acting very strangely. They've been found around crime scenes. The whole town's about ready to kill all of the golems. The thing of it is . . . there's no way that any of these golems could have committeed those crimes. So who did? As usual, Pratchett spins a wonderful tale with funny bits, funnier bits, and bits so funny you'll fall off your chair laughing. So enjoy!