Tuesday, 9 September 2014
Dodger - Terry Pratchett
Author: Terry Pratchett
Genre: Historic Fiction
The Book Depository
“Dodger” is a novel by Terry Pratchett which explores Dickensian London rather than his usual haunt of Ankh-Morpork within the fantasy world of Discworld. As a big fan of Pratchett I was looking forward to reading this novel although I have to be honest and say that I do tend to prefer his Discworld novels as they allow him a bit more freedom.
Anyway, the plot follows Dodger, a loveable rogue who earns a living as a Tosher, a scavenger who prowls the sewers of London hunting out coins and other lost items amongst the sewage. When he rescues a young woman in distress one night he has no idea that it will lead to a series of events which results in his exposure to the public and various important people such as Benjamin Disraeli, Sir Robert Peel and Charles Dickens.
I will start by saying that the humour and wit I have come to expect from Pratchett are there in abundance. At its heart this is a light hearted journey into old London but yet there are some interesting dark undertones as well. Pratchett isn’t scared to touch on the poverty, class issues and rather bleak existence that existed then. Then there is a really clever and sensitive treatment of the Sweeny Todd story which really is one of the big plus points in the novels. However, despite these interesting elements I found the plot to be rather weak and uninspiring. Quite simply there was no spark, it was lacking any real surprises and I could see what was coming a mile away.
Then there are the characters that were probably my least favourite aspect of the story which is hard for me to say as normally the characters really shine in Pratchett novels. For example, Dodger himself is just too much of a super hero that seems to survive and prosper at everything. He manages to go through an odd makeover or two and become accepted by high society, fights off trained assassins at will, wins the heart of a princess he hardly says more than a few words to and becomes accepted as a national hero who is showered with coins by a thankful public. I just found it all a bit too much; he seemed unable to lose at anything which meant he felt too unreal and I was unable to connect with him. In the end I could probably have accepted this if the supporting characters had varied and well developed personalities. However, I found most of them to be wooden and rather lifeless. I don’t know if this is because Pratchett used a lot of historical people in the novel and didn’t want to paint any of them in a bad light but they all just felt like cardboard cut-outs.
Overall, I did smile and grin at parts of the novel and it there was some interesting elements but the weak overall plot and characters meant the whole thing just felt average. This is probably the most disappointed I have been in Pratchett for quite a while but in the end it was still an enjoyable enough diversion even if it wasn’t his best.