Thief of Time - Terry Pratchett

Over the last few years my health has been up and down. And with it, my diet has varied. When I've been at my lowest, yoghurt is the nectar of the gods. A bit better, instant noodles or curry, and it works up until a Michelin-starred restaurant meal sounds attractive.

Right now, I'm at the yoghurt-is-lovely end of the spectrum. The doctors in A&E think this might be due to my right lung being mostly of fluid, and I'm inclined to agree. They plan to do something about this, and I'm keen for them to do so. Until then, I feel a bit grotty.

My mental activites follow a similar spectrum. At the high end, complex projects and maths books. At the low end, well, sleep, basically. A notch above sleep, if I can read, I like to read a Terry Pratchett. The comparison with the food is unfair, because the Terry Practchett books aren't junk. They're accessible, they don't need the post-grad part of my brain to work, and they're very good. I save them up for when I'm down because they cheer me up.

Thief of Time is early late Discworld, book 26 of 41. It's past the Jingo dip. The baddies are no longer the Dungeon Dimensions, they're the Auditors. The previously-alluded-to History Monks take centre stage here. While I'd not this read this book before, I read echoes of it, in that the History Monks were much better developed characters in the subsequent novels.

A fair number of the later novels (and a few of the earlier ones) approach big themes. I don't feel that's really the case here, which just feels a lot more like a jolly good story, and fairly character-driven at that. While Lu-Tze takes centre stage, Death and Susan enjoy sizeable roles.

The big theme, if there is one, is of the fungible nature of time in the Discworld, where it's treated less like an analogy for anything on our world so much as a retrospective authorial cover-up for the inconsistent chronology created over the last 25 books. I could probably pick out a few other smaller themes running through the book, like his analysis of mysticism, but they're not particularly core, nor do they need to be.

What remains is the creativity, the jokes, the world-through-a-distorting-lens that turns out to be a carefully-aimed magnifying glass. It really is a most enjoyable book.

If I had to make a criticism, the structure of the book makes it harder to tie up every loose end. Terry is usually very good at giving his characters their just desserts, and here I felt Unity was a little short-changed.

Still, I found the whole thing a great read, and rather nice comfort as I trudge through a low.

Posted 2023-11-28.