Thud! by Terry Pratchett
Short Review: This fun, funny, and often thoughtful story follows Sam Vimes as he investigates the murder of dwarven leader Grag Hamcrusher. Vimes is a father and husband, an unwilling member of the nobility, Commander of the watch, and a good old copper. He is pressured into hiring the first Vampire on the watch and has to manage religious and racial tensions between humans, vampires, werewolves, igors, dwarfs, and trolls while simultaneously solving a murder and preventing the outbreak of a troll v. dwarf war. The book is read by the wonderful Stephen Briggs, a regular reader for Pratchett’s books and one of my absolute favorite audiobook narrators.
Long Review: Briggs is a wonderful reader. Let’s start with that. I’ve listened to a number of Pratchett books, all read by Briggs, and the man is a wonder. He is comfortable working in many different accents, differentiates the characters clearly without losing rhythm or overdoing it, and reads with a lot of humor but also real tenderness when necessary. He’s a wonderful reader. The concept of anyone else reading Pratchett’s work makes me itch.
Thud! parodies The Da Vinci Code, a book I can’t stomach. I tried to read it, gave up within a few pages of the front cover, and seethe when I’m reminded of its mere existence. So, I love things that make fun of it. Love them. Pratchett, of course, is funny and smart and kind, so his parody is sweet and sharp without being overly cruel to Dan Brown. The book also satirizes ongoing religious and racial tensions in the Middle East and the West, maintaining a light tone while also pointing out the ridiculous amount of stupidity that abounds in our modern world.
Pratchett’s kindness is one of the best things about his humor. Throughout this and his other discworld novels, he creates deeply flawed and often stupid characters–Nobby Nobbs comes to mind–and then he deals with them kindly. We’re not to hate or even pity Nobbs and his stupidity and kleptomania, but to see him as some sort of object lesson.
All in all, I think this is one of Pratchett’s best. I love that he entertains us while encouraging us to be open minded and kind. I love that he encourages the reader to play board games, read to children, and treat people with respect, but wraps that encouragement up in slap-stick, puns, word-play, and general silliness. Thud! is funny and smart and well worth a listen.