In which, once again, I try to carry on a coherent conversation about a book, by myself and on hardly any sleep.
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett.
It’s always happy when there’s a reason to read Terry Pratchett, and especially for me, Pratchett aimed at a younger audience. In this case, it was part of testing that library books would work properly on my new (second-hand) e-reader. Maurice is a cat, who’s in charge of a pipe-playing boy (nameless for the first several chapters) and a gang of intelligent rats, who learned to talk and reason following some poor disposal practices at the Unseen University. Maurice is the organizer of a money-making scheme by which the rats invade a town very obviously, the boy comes in and promises to pipe them all out for a nice fee, and then they move on to the next town. As our story starts, the rats are hoping that they finally have enough money to go off and live on their own island, far away from humans. Maurice talks them into Just One More Town, only the town they come to next, Bad Blintz, has some sinister problems. There are no signs of any normal rats, but lots and lots of dangerous traps set up everywhere, and a couple of very competitive rat-catchers. Things quickly move from suspicious to downright dangerous very quickly, and Maurice and the boy find themselves working with a sharp girl named Malicia with an aggravating tendency to expect life to work like fiction, while the rats struggle on their own underneath the city. There is some violence, but nothing in the romance department. I’d say older middle-grade kids and up would enjoy this, and younger elementary kids who aren’t disturbed by the violence might also like it – my eight-year-old likely would.
At the beginning, it looked like it was going to be a Pied Piper retelling, but that was really just the starting point. As usual, Pratchett is amazing on every level. Yes, it’s an adventure story, with characters that start sketched out and gain more and more depth as the story goes on. Maurice is (as I was recently discussing with Dr. M.), that hardest of character types to pull off, one who is both likeable and not. Pratchett is funny on the word level, giving the rats names like Dangerous Beans that I find amusing without being cutesy, as well as on a plot level. Yet at the same time as the characters are running around having hilarious high-stakes adventures, they’re also coming to deep realizations about what it means to be alive, intelligent and conscious. We might want to call this being human, except that most of the characters thinking about this aren’t human. In short, this is full of big thoughts that go down so easily and is highly, highly recommended.
I’ve enjoyed every Pratchett book I’ve read, yet he’s written so much that I’ve read very little of his total output. The ones I’ve reviewed are below. What are your favorites?