My ongoing quest to work through the Pratchett back catalog continues. I decided to read the books according to ‘type’ as described in this diagram and have worked through all the ‘Watch’ and ‘Death’ books as well as the odd other ones not specifically in sequence. This book “The Truth” falls in the group of books under the heading Industrial Revolution and deals with the introduction of the printing press.
The dwarfs who run the press are in it for the money, and naturally their appearance in the city doesn’t go down well with the guild of engravers for whom this new technology is obvious competition. But who actually needs things printed in the city of Ankh Morpork where it is unusual for people to be able to read.
It turns out that what the city needs is a free press – though not free in every sense – and so is launched “The Ankh Moorpork Times: The truth shall make ye free . Extra” paper.
Concepts of journalism are new and developing with tough decisions about what exactly is news – root vegetables which look like …ehh “bits” always seems to go down well, but political intrigue and investigation doesn’t seem to sell so well. Indeed, in time a red-top competitor turns up, which appears (with the help of CMOT Dibbler) to be simply ‘making up’ stories!
With Pratchett technology tends to come down to boxes with imps in, such as the iconograph, which is a small box with a hole in one side which is covered over. When the iconograph is put in front of a subject and the hole is uncovered for a short time, the imp inside paints a picture of what it has seen through the hole. In The Truth, the Times hires Otto as an iconographer, a vampire, but one who has signed ‘the pledge’ so is trying to go without blood. Otto is developing new ways of making iconographs in the dark by using the light given off by a salamander when startled, the only drawback being the effect this light has on vampires often causing Otto to crumble into a rather inconvenient pile of dust after taking a picture.
This is Pratchett at the top of his game explaining and expanding how new technology is developed on discworld, there is a plot to take over the city and Captain Vimes and The Watch are just around every corner.