Review: Truckers

It’s hard to live in somebody else’s world. Just ask Masklin. Forced to fend for a tattered remnant of nomes, nothing came easy. The whole world was too big, and the nomes were prey for everything – including rats. Sometimes Masklin got the better of a rat, and then they had meat for dinner. Other times he scavenged for nuts, or berries, or gray strips of chicken in the diner’s trash. But there was never enough.

So Masklin led the band onto a truck, and it brought them to the Store. There they met other nomes, and saw, for a time, that it can be very nice to live in somebody else’s world.

Then it all went back to form.

In Truckers, Terry Pratchett shows a unique style. It reminds me of Dr. Seuss in that it has at times a childlike simplicity, yet it is clever and appealing. Here is a bit from the first chapter: “The sky rained dismal. It rained humdrum. It rained the kind of rain that is so much wetter than normal rain, the kind of rain that comes down in big drops and splats, the kind of rain that fills the air from side to side, the kind of rain that is merely an upright sea with slots in it.”

There is a lot of humor in the book, often of the type that the characters are unconscious of. The characters themselves sometimes have a comic bent, and one of the nomes’ most striking features, as a race, is their ability to misunderstand almost anything.

Yet for that, the characters are whole people, believable and sympathetic. The finest one is Masklin; he’s a hero, but in such a quiet, humdrum way no one ever notices. Certainly he doesn’t.

The concept of nomes is fantasy, but Pratchett blended it with sci-fi – a union that, when done well, is always interesting, and Pratchett did it well. His nomes are skillfully created, in all their mixed glory, and Pratchett succeeds excellently in engaging his readers in their world.

Truckers never stopped interesting me. The action was light, but the pace didn’t feel slow. The one problem I had with the novel was the anti-religion skew in one of its elements. In this part of the story, certain nomes have a false religion, centering around Arnold Bros. (est. 1905). The idea was clever, and the execution sometimes funny. Nor can I object to the portrayal of a false religion; there have certainly been many. Yet I felt at times that Terry Pratchett was jabbing at all religion.

But it did not ultimately deter me from the book. Truckers is a wonderful novel – written with style, filled with humor, mixing fantasy and sci-fi in a bright adventure.

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