If you have never read anything by Terry Pratchett, you are living an impoverished life.
I first came to reading Terry Pratchett through his novel, Nation. It was an honor book for the Michael Printz award and I find anything that gets close to winning is worth reading. Nation was a spectacular book. It dragged me under and spat me out. I wanted it to never end. There are few books like that. However, the problem with having written a book that powerful, is that everything a reader reads afterwards will be compared to it.
Dodger is another Michael Printz honor book. While an entertaining read, (in my mind it is impossible for Terry Pratchett to write anything that isn't entertaining ) it is not of the mind blowing caliber that Nation is. That said, it is still a delightful romp. If Nation is a full course meal, Dodger is a delicious satisfying snack.
I liked as always Pratchett's wry wit and satirical comments on life. There are many quotable quotes.
I liked the placing of his character in Victorian England wherein he meets up with many significant actors of the era including, Charles Dickens, Henry Mayhew, Angela Burdett-Coutts, Benjamin Disraeli and Robert Peel. Even the fictional Sweeney Todd makes an appearance. I suspect that only Terry Pratchett could do this and pull it off with such dour playfulness.
The dark underbelly of Victorian England, that is, the life of the poor, is revealed in all its gore and glory.
“There were two ways of looking at the world, but only one when you are starving.”
Pratchett manages to educate the reader as he fills in the details of their existence to provide the backdrop for the novel. At the same time he leaves us wanting to know more. This is no mean feat.
The novel is full of adventure and suspense. Readers must abandon their belief in what is possible. This novel is what Pratchett calls historical fantasy. While many of the characters have lived and breathed, Dodger himself is a charming rascal - a modest superhero in Victorian
times with a penchant for thievery. The 17 year old makes a living as a
tosher, someone who scavenges in the sewers of London in search of
money and jewels. He lives with Solomon Cohen, a Jewish clockmaker and jeweler, who attempts to guide him
towards living the right sort of life.
The novel begins on a dark and stormy night in London. Dodger emerges
from the sewers to see a girl being attacked by two thugs. After he
rescues her, two men, Charlie and Henry show up. The girl, later named
Simplicity, is taken in and looked after by Henry and his family. It
emerges that she is fleeing from an abusive marriage that has political significance. Be assured that she is no damsel in distress in any traditional sense. In the process of becoming her "knight in soaking armor" Dodger finds himself mixing with the high and mighty of the times. It catapults him on route to a thrilling encounter deep in the sewers with a gifted assassin.
This is the kind of book that will engage readers in history and most probably make them want to learn more. While in the middle of it, I wanted to go back and reread Dickens. I want to read more about the lives of the many real characters Pratchett introduced us to here. I want to read the work of Henry Mayhew.
Thank you Mr. Pratchett for making my reading life such a pleasurable place to live in.