Monday, August 10, 2015

Review: Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Book Cover: Dodger by Terry Pratchett Dodger by Terry Pratchett
Published September 2012 by HarperCollins
Source: freebie from Summer 2015 SYNC program

A storm. Rain-lashed city streets. A flash of lightning. A scruffy lad sees a girl leap desperately from a horse-drawn carriage in a vain attempt to escape her captors. Can the lad stand by and let her be caught again? Of course not, because he's...Dodger.

Seventeen-year-old Dodger may be a street urchin, but he gleans a living from London's sewers, and he knows a jewel when he sees one. He's not about to let anything happen to the unknown girl—not even if her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England.

From Dodger's encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine in a breathtaking account of adventure and mystery.

Beloved and bestselling author Sir Terry Pratchett combines high comedy with deep wisdom in this tale of an unexpected coming-of-age and one remarkable boy's rise in a complex and fascinating world.

My Thoughts

Dodger is a street urchin, a “tosher” who scavenges in the sewers under London's streets. At seventeen, he's managing all right, with help from Solomon Cohen, a skilled craftman who lets Dodger sleep in his flat. One dark and rainy night (don't all suspenseful stories start out this way?), Dodger sees a young woman leap from a carriage and attempt to flee from two men who capture her and beat her as they try to force her back into the carriage. Dodger jumps to her assistant and chases the two men off. This is all observed by two men, Charlie and Henry, who take the woman and Dodger to Henry's nearby home. Charlie turns out to be journalist Charles Dickens and Henry is his friend, Henry Mayhew.

OK, let's stop right here. Charles Dickens and Henry Mayhew? Really? Yep. Those were real people from the early Victorian setting of this book, and author Terry Pratchett throws them into the book along with other notables—both real and fictional—to make a rollicking good story. I suppose that Pratchett is proposing that Dickens used his acquaintance with fictional Dodger as a base for his Artful Dodger character in Oliver Twist.

Back to the story...Dodger is determined to discover what's going on with the young woman, whom he comes to know as Simplicity. While she recovers in the Mayhew's home, Dodger is running all over London—on the streets and down in the sewers—trying to find out who these men were, who they worked for, and why they want to capture her.

While on a solo road trip a couple of weeks ago, I spent most of the time in the car listening to audio books. I started listening to Dodger as I headed from my house down to my son's to spend part of Saturday with my grandson. As I took off for Georgia later that afternoon, I was still enjoying the story and its delivery by narrator Stephen Briggs. Dodger and his friends—Simplicity, Charles Dickens, Solomon, and even the dog Onan—kept me company almost all the way to Auburn, AL, from Texas.

This is the first book I've read by Terry Prachett and I have no “baggage” from being a die-hard Discworld fan. I really liked this book. It's sitting up there as one of the best I've read this year.


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