Thursday, 25 October 2012

Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Dodger is Terry Pratchett's latest book and not, despite the cover, a Discworld novel. It's set in Roundworld London in the first part for the 19th century, which of course bears no resemblance to Ankh-Morpork, not at all.

The back cover blurb:
Dodger is a tosher — a secret scavenger living in the squalor of Dickensian London.

Everyone who is nobody knows him. Anyone who is anybody doesn't.

He used to know his future; it involved a lot of brick-lined tunnels and plenty of filth. But when he rescues a young girl from a beating, things start to get
really messy.

Now everyone who is anyone wants to get their hands on Dodger.
When I first started reading, I found it very difficult to get Ankh-Morpork out of my head. He doesn't mean the Thames, I thought, that's clearly the Ankh! And indeed, Ankh-Morpork has always looked a bit like old London seen in the right light and from the right angle. It didn't actually take me all that long to get into the swing of London as a setting. The different slang and the inclusion of real historical figures such as Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens definitely helped. And if you needed any more evidence that it's set in Roundworld, there was a footnote referring the reader to Google.

I liked the eponymous character. He rises quickly from sewer-searching tosher to someone a bit more respectable, through no intentions of his own, never takes his eye off the ball and never forgets what's important. He has a very strict moral code and, thanks to his room-mate/landlord Solomon Cohen, he knows how to wash to avoid catching anything horrible from the sewers. As a side note, hubby and I were arguing about how old Dodger is. I think he's maybe twenty, give or take a year, but hubby insists that he's a teenager, making Dodger a YA book. My thinking is, he must be old enough to shave regularly and being the stringy type that probably happened a bit later in life. Not that it's important.

My favourite character was definitely Solomon Cohen, Jew living in England after doing a lot of escaping persecution across Europe and the Middle East. He helps keep Dodger on the straight and narrow by forbidding theft, making him wash and helping him spruce up when when the time comes. He's also the character with the best lines, making him enjoyable to read.

Charles Dickens was also an interesting character and, overall, I suspect I might have got more out of Dodger if I'd read more any Dickens. Which isn't to say it wasn't a highly enjoyable read without much prior knowledge of Dickens' history.

I recommend Dodger to any Pratchett fans and to anyone wanting to get into Pratchett that perhaps isn't a fan of fantasy. Written in the style of Discworld but without any magic, I think Dodger would make a good gateway drug to Pratchett's other works.

4.5 / 5 stars

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