The Fifth Elephant, by Terry Pratchett

The first Discworld novel I ever read, it sunk its claws in deep and I’ve been hooked ever since… (Before we begin, a quick word. Discworld isn’t exactly like here, though there are similarities in the strangest places.)

His Grace the Duke of Ankh, Sir Samuel Vimes, Commander of the City Watch, is unhappy. That’s actually a fairly regular occurrence, but this time, it’s because things have gone too far–the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork has nominated Vimes to represent the city as ambassador for the coronation of the newly elected Low King of the Dwarfs in the distant region of Überwald. Him! Vimes! He’s not a politician! He’s just a copper the Patrician keeps punishing with ever-more-prestigious titles! He’d much rather stay home and run the Watch, but the Patrician insisted (and when the Patrician insists, it’s just safer all around to comply). So now he, his wife Sybil, and a motley crew of watchmen are off to play at politics.

Vimes isn’t the only one unhappy about his new posting–various shadowy figures aren’t happy about it, either. Vimes is notoriously impossible to corrupt, the walking embodiment of service to the Law. And if he finds out what they’ve been up to, there will be hell to pay…

Discworld is, for lack of a better phrase, almost exactly, but entirely unlike, our own world. For one thing, it’s flat and rests on the back of four enormous elephants, who in turn stand atop the back of the Great A’tuin, a giant turtle swimming through space. Racial tensions crop up in the ancient feuds between dwarfs and trolls. Magic is just another job. Politicians actually get things done. And crime, with a complicated system of vouchers and receipts, is well and truly organized.

But it’s not all fun and games. Terry Pratchett, the author, is a master of satire, the likes of which haven’t been seen since Jonathan Swift. His books always, always have a depth to them you’d never expect. Not only is The Fifth Elephant a roaringly funny and engrossing mystery, it’s also a fairly detailed examination of royal successions, labor unions, and geopolitical scheming.

If you’re looking for something funny, something different, something familiar. Something significant, something light, something fantastic and wonderful and strange…well then. Take a trip to Discworld, and see if you can spot the Fifth Elephant.

Favorite Line:

Sometimes Carrot sounded like a civics essay written by a stunned choirboy.

Don’t read if: you don’t like jokes, puns, mysteries, towns named Bonk, wolves named Gavin, or weaponized baked goods.