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The 25th Discworld novel and the first standalone since Small Gods.

Building on the the themes of change started in the previous book The Fifth Elephant, another of the Disc's previous Medieval Stasis principles is broken: no movable type. There's a rumour that dwarfs can turn lead into gold - and they can, by making the lead into typeface and undercutting the engravers. William de Worde, a young scribe who makes his living writing for the illiterate and sending letters of news to distant nobles, encounters the dwarfs and ends up writing the first newspaper, The Ankh-Morpork Times for them, with the help of engraver's daughter Sacharissa Cripslock and the photography-obsessed vampire Otto Chriek.

Meanwhile, a plot against the Patrician takes shape. The shadowy organization from Feet of Clay returns, now named as the Committee to Unelect the Patrician. They've obtained a lookalike for Lord Vetinari from Pseudopolis, and hired Mr Pin and Mr Tulip, the "New Firm" of hired thugs, to help them achieve their devious ends. It's up to William de Worde, with the help of Gaspode the Wonder Dog, to get to the bottom of their nefarious plot.

Contains examples of:

  • Addiction Displacement: Otto replaces blood (and menacing well-endowed young women) with the capture of light, an odd choice for a vampire.
  • Arc Words: "The Truth Shall Make Ye Free!" (from the King James Bible). Initially appears to be a simple Running Gag as the printers keep misspelling it - successive editions having "...shall make ye fret" and "...shall make ye fred", yet it turns ominous when the edition that melts over Tulip and Pin reads "The Truth Shall Make Ye Fere"...
    • Also "A lie can run around the world before the truth has got its boots on" (which in Real Life was coined by James Watt, and used by Mark Twain and Winston Churchill among others)
      • Dog Bites Man.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: From the blurb - "William de Worde is the accidental editor of the Discworld's first newspaper. Now he must cope with the traditional perils of a journalists life - people who want him dead, a recovering vampire with a suicidal fascination for flash photography, some more people who want him dead in a different way and, worst of all, the man who keeps begging him to publish pictures of his humorously shaped potatoes."
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Interestingly, even though it's specifically said that Big Bad Lord de Worde never gets his hands dirty with violence—he has men for that—he seems to be pretty good with a sword in the final confrontation. Of course, facing a vampire, that doesn't help him very much...
  • Bad Dreams: Tulip has them.
  • Begone Bribe: William pays his father a generous estimate of what it cost to raise him in order to get him to go away. The money isn't the thing, as Lord de Worde has gold in his DNA, but instead is based on the Dwarven tradition in which betrothed dwarves buy one another from their parents to symbolize their independence.
  • Beware the Nice Ones/Beware the Silly Ones: Otto spends most of the book speaking in a VERY thick accent (even lampshades it by speaking cockney for a sentence), remenisces about Uberwäld and complains about shirts being ruined as they're covered in blood. Even in his Crowning Moment of Awesome he's taking boxing stances and kissing people on the forehead.
    • A later novel strongly suggests that this is a deliberate act on Otto's part, intended to keep people from being frightened of him.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Genre Savvy Mr. Tulip notices something is wrong when Mr. Pin fails to kill Mr. Slant (with fire, from which even a zombie would be hard-pressed to come back) and mutters something about "I think I shall let you live today."
  • Brains and Brawn: Pin is the brains, Tulip is the brawn (outside of his encyclopedic knowledge of art).
  • Brick Joke: DOG BITES MAN!
    • Also, the (alleged) rain of dogs in Treacle Mine Road. ("It was just one dog!")
  • Buxom Is Better: Sacharissa is apparently extremely busty, and believes that a corset and a plain dress will tone those endowments down. They do not.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Eventually done by William to his father.
  • Character Filibuster: As per usual with later Discworld books, and evident in the argument between Sacharissa and William before the climax (with William voicing the author's opinion).
  • Chekhov's Gun: Or rather, Chekhov's desk spike.
  • Continuity Nod: William's oafish brother managed to be one of the only casualties in the war with Klatch, which was the subject of Jingo.
    • Vetinari also mentions the events of Moving Pictures and Soul Music, comparing them with the introduction of the printing press.
    • Harry King grouses about how much golems are demanding to be paid these days. The golems' liberation from slavery first got started in Feet of Clay.
    • When his ominous statment is finally backed up by thunder Otto yells Music with Rocks In! which basically means Rock and Roll! in the Discworld.
    • The Committee to Unelect the Patrician appears to be the same group ultimately behind the plot in Feet of Clay, judging by their Smoky Gentlemen's Club description.
  • Death Equals Redemption: It helps if Death gives you a little post-mortem therapy to help with the redemption.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Lord de Worde's conspiracy is the source of a lot of references to the Watergate Break-in.
  • Empathic Environment: According to Otto, Überwaldian weather is obliging enough to provide dramatic thunder after a portentous statement like "zer dark eyes of zer mind," so he's disappointed that Ankh-Morpork's environment doesn't care. It obliges at the climax, and once things are sorted, he invokes it joyfully.
  • Fake High: Mr. Tulip never seems to get his hands on real drugs, but that doesn't stop him from claiming it keeps his mind sharp.
  • Foreshadowing: After the scene where the New Firm notice the reward posted for finding Vetinari's missing terrier Wuffles, Foul Ole Ron is seen breaking a sausage into three pieces instead of the normal two for him and Gaspode, hinting as to where Wuffles went.
    • Also, one of Otto's dark light photographs hints at the fire that burns down the original offices of the Times and melts the lead in the press.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Otto, at least to his friends.
  • Good Thing You Can Heal: Otto gets decapitated, and it's only a minor inconvenience. His flash also reduces him to ashes several times; eventually he takes to carrying a vial of blood, which breaks on the ashes and revives him.
  • Grew a Spine: William de Worde relative his father. An example of the Coming of Age Story variant of the trope.
  • Hidden Depths: Due in part to his terrible childhood, where the only thing of any value in his village was the decorations in the church, Mr. Tulip has an excellent knowledge of art history and value. He can also gauge a gem's worth by sight.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: Music with Rocks In = Rock and Roll.
  • Hypocritical Humor: A subtle version, but when Vimes asks William who he's answerable to, William answers "The truth," and Vimes pointedly remarks on truth's lack of a fixed address/incentive to smack William in the face if he lies. Coming from Vimes, a man who gets on the nerves of Ankh-Morpork's upper crust mainly because, to paraphrase Rust in a previous book, he sees the law as "some sort of shining thing in the sky", that's pretty rich.
    • Though the difference is that with the Truth, there's no one to reprimand you if you lie, but with the Law, if you break it, you answer to Vimes.
      • The point being, who does Vimes answer to? He once said he wasn't an officer of the government, he was an officer of The Law. So he considers himself accountable to a changeable concept, similar to The Truth.
  • Impaled Palm: The Spike.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Subverted - the "jumper" was really just seeking attention, and has to save William when he faints from vertigo after climbing up to talk to him.
  • Ironic Echo: Once William's got his hands on a recording of "A lie can run around the world before the truth has got its boots on," he replays it, slightly shorter each time until all it says is "the truth has got its boots on."
    • He later tells his father "The truth has got its boots on. It's going to start kicking."
  • Jerkass: If you are a fan of the Watch, you will want to punch William in the nose by the end of the story. And maybe still even if not.
    • On the other hand, he could be said to be challenging the presumptions they make as authority figures.
  • Literal Metaphor: One possible effect of Otto's dark light-using iconograph is to make metaphors real in the resulting pictures. When he takes a picture of William, it comes out as showing his father standing behind him looking over his shoulder.
  • Mental Picture Projector: With a side-helping of Spooky Photographs: Otto's dark light pictures have...strange...results, at various points showing two Vetinaris, silver rain underground, and William's father proverbially "staring over" his shoulder.
  • Mister X and Mister Y: Tulip and Pin, as befits Those Two Bad Guys (as noted below)
  • Name's the Same: There are brief mentions of two characters named Hermione (one a homeless beggar's dissociative personality, the other a daughter of a waste management businessman). The fourth Harry Potter book was just coming out as this novel was published.
    • And the waste management businessman, a product of a life spent up to the elbows in, er, waste, is called Harry...
    • Theres also Foue Ole Ron "Bugrit! Millennium hand and shrimp!"
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: Played with. At first it seems as though Mr Tulip's use of "----ing" is a 19th-century-style censoring of the F-word, but it turns out that he actually is just pausing and then saying "Ing!"
  • Not So Different: William and his father, as noted by more than one character.
  • Not So Invincible After All: Mr Slant is a zombie and already dead, and has also escaped being involved with other anti-Vetinari plots in the past, so he has previously been presented as having Joker Immunity. Then we have a slowly, lovingly described scene where Mr Pin ties a burning rag to his spring-gonne and the text talks about how dry Mr Slant is...
    • Still a Karma Houdini for Slant, as William never actually turns in the recording to the police and Slant's only "punishment" is getting blackmailed into acting as the Times' lawyer. Possibly forever.
      • For free, which must be agony for him.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: On the surface, Otto Chriek is a ridiculous Funny Foreigner who speaks in Vampire Vords. This is part of a deliberate effort to stop people from fearing him because he's a vampire.
  • Pay Evil Unto Evil: The majority of the protagonists' successful denouement involves taking the New Firm's payment for themselves and using it to pay all necessary bills, breaking into a rival's pressroom and holding him at crossbow-point, and plenty of blackmail.
  • Production Foreshadowing: Some of the first chapter's text (particularly the example of the fill-in-blanks letters home that William sells) was first published in The Discworld Companion nearly a decade earlier, ending in "it seems the future may hold great things for young de Worde". Evidently Terry Pratchett was planning this story for a long time.
  • Red Herring: The story introduces a new member of the Canting Crew of beggars, the multiple-personality-bearing Altogether Andrews. On his first appearance his personalities are listed and one of them, Burke, is mentioned with trepidation (the beggars saw him once and never want to see him again), which makes the reader think he will be involved later on. In fact nothing comes of this apparent Foreshadowing.
  • Rewind, Replay, Repeat: William with Mr Pin's Disorganizer.
  • Running Gag: Mr. Wintler and his humorously shaped vegetables, Sacharissa's chest size, typos of "The Truth Shall Make You Free", Mr. Tulip's abuse of the phrase "----ing" and bad habit of getting stuck with Beat Bags.
  • Self-Made Man: Harry King.
  • Secretly Wealthy: William, who's become estranged from his wealthy family.
  • Shame If Something Happened: Vetinari at one point uses this phrase about William. Drumknott considers drafting a contract with the Guild of Assassins until he realizes Vetinari is using the phrase literally and isn't intending to cause any "something".
  • Shout-Out: Mr Pin and Mr Tulip call themselves the "New Firm", in what has to be a Shout-Out to Neverwhere's Croup and Vandemar aka the "Old Firm" (though the characters themselves are based on the same archetype, not each other).
    • "Who has 'not a nice person at all' done in pokerwork on his purse"
    • Similarly, William's informant calls himself "Deep Bone", which alludes to that interesting name chosen by a then-anonymous but pivotal Watergate informant.
      • Pratchett even slips up at least once and calls him "Deep Throat".
    • The troll named Rocky, who puts up a boxing pose when fighting.
    • Pin and Tulip have a conversation at one point that parodies the "Royale with cheese" scene from Pulp Fiction.
    • A possible one to The Hobbit, as one character mentions one winter so cold the river froze, allowing wolves into the city (iverving from the story when it turns out the wolves were quickly killed and eaten).
    • Harry King's name may be a reference to E.G. Kingsford, who made his eponymous charcoal out of scrap wood from Henry Ford's factories.
  • Sidetracked by the Analogy: Vetinari begins talking to high priest Hughnon Ridcully about what a wondrous thing the Clacks are for communication, using an example with a merchant being able to order a cargo of prawns from Genua via clacks. Ridcully, thinking in a way common to the family, spends the rest of the conversation trying to figure out how the prawns would travel from tower to tower and starts wondering if possibly the claws allow them to grab on to the towers as they're tossed.
  • Somebody Else's Problem: William is disappointed to learn that stories in "the public interest" (such as the plot against the Patrician) are not the same as stories the public is interested in (unlikely rumours, funny animals and such.)
  • Stealth Pun: Sacharissa's "It gives me the humorous vegetables" (Read: willies).
  • Stereotype Reaction Gag: Otto Chriek is an Überwaldian stereotype who gets offended when de Worde assumes he's a vampire. Even though he is.
  • Suicide by Sunlight
  • Supreme Council of Vagueness: The Committee to Unelect the Patrician (a reference to the Committee to Re-elect the President from the Watergate affair)
  • Sympathetic POV: From William's point of view, Vimes and the Watch are obstructive of free speech and antagonistic.
    • This gets even funnier several books later, when Moist considers William "a pompous windbag with a bum stuffed full of tweed." He likes Sacharissa, though. Vimes himself has a rant in Thud! about how the Times keeps getting news out almost before he knows about it.
    • Pterry may be deliberately setting up three of Ankh-Morpork's most influential political voices (Commander Vimes, Moist von Lipwig, and William de Worde) to dislike and/or distrust one another, as this is how Vetinari always keeps power-blocks within his city from uniting to challenge his authority.

Vetinari: In return, however, I must ask you not to upset Commander Vimes... *cough* more than necessary.
William: I'm sure we can all pull together, sir.
Vetinari: Oh, I do hope not. I really do hope not. Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress.

    • It helps that none of them want to be the one in charge. Vimes hates dealing with any unrelated to the Watch. William says that there have been far worse rulers than Vetinari and fights to clear his name. Moist throws himself in front of a pie because he would not survive in a post-Vetinari city. So effectively what Vetinari has done is installed powerful figures who want him to stay in the seat.
  • Theme Naming: Many of the dwarf printers (aside from the leader Goodmountain, which is an Anglicization of Gutenberg) are named after fonts - Gowdie for Gaudy and Boddony for Botoni, for instance.
    • Fridge Logic that in their world, they're probably the inventors of those fonts.
  • There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: Parodied with William's ever-evolving take on the glass-half-full/half-empty metaphor.
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Mr Pin and Mr Tulip. According to Word of God, they are designed to represent the archetype rather than referencing any specific set, though there are specific Shout Outs to Pulp Fiction and Neverwhere.
    • Specifically, Mr. Tulip at one points elaborates on the phrase "get medieval on his arse" (as seen on the page for Noodle Implements). And Mr. Pin has Not a Very Nice Person at All inscribed on his wallet. Mr. Pin also had something very interesting to say about staple fast foods in foreign places.
  • Verbal Tic: Mr. Tulip's ----ing got a ----ing bad one.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Mr. Pin. Big time.
  • Villainous BSOD: Mr. Tulip, after Death shows him his life "as it flashed before other people's eyes".
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: William at first.

Otto: You only have to talk to Villiam for any length of time to see that, in a vay, his father is alvays looking over his shoulder.

  • We Need a Distraction: As De Worde notes, a vampire flailing in pain because of his own flashbulb is always the center of attention.
  • The Worf Effect: Rocky is hired for stopping a barbarian tavern brawler attacking the staff. When Sacharissa goes to the de Worde estate, William tells her to bring Rocky for no particular reason. When they stumble upon the Vetinari double, Rocky gets punched unconscious by Tulip.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Unusually, Vetinari. At the start (see Continuity Nod above) he confidently predicts that the printing press will have some sort of occult power behind it and will be a passing fad followed by Reset Button. But now the dynamic of the series has changed, and Medieval Stasis is slipping away, as noted by William de Worde at the end. Vetinari actually seems subtly disappointed when his predictions were dashed, I guess they made for fun times for him despite the trouble they caused.
    • Given that the main question he asked was whether Dibbler had any part in the operation, it's likely that he wasn't so much Wrong Genre Savvy as Multiple Genre Savvy: he knows that if Dibbler gets involved, everything goes to hell. If an industry starts up without Dibbler's participation, as with the clacks, it's probably okay, so his questions about curses could've been asked merely to determine which genre applied.
    • Or possible Fridge Brilliance, it's only after this he starts the Undertaking, since now he knows the Stasis is broken.
  • You Know What They Say About X...: Mr. Windling, one of the tenants at the boarding house William lives, likes to use this phrase; William eventually gets fed up with it and angrily demands Windling tell him who "they" are and what it is "they" say.