on May 8, 2010
Terry Pratchett has an oddball sense of humour. We know this. But the depth of philosophy in this volume is much more than his usual. Don't get me wrong: I enjoy the light-hearted highjinks of the early Pratchett novels. I really get the mythological origins of Discworld. But the manipulation of reality and the sense of time in this book are extraordinary. The characters are the usual for Pratchett: flaky, caricatures, with quirks that make them more human than you'd expect. The plot includes, as usual, the saving of the (Disc)world, but the mind stretch is much more than usual. Excellent work.
on January 23, 2007
"Thief of Time" is the twenty-sixth book in Terry Pratchett's hugely popular Discworld series and was first published in 2001. He has gone on to win the Carnegie Medal for "The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents" and was awarded the OBE in 1998.
Officially, The Auditors are in charge of the universe : they see that atoms spin, that gravity works and that things move in curves. However, they hate life - too many irregularities - and have tried several times to deal with those pesky humans. In "Thief of Time", they're at it again - only, this time, they're being a little more devious about it. Normally Death - wears black, bony knees, big grin, carries a scythe - would do what he could to thwart them. However, due to an impending Apocalypse, he has to gather his fellow Horsemen - Famine, War and Pestilence - for the traditional ride. (There's also the matter of the mysterious fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse, who left before they became famous). As a result, Death persuades his grand-daughter Susan into helping out with the fight against the Auditors. Susan is now a teacher in Ankh-Morpork, so she's used to fighting for her life on a daily basis. Thankfully, for this battle she has Death of Rats and Quoth the Raven to help her out.
The Order of Wen and is based at the Monastery of Oi Dong in the High Ramtops. It is known by several aliases - including the History Monks. It's up to them to see that history follows the right track (it doesn't just happen, after all), and when history breaks it's the Order's job to fix it. Their job is made easier by their ability to move and store time, largely thanks to their "procrastinators". Lu-Tze is one of the Order's most notable members. However, as a Sweeper at the monastery, few pay him any real attention - only the most enlightened know who he actually is. He is an expert at deja-fu, a form of martial arts, and particularly enjoys growing bonsai mountains. In "Thief of Time", Lu-Tze is assigned a difficult new apprentice : Lobsang Ludd. Lobsang was a foundling and was raised for a while by the Guild of Thieves. (In fact, it seems he was pretty good at what he did). However, he entered the Monastery after being discovered by Brother Soto, the Order's Field Operative in Ankh-Morpork. Lobsang shows an uncanny talent for the Order's work also : when there's a time leak, he manages the Procrastinators like an artist.
Jeremy Clockson, like Lobsang, is a foundling - though, in Jeremy's case, he was raised by the Guild of Clockmakers. He runs a shop in Ankh-Morpork and is a brilliant, though slightly erratic, clockmaker. He's on medication (senior Guild members make sure he takes it) but id officially sane (he has the certificate that proves it). Jeremy is hired by the mysterious Lady Myria LeJean to build a truly accurate glass clock. If you believed in fairy stories, it might just remind you of one where Time herself was trapped inside a glass clock...
A fast-moving and very enjoyable book - Lu-Tze, in particular, is very funny though I was a bit sorry Quoth and Death of Rats didn't feature more. Lady LeJean, surprisingly, became a very likeable character. Very highly recommended.
on June 7, 2002
Terry Pratchett's wit, erudition and sheer volume of words & ideas will continue to amaze, long after he retires from Discworld writing. Even so, as he got up to the two dozen mark, some of us began to suspect that perhaps he was at last tiring of his creation. He never ran out of fresh ideas, but the way the ideas coalesced into novels started to seem mechanical. It wasn't so certain as before that he was affectionately disposed towards his lead characters. The same bit-part actors began constantly to put in cameo appearances (e.g. the irritating talking dog, the meat pie man, and so on), and to deliver the same predictable punchlines ("on-a-stick", "woof", Death talking "IN CAPITAL LETTERS", etc). For a time, even at best, it looked like writing by numbers. Worse still, the plots sometimes only worked because of holes in the narrative, essential connections between people or actions that the author withheld from the reader in a slightly contrived way (check it out for yourself if you don't believe me). Of course Pratchett remained entertaining - I think he finds it quite hard not to be - but it made me look back nostalgically to "Equal Rites" and "Small Gods".
The good news is that "Thief of Time" is a triumphant return to form. The plot runs like clockwork. The wit, simultaneously affectionate and bitingly ironic, is delivered with beautiful timing. The lead characters are gently heroic, and the villains chilling, even as they are comic. The tragi-comedy runs particularly deep with Lady LeJean, the poignancy of whose inner turmoil (and I don't want to spoil things for anyone who still has the book to look forward to) has been tackled with special warmth and compassion. She ranks as one of the finest creations in Pratchett's entire body of work.
I'm not going to waste your time or mine recycling the plot. Suffice it to say that once again the Universe is in danger of imminent demise. Once again, Pratchett develops a further strand in the cosmology of a universe that works according to the science and superstitions of our medieval ancestors. Yet another cinematic genre is held up to satire (this time the Kung Fu tradition). And once again, Pratchett makes some deceptively deep observations about the world we ourselves live in.
This is Pratchett's best book for some years. Even allowing for the fact that there as always quite a few in-jokes for long terms fans, this would be as good a place as any for a new reader to start.
on May 14, 2002
_Thief of Time_ by Terry Pratchett HarperCollins, 324 pages,
HarperCollins should thank their lucky stars that their
company seems to have the lock on Terry Pratchett releases in the
U.S. Depending on what you allow as a "Discworld" book,
Pratchett has turned out twenty-five to thirty volumes. And they
all sell like ice cream in Hell on Lucifer's day off.
He has sold more words than any living British author (and
he's closing in on the dead ones). His books never fail to make
England's best sellers lists. Maybe his readers love him because
he sends us _all_ up. No stereotype of fantasy, science,
religion, philosophy, geography, or even death is safe from a
hilariously askew viewing.
The Monks of Time, for instance, can speed Time, slow Time,
pump Time from historical station to station, as needed. Once,
long ago, they had to repair the entire universe when a
(predictably) mad scientist built the almost-perfect clock. If
it had kept ticking, everything else dependent on Time would have
stopped. The damage was awful then, but a much more talented
someone is tampering again. Hired by the spectral accountants
from the Outside, who hate the chaos of life, he is too sane, but
too singleminded, not to succeed. Only a ancient, little sweeper
and a strange boy recruited on the streets of Ankh-Morpork have a
chance to stop him. (Rule One: "Do not act incautiously when
encountering a little bald wrinkly smiling man.") Of course,
there's Death's granddaughter, Susan, the perfect teacher.
Students love her and never give her trouble. How many second
graders actually get to visit, say, an erupting volcano, or have
the real option of being thrown in if they misbehave? Once she
learns to use chocolate as a weapon against the specters . . .
But that would be telling.
Similarly, you may just be surprised when the Five Horsemen
ride forth at the End of Time. (No, that's not a typo.) And
then there's the reason why yetis are only embarrassed by being
beheaded. Or the role that Igors (plural) play in the life of a
If you're just a little weirdly baroque yourself, you can't
help loving Terry Pratchett. Enjoy; enjoy; enjoy.
on May 10, 2002
Ever wonder why technology and history on the Disc is so crazy? Why there's "The Disc" and The Opera House practically on the same street? Why some places seem Medaevil, and others seem pre-Industrial? Well, here's the answer to all of your questions! No more headachey arguments with your fellow Fans of Pterry! No more discussions of quantum effects on the Discworld! (You can pick up The Science of Discworld for THAT.)
This book is really only for long-time, well-established Discworld fans. Newcomers will NOT understand some of the nuances of this book, and will be confused/disappointed. Those of us who are longtime fans will recognize the in-jokes and references to earlier Pratchett works.
The best way to read Discworld is in order, people. The earliest three (The Color of Magic, The Light Fantastic, and Equal Rites) are a little mind-numbing, but overall will help you understand the Disc better.
My only real complaint about this book is that Death and Susan weren't in it enough...it wasn't nearly as good as the other Death books. Still, Pratchett knows his stuff.
on May 8, 2002
The first thing I have to say is that "I AM A FAN OF DISKWORLD" I have all the books published so far, and have read many of them 3,4, 5 and 6 times. Terry Pratchett has grown and evolved as a writer as this series has progressed. Many 'humor' writers tend to become pretentious and unfunny after their second or third book. Mr Pratchett has grown into the role! As a bonus to diskworld fantatics he has developed a way of getting into his characters that is almost unrivaled among modern writers (Dick Francis developes characters as well, but I cant think of anyone else in this catagory). I have read the reviews of other diskworld fans that were dissapointed by "Thief of Time", but I must disagree with them. I found this novel very "diskworldian" and quite readable and entertaining. The characters are well drawn and defined, the plot is adhered to and as we have come to expect the humor and inside jokes abound. I revell in being able to see characters that were introduced in previous novels evolve. This is not really a 'stand alone' novel, you should read several of Mr Pratchett's books dealing with the character of Death first. If you do this, I think you will find that "Thief of Time" is above average literature. Go, Purchase, Read, Enjoy.
on April 30, 2002
Well, personally, I rather liked this book. It wasn't my VERY favourite of the Discworld series, but I liked it a good deal better than the last book, "The Truth".
The main problem is that the slicing time and the quantum theory and all that did, as many other reviewers have pointed out, make The Thief of Time a bit on the confusing/chaotic side. But still enjoyable.
As fun as it was to see the old characters such as Susan and Death back again, for me, one of the _guest stars_ really stood out: Lady Myria LeJean, former Auditor of Reality. I don't quite know why nobody else has mentioned her yet, but I found her uphill struggle from an _it_ to a _she_; from a faceless nonentity to a PERSON, to be really sweet and genuinely _touching_. As Discworld one-shot characters go, she really stood out, at least for me. (And this is just my Trekkie brain talking here, but I SWEAR I was rather strongly reminded of Seven of Nine's gradual _re_gaining of her individuality; becoming a person again after being a faceless grey Borg. But like I said, that's probably just me. I'm sure Terry didn't _intend_ a "Voyager" reference...)
And I LIKED Jeremy Clockson, in fact I liked him _better_ than Lobsang the monk. If he reminded me of anybody it wasn't William de Worde (from "The Truth") instead, I kept very vividly seeing the brilliant but clueless H.G. Wells in the movie "Time After Time", as played by (at the time young) Malcolm McDowell. With big blue earnest eyes, a tweedy old-fashioned suit, a little bow tie... I don't know why, but I kept being reminded of that character. (Excellent movie, by the way.)
ANYway. The Thief of Time is a fun book, not the best, but fun. The kung-fu movie references are hilarious; but watch for a Ghostbusters one that had me, personally, on the FLOOR laughing out loud. Susan ROCKS, obviously. The thing with the yeti _saving_ their lives like you would save before trying something dangerous in a video game was inspired. And only Terry Pratchett could concieve of a battle-cry like "EAT--a delicate infusion of raspberry creme and essence of violets, sprinkled with shredded pralines and almonds--YOU SCUM!!" (I'm paraphrasing from vague memory here--I've only read it once (waiting for the paperback before I get my own copy)). I swear..._chocolate_ as a weapon...hilarious
It ain't perfect, but it's pretty darn good. For a book that will make you laugh, make you think, and even...well, for me, anyway, make you cry a bit, at the end...get this book. Watch out for side-effects, though--after reading this book, I just HAD to run down to the store and buy a box of chocolates! ;)
If you're a newcomer to Terry Pratchett, this may not be the best Discworld starting point. "He's hilarious!" is the frequent recommendation from friends urging Discworld books on you. You won't find much hilarity here, although you will encounter fine writing expressed with penetrating wit. If you're a dedicated Discworld advocate, you'll find this book rather more than "another Discworld novel." Casting a skein of plot threads, he's able to weave them together into a coherent finale. In particular, he achieves new levels of excellence in creating and portraying characters. But it's his view of the Cosmos that captures and holds your attention here. Pratchett is too often portrayed as a "fantasy writer" in contrast with "science fiction" authors. Yet, as this book shows, he has a better grasp of science than most within the "SF" genre. He's shown up the "science writers" in presenting complex questions in understandable terms. If those descriptions use fantasy tempered with the famous Pratchett wit, we've all gained.
Lobsang Ludd is a thief. His wondrous abilities at theft are due to speed. He's unstoppable. He can pick up closely observed items with impunity, disgorging them upon request or his own whim. How does he manage it? A foundling at the Thieves' Guild, he's spotted in Ankh-Morpork by a "field operative" monk and sent to the Monks of History temple in the Ramtops. His abilities lead to his assignment as an apprentice to Lu-Tze. Why should Lobsang be given such a role when Lu-Tze is only the temple Sweeper?
In Ankh-Morpork, meanwhile, another lad, Jeremy de Clock, also exhibits amazing talents. He's a clock maker, the best in the business. He's so good, the Guild has exiled him. Only a few blocks from the Guildhall, but far enough to shed responsibility for him. His reputation for accurate clocks has caught the attention of Lady LeJean, who commissions him to build "a clock of perfect accuracy." Such a clock, it seems, will stop time. Does this matter to Lobsang?
It's staggering to think what Pratchett went through in writing this book. Ankh-Morpork without the Watch or the Patrician. Distortion of reality without the meddling of the Wizards. Death, who last convened the other Horseman for a game of Bridge ["You tell me humans do this for fun?"] seeks out War, Pestilence and Famine: they have to Ride Out. Their evasive excuses are high points of the book, brief as they are. War, henpecked by a Valkyrie spouse, is pitifully real. Only Death, though never married, has a granddaughter, Susan Sto Helit, who finds herself again aboard Binky on a quest of dubious result. Susan must confront one of Pratchett's finest creations, Nanny Ogg, midwife and witch of renown. Susan must learn what Nanny knows about an unusual birth. Then there's Ronnie Soak, Ankh-Morpork morning milkman. If the Hogfather can clamber down all those chimneys in one night, how long to deliver Ankh-Morpork's cream and yoghurt? And what does it take for an auditor to learn to be human?
Most significantly, Pratchett has surpassed every previous effort with this book. He's achieved a fresh level of artfulness in his people and the background to the story. He shares insights in ways few can equal, none surpass. He's not pandering to any imposed labels of "humorous fantacist," but firmly establishing he's without peer. Always unique in his writings, this book works in new ideas and threads of thinking. If you're just looking for laughs, go back to Rincewind. If you are willing to have your mind challenged and your thoughts enlarged, buy this. Pratchett will take you into a new world, and the trip is
on September 4, 2001
I rated this book five stars, and to be frank I'd be surprised if anyone gave it less. It's not the best Discworld book that ever was (nothing can beat Witches Abroad), but it's still a lot better than 99.9 per cent of all the other books on the market. Like in previous novels The Truth and Hogfather, the Discworld is more and more drawn away from a pure fantasy world into the realm of our daily life, but there is still enough fantasy left to satisfy readers.
One compaint, however, has to be made. Parts of the story, and I mean large parts as opposed to random sentences, gave me a feeling of Déjá Vu, and I know exactly where that comes from. The first source is Hogfather, the previous Death And Susan book. As soon as Susan, The Son of Time, and Unity meet, you feel that their conversations and actions might as well be those of Susan, The Oh-God of Hangovers, and Violet in Hogfather. A little more variety of character would have been nice.
The other source, it seems to me, is German writer Michael Ende's wonderful novel Momo. Momo is a fantasy story, or rather a fairy tale, about a girl having to fight an invasion of grey entities who look human, but are not. Does that sound familiar? In Ende's book, the invaders are called The Grey Gentlemen, or Time-Thieves, since stealing time is what they do. Hmmm ... Thieve of Time, auditors who want to stop humanity wasting the universe's time ... Not that I'm suggesting anything. Oh, and in Ende's book, time finally comes to a standstill, complete with people stopping dead at whatever they were doing. The only persons still able to move are Momo, who carries a device giving her extra time, and Kassiopeia, who has her own time inside of her. Again, does that sound slightly familiar?
Normally, I don't like books much if you can see the sources so clearly, but Thieve of Time is incredibly well-written, and I can recommend it to anyone. I particularly liked the portrayal of the auditors - I never thought there could be anything funny about those, but there is. It's a shame about Unity, though.
on August 24, 2001
Experimentation can be an amazing and fruitful endeavor. Where would we be if our ancestors hadn’t experimented with fire, horticulture, or metallurgy? What would life be like if Claudius Galen hadn’t experimented with physiology, if Galileo hadn’t experimented with falling bodies (no, I’m not referring to corpses), if Pierre and Marie Curie hadn’t isolated radium and polonium from uranium ore? What kind of world would we live in without the experimentation of Edison, Tesla, or the Wright brothers? Experimentation is nearly always a good thing. That is, with the possible exception of the audio book presentation of Terry Pratchett’s, Thief of Time by Fantastic Audio. I was drawn to this adaptation in Pratchett’s Discworld series due to the presence of Harlan Ellison, whose work as a voice actor is as exceptional as is his work on the written page. Ellison doesn’t just read the words he lives the part, and that is the beginning of the problems with this audio book because Ellison isn’t given a role, but only paragraphs, sentences, and fragments of sentences. Listed as “a guest appearance by Harlan Ellison”, his role comes off more like someone hired to patch holes left by others. In the twelve hours, Ellison’s appearances come across as startling and discordant due to their dropped-in nature. I don’t blame Ellison, but I do hold the producer, Stefan Rudnicki, responsible for wasting not only the talents of Ellison, but also those of the other actors in this audio book adaptation: Christopher Cazenove, Gabrielle De Cuir, Karesa McElheny, and John Rubinstein. Their talents are diluted by Rudnicki’s experimentation with identification of characters. Each of the actors is given certain characters to portray through most of the eight tapes, but near the end chaos reigns supreme as actors switch roles and voice characterizations! If you’re like me and listen to an audiotape to make your commute to and from work bearable, this type of experimentation is frustrating, jarring, and drains the pleasure I derive from the authors work. Fortunately, the quality of Pratchett’s wit and his mastery of satire and parody shine through and I will sample his written works. It remains to be seen if I will experiment with other audio book adaptations by Fantastic Audio (an imprint of American Audio Literature, Inc.) in the future, but it’s unlikely...