Terry Pratchett: Dodger

So I appear to have hurt the fourth knuckle on my right hand. I suspect this is either arthritis, in which case I insist on calling it early-onset despite the thirty-somethingness of the metacarpel in question, or a mild case of RSI, probably just a ‘strain’ rather than a ‘repetitive strain.’ Either way, I believe that knitting is to blame and have coupled ibuprofen with rubbing it obsessively and a resolution not to knit until the weekend.

It’s been 12 hours since I made that resolution and I’m beginning to get twitchy. How am I going to manage this?

Anyway…

The cover of

I read a book that Becca didn’t recommend! Yay for me having initiative and tastes of my own! Of course it’s the latest Terry Pratchett. I bought this for my Nook the instant I unwrapped by B&N gift card on Christmas.

The eponymous hero of Dodger is a young man living in Victorian London, where he works most often as a tosher – going down into the sewer and rummaging around for what he might find. Pratchett paints his London enough like his Ankh-Morpork to feel comfortable to those who have never lived in London, Victorian or not, except that this London is even more poverty stricken and full of (literal) shit than Morpork, as Pratchett sets his action among a variety of social classes, describing a level of poverty that he claims is unimaginable to people living in London today. It’s a strange claim to make about a city that even now has people starving and freezing to death therein, but it’s easier to romanticize Dickensian class systems than modern ones, right?

Anyway, Dodger is about class, but it’s also about reputation, and gaming the system, and about how people are people are people, and about how many interesting Victorian personages Pratchett can lever into a book. There’s a gentleman called Charlie Dickens, for example, and one called Henry Mayhew. Baroness Burdett-Coutts plays an important part of the plot, as does Benjamin Disraeli. And of course there’s Robert Peel, who has in no way already played a large role in influencing certain other of Pratchett’s characters, no siree.

The plot is first and foremost a white knight’s quest, with a damsel that is interesting, clever and knows her own mind, even if she isn’t what you’d expect from a Pratchett protagonist. Her characterization walks a fine line in which she never actually drives the plot, but nevertheless is never completely without agency. I certainly found her interesting enough that I didn’t feel annoyed by her limited role in the plot, but it’s definitely a story about Dodger, not Dodger and his girl.

My favorite character by far, though, was Solomon, Dodger’s landlord-slash-father figure, who won me over so much that I kept having to read his lines out loud to the person next to me, which fortunately was more often than not, a roommate. Solomon is just the right amount of sensible, religious, and really good at getting what he wants that I liked him from the start.

“Are you trying to save my soul?” Dodger asks at one point.

“Let’s say I’m exploring the possibility that you have one.”

I’m not a particular fan of Dickens, but I’m confident that if you do like his work, you’ll like Dodger, and obviously Pratchett readers should not miss out on this latest one. It’s maybe not Nation, but what is? Top Pterry form.

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