For a brief couple of years, my town had a second-hand book and video game store. We went in, jubilantly, when it opened, and I bought the second two books in this series, which was all they had. I never quite got around to reading them, but our first quarantine purchases were the first book in this series (though it ended up being cheaper to purchase the one-volume edition) and Whales on Stilts, another missing first book, that one lent out years ago and never returned. I have been deliberately reading Terry Pratchett’s prodigious work just one or two a year, saving them for hard times. A pandemic definitely counts as time to pull out the comfort reads!
This was in my Cybils Awards TBR ReadDown pile, though it’s old enough never to have been eligible for a Cybils Award.
The Bromeliad Trilogy by Terry Pratchett. HarperCollins, 2003. 978-0060094935. Truckers originally published 1989; Diggers and Wings 1990.
Truckers opens with a discussion of nomes and the faster passage of time they experience. Our hero is Masklin, the only remaining hunter and de facto leader of much-diminished nome colony. Desperate to save the remaining nomes, he hatches a plan to hitch a ride on a truck and leads the whole group to the truck’s nest – a department store called Arnold Bros (est. 1905). There they discover that the Store is home to a large nome population, one which worships Arnold Bros as a divine being and believes that the Outside is mythical. The first nome they meet, though, Angalo, is agnostic and fascinated with trucks.
The official leader of the outside nomes has with him a black box called the Thing, passed from generation to generation. In the store, it suddenly comes to life and starts talking, telling stories of the nome’s past and warning of imminent danger. But if the spiritual leader of the store nomes refuses to acknowledge the existence of the outside nomes because Outside is mythical, how can they pass on a warning? And if the Store they worked so hard to get to isn’t a safe refuge after all, where on earth could they go?
In Diggers, the nomes have indeed left the Store and are trying to survive in the wild, facing great hardships. They think they might have a plan – and Grimma is left on her own, basically leading a group of nomes who don’t want to see her as a leader, both because she’s female and because outside nomes are still not fully accepted by the former store nomes. Wings rewinds to cover basically the same time period from Masklin’s point of view as he goes off on a mission set by the Thing. Will he make it back, and will the nomes ever find true safety?
The characters are recognizably Pratchett, especially including the outspoken Grimma, close friends with Masklin who still calls him out whenever he does anything particularly boneheaded and flat-out ignores the store nomes telling her that girl’s brains will melt if they try to read, becoming the first and best of the outside nome readers. Granny Morkie always knows best and finds a way to make that happen, even while telling the men who think they’re in charge that they are of course in charge. There are words of wisdom that felt classic Pratchett and which I wish I had marked to share with you. Fans of the Wee Free Men will also enjoy seeing very different small people, though this series is less popular and harder to find on Libby than his Discworld books and more recent middle grade to young adult offerings.