Sunday, July 29, 2007

Feet of Clay versus Thud

If you pick two examples of genre fiction, it is usually not hard to pick out certain similarities. This goes especially for crime fiction, where the rules (or conventions, if you prefer) of story-telling are especially strong: there must be a crime, it must be investigated, and there must be a resolution of some sort. (Can you imagine a crime novel with no crime?)

Terry Pratchett's Discworld series includes a series of books about the Night Watch of Ankh-Morpork and their evolution from a gang of drunken has-beens and never-weres, the laughing stock of the city, to something approaching a real police force -- in fact, something better than a real police force. (This is a fantasy series, after all.)

As the Night Watch sub-series has developed, the stories sometimes follow the conventions of the crime genre (although always with Pratchett's unique touch): they begin with a crime, or a series of crimes, which is investigated, and finally a resolution of sorts found.

Over on the Chronicles Network, a forum for science fiction and fantasy fans, the discussion turned to Thud!. One fan commented that the blurb seemed "very familiar" and that it seemed that Pratchett was just churning out the same story repeatedly, which led another fan to reply that it and the blurb for Feet of Clay "start exactly the same way."

That comment caught my eye. Exactly the same way? Judge for yourself.

    Koom Valley? That was where the trolls ambushed the dwarves, or the dwarves ambushed the trolls. It was far away. It was a long time ago.

    But if he doesn't solve the murder of just one dwarf, Commander Sam Vimes of Ankh-Morpork City Watch is going to see the battle fought again, right outside his office.

    With his beloved Watch crumbling around him and war-drums sounding, he must unravel every clue, outwit every assassin and brave any darkness to find the solution. And darkness is following him.

    Oh...and at six o'clock every day, without fail, with no excuses, he must go home to read Where's My Cow?, with all the right farmyard noises, to his little boy.

    There are some things you have to do.

    * * *

    Feet of Clay
    Who's murdering harmless old men? Who's poisoning the Patrician?

    As autumn fogs hold Ankh-Morpork in their grip, the City Watch have to track down a murderer who can't be seen.

    Maybe the golems know something - but the solemn man of clay, who work all day and night and are never any trouble to anyone, have started to commit suicide...

    It's not as if the Watch hasn't got problems of its own. There's a werewolf suffering from Pre-Lunar Tension. Corporal Nobbs is hobnobbing with the nobs, and there's something really strange about the new dwarf recruit, especially his earings and eyeshadow.

    Who can you trust when there are mobs on the streets and plotters in the dark and all the clues point the wrong way?

    In the gloom of the night, Watch Commander Sir Samuel Vimes finds that the truth might not be out there at all.

    It may be in amongst the words in the head.

    A chilling tale of poison and pottery.

So, let's see now... in Thud! there's a historical battle and a murdered dwarf and the threat of war and the following dark (whatever that is!), while in Feet of Clay there are murdered old men and a mysterious poisoner and an invisible killer stalking the streets while clay golems commit suicide. Oh yes, I can see that they're "exactly the same": both have a murderer in them.

Sheesh. Sometimes fans simply don't deserve the stories they get.

1 comment:

the_missus said...

Both blurbs allude to tension within the Watch. And yes, people in general are so thick that they think that means it's "the same thing". Sigh.