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MICHAEL DIRDA
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Novels; Science fiction & fantasy; Books-titles -- Truth, The
Author: Dirda, Michael
Date: Nov 19, 2000
Start Page: X.15
Section: BOOK WORLD

Much as I enjoyed The Truth, honesty nonetheless compels me to admit that the novel didn't seem quite as zippy or fresh as most of the Discworld books (though still offering more entertainment per page than anything this side of Wodehouse). But [Terry Pratchett] doesn't just spew out jokes and puns (photographs as "prints of darkness"): He implicitly defends a liberal humanism, one that loathes bigotry, jingoism, easy answers and any kind of zealotry. (The staff of Hugglestones--William de Worde's old school--"prized keenness, believing that in sufficient quantities it could take the place of lesser attributes like intelligence, foresight and training.") At the close of The Truth, he also speaks up plainly for political and cultural diversity: "Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions." Pratchett seems a man, as well as a writer, one can admire.

As it happens, a dozen of his more learned admirers contribute essays to Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature, edited by Andrew M. Butler, Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn (The Science Fiction Foundation, 22 Addington Road, Reading, RG1 5PT, England; $20 paperback, which includes shipping costs). Besides the editors, contributors include John Clute, writing on the structure of Pratchett's comedy; Cherith Baldry analyzing the children's books; Karen Sayer on the novels about Granny Weatherwax and her sister witches; Nickianne Moody on Death (who always speaks in capitals); Penelope Hill on the Unseen University; and Matthew Hills on Discworld's geography. There's also a useful bibliography of primary and secondary texts. In short, this is a good and intelligent book, a resolutely serious companion to the authoritative, matey and much funnier Discworld Companion, by Pratchett himself and Stephen Briggs.

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