Anthony Hillman's Reviews > Dodger

Dodger by Terry Pratchett
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Oct 08, 12

Read from October 02 to 06, 2012

Terry Pratchett has spent 2012 away from Discworld releasing two books this year that delve into other matters. Dodger is the second of these and an enjoyable spin on Victorian London.

Dodger is a tosher. That is, he spends his time in the sewers beneath London scavenging bits and pieces that have been dropped from above. It's a dirty job, but Dodger manages to make enough to survive while on the tosh, and is pretty happy with his lot in life. Until one day he comes across a couple of men beating up a young woman and immediately jumps to her defense.

This is witnessed by a couple of gentlemen called Henry Mayhew and Charlie Dickens, and is just the start of Dodger's adventures that involve political intrigue, becoming a reluctant hero a couple of times, and rubbing shoulders with some notable figures of the era (including not one, but two future Prime Ministers). The UK cover features Dodger in clothing that hints at him being the basis for one of Mr. Dickens' most famous characters.

Storywise, Dodger isn't among Terry Pratchett's strongest, as what promises to build to a satisfying action-packed conclusion just sort of fizzles out towards the end. And when it comes to characterisation, whilst everyone is interesting, they all seem to be too perfect. There's some casual racism from the lead character, but this is to be expected from an uneducated young man in the Victorian era who has never left London. Other than that, it seems that Dodger is the best at pretty much everything he tries.

Aside from those few issues, though, Dodger is a very enjoyable read with some great narrative. Especially when it comes to the sections that deal with the inner workings of Dodger's mind... some of his ignorance and prejudices are exposed during these sections more than the actual dialogue. There's also a very minor character who nevertheless has repurcussions on the entire story which provides a new spin on one of the era's most notorious fictional characters.

That said, though, a lot of the prose is fairly accurate to the time and place in which the story is set. If you are American for instance, you'll most likely find much of the language in this book flying over your head.

A less forgiving reviewer would probably give this three stars, but despite a few minor problems I did genuinely enjoy it enough to add that extra star.

Just a warning, this is ostensibly a "Young Adult" novel, but as is the tradition for Terry Pratchett, there may be a few themes that some may consider a bit too dark for children.

NOTE: Terry Pratchett includes a kind of Afterword (though much more imaginitively titled) at the end of the book that provides some context to the book's story, etc. In it he explains that though Charles Dickens is most well-known for bringing the appalling conditions of 19th Century London to the public's attention via his fiction, his friend in both the book and real life, Henry Mayhew did the same thing by using facts. He recommends that you locate Mayhew's bookLondon Labour And The London Poor which provided much of the inspiration for Pratchett's depiction of the city. I intend to do this at some point.
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