Author: Terry Pratchett
Page Count/Review Word Count: 403
Dodger is a bit of an anomaly – one of Terry Pratchett’s rare non-Discworld books, a book which is nevertheless exceptionally well-written and well-researched and a joy to read. Set in Victorian England, in a period which Pratchett loosely describes as “broadly in the first quarter of Queen Victoria’s reign”, it features a supporting cast of characters including such notable figures as Charles Dickens, Sir Robert Peel, Benjamin Disraeli and the demon barber of Fleet Street himself, Sweeney Todd.
The real hero of our story, though, is a tosher called ‘Dodger’, a sewer scavenger who spends his days beneath the streets of London in the search for lost coins and jewelry which have floated through the sewers on the scummy water. At the start of the story, Dodger saves a young woman from a vicious beating – the rest of the novel follows that story to its irresistible climax.
Pratchett deserves the usual praise for his attention-to-detail, and even though he’s not writing about a world that floats through space on the back of four elephants on the shell of a giant turtle, he’s captured the subtle interplay of the different elements of Victorian England with his traditional style and aplomb. Not only is it believable, it’s immersive – you feel like you’re really there, and you can almost smell the cesspits and the wandering urchins.
Now, I don’t want to go in to the story line in to too much detail, but I can promise that there’s some fantastic character development and a story which continues to grow and grow until it’s something bigger than Pratchett, as big as the city of London itself. I can’t really decide whether there’s room for a sequel or not, but if Pratchett was to push one out then I’d definitely be one of the first people to check it out!
And let’s face it, as much as we all love Discworld, some of the books are a little hit and miss – I mean, there are dozens of them, and they can’t all be great. Sure, I’d rather read a book about Ankh Morpork’s city watch than a book like Dodger, who wouldn’t? But I enjoyed this more than the Tiffany Aching books, and even more than the books about the witches – I guess it’s all just a question of your tastes.