Review: The Truth

by Tom Ingram

Terry Pratchett’s City Watch books are excellent, but they’re awfully one-sided. There are brief asides from the point of view of the villain, but the main characters are always watchmen. As such, the story is often very black-and-white. There are traitors all around, but the Watch is always on the right side, no matter what.

The Truth is a nice little standalone Discworld novel that shows things from the other side. A sinister plot not unlike the ones that turn up in the Watch novels deposes Lord Vetinari and tries to install a new leader. Only this time the watch is worse than useless in solving the crime. When seen from a different perspective, Vimes and his people are a lot harder to like.

“The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret”

The Truth follows Ankh-Morpork scribe William de Worde, and tells the story of his accidentally inventing the concept of news reporting and becoming the top newspaperman in the city. William starts out small, writing about meetings of the Floral Arrangement Society and printing pictures of humourous vegetables, but as the scheme starts to unfold, he pokes around and slowly solves the crime on his own.

Along the way, de Worde builds up his newspaper staff, with a vampire who has replaced his desire for blood with an obsession with photography, a zombie obituarist, and a gang of insane homeless men who sell the papers.

As you would expect from a Terry Pratchett book, it’s uproariously funny, but like most of his later work the emphasis is on the plot and themes as much as the humour (this book takes place roughly between The Fifth Elephant and Night Watch). I particularly like the way he uses symbolism in this novel, building a metaphor involving news, dogs, and The Truth that quickly gets, to quote directly, “all wahoonie-shaped”. As always, Pratchett has something profound to say, and he says it in a wonderfully entertaining way.

You can find The Truth online at Chapters, McNally, or Amazon if you’re internationally inclined.