Wordplay At Its Best: The Truth by Terry Pratchett

Copyright © 2001 by Terry Pratchett

Nothing like a book full of puns and allusions to cleanse the soul in time for spring. I’d always meant to get back to reading and reviewing more of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. I finally got around to that trend with my latest read, The Truth.

This novel follows a young writer named William de Worde, who one night has the good fortune to encounter a team of dwarves and their printing press in Ankh-Morpork. When seized by this new opportunity, William expands his newsletter to foreign nobles into the city’s first newspaper. Naturally, this leads to a conflict with the city engravers, a hostile relationship with Lord Vetinari and the City Watch, and loads of people clamoring for more stories about weirdly-shaped vegetables. But no one’s prepared for the secret plot being hatched to unseat Vetinari as ruler of Ankh-Morpork, not even one aspiring journalist.

While the cast of this novel didn’t hit me in the same as Hogfather did (which remains my all-time favorite Discworld read), it did have a quality that reminded me of Mort. William is very much like the titular character from that story, idealistic and brash in a way that puts him in danger more often than not. And just as Mort has Ygritte, William has the lovely Sacharissa to assist him, though she proves to be a far more cunning writer than he is. By far, my favorite character in the story was Otto, the reformed vampire and photographer. Besides his Bela Lugosi-type accent, every “vord” out of his mouth is a delight and he has some wonderfully terrifying moments every now and then.

It wouldn’t be a Pratchett novel without loads of puns and clever allusions, and I liked these much better than what I read in Soul Music. Here, there’s a lot more working out all the usual gripes about the newspaper business, from human interest stories to column space to advertising to police trouble. Because it’s one-part political thriller, there has to be a few jabs at Watergate and Deep Throat, but because it’s the grimy city of Ankh-Morpork, the story’s “Deep Throat” is far different than the real-life counterpart.

If I have any real complaints, it’s actually about the protagonist. William de Worde is a great lens for the rest of the story, but he doesn’t really bring much skill on his own. That’s up to people like Sacharissa, Otto, and the dwarves. But to be fair, William does have a knack for getting into people’s faces and being persuasive by whipping out his notebook. I suppose he doesn’t seem like much of a journalist to begin with only because he’s the one inventing the whole profession in Discworld.

At its core, The Truth is a pleasant read from start to finish. It’s a clever satire on journalism, an intriguing political thriller, and a heartwarming tale about dogs, newspapers, and what good writing can do for the world.

The Truth is available for purchase through booksellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Bibliography: Pratchett, Terry. The Truth. New York: HarperTorch, 2001.

2 thoughts on “Wordplay At Its Best: The Truth by Terry Pratchett

  1. I really enjoyed this book, and pretty much everything else Pratchett has written. There’s a delightful playfulness to his writing and his characters that’s exemplified in Otto and the little references scattered throughout The Truth. If I remember rightly this was also the point at which Pratchett really started to bring Renaissance and industrial age developments into the Discworld, which has led to some interesting places.

    You said Hogfather was your favourite so far – why’s that?


    1. Besides the many, many Christmas traditions it pokes fun at, I like Hogfather for how heartwarming a Christmas story it ends up being, and that’s not easy when you’ve got the Grim Reaper playing Santa Claus.

      You can find out more about my views on that book in my earlier review. Thanks for reading!


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