The Fifth Elephant: A Novel of Discworld

ISBN 10: 0061051578 / ISBN 13: 9780061051579
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Synopsis: Everyone knows that the world is flat, and supported on the backs of four elephants. But weren't there supposed to be five? Indeed there were, and what happened to the fifth elephant is only one of the many perplexing mysteries solved in this new novel by today's most celebrated fantasy humorist.

Terry Pratchett's profoundly irreverent Discworld novels have been number one bestsellers in England for more than a decade, securing him a position in the pantheon of satire and parody alongside Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and Carl Hiaasen. Pratchett's fame, like his imagination, is now going global--if such a term can be used in connection with an author whose creation is so uncompromisingly (though no longer quite so unfashionably) flat.

Which brings us back to the missing mythical pachyderm. The Fifth Elephant begins, like so many of Pratchett's satirical inventions, with an invitation. This one is both royal and engraved, requiring that Commander Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork constabulary attend as both detective and diplomat. The one role he relishes; the other, well, requires ruby tights.

Where cops (even those clad in tights) go, crime of course, follows--and an attempted assassination and a theft soon lead to a desperate chase from the low halls of Discworld royalty to the legendary fat mines of Uberwald, where lard is found in underground seams along with tusks and teeth and other precious ivory artifacts.

Vimes's "elephant" adventure is as profound as it is hilarious, sending up every aspect of modern life from royalty (a British specialty) to bureaucrats (inescapable anywhere), from cops (especially those unusually dressed) to criminals (who, like fools, have their own guild), from fantasy literature to satire itself.

The world is busy discovering Terry Pratchett. Shouldn't you be doing your part?

Review: Terry Pratchett has a seemingly endless capacity for generating inventively comic novels about the Discworld and its inhabitants, but there is in the hearts of most of his admirers a particular place for those novels that feature the hard-bitten captain of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, Samuel Vimes. Sent as ambassador to the Northern principality of Uberwald where they mine gold, iron, and fat--but never silver--he is caught up in an uneasy truce between dwarfs, werewolves, and vampires in the theft of the Scone of Stone (a particularly important piece of dwarf bread) and in the old werewolf custom of giving humans a short start in the hunt and then cheating.

Pratchett is always at his best when the comedy is combined with a real sense of jeopardy that even favorite characters might be hurt if there was a good joke in it. As always, the most unlikely things crop up as the subjects of gags--Chekhov, grand opera, the Caine Mutiny--and as always there are remorselessly funny gags about the inevitability of story:

They say that the fifth elephant came screaming and trumpeting through the atmosphere of the young world all those years ago and landed hard enough to split continents and raise mountains.

No one actually saw it land, which raised the interesting philosophical question: when millions of tons of angry elephant come spinning through the sky, and there is no one to hear it, does it--philosophically speaking--make a noise?

As for the dwarfs, whose legend it is, and who mine a lot deeper than other people, they say that there is a grain of truth in it.

All this, the usual guest appearances, and Gaspode the Wonder Dog. --Roz Kaveney, Amazon.co.uk

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Title: The Fifth Elephant: A Novel of Discworld
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