The butcher, the baker ...

Feet of Clay (Discworld, #19) - Terry Pratchett

A part of me, upon learning of Sir Terry's death, thought that it was only fitting to make the next book that I read a Discworld novel; which turned out to be this one. I won't say anything about Sir Terry here as I have already written <a href="">a blog post</a> on his passing and instead will just speak about this book. In fact, it turned out that so far this was one of the best discworld novels that I have read (and that is saying something since there are quite a few contenders out there, and it also goes to show how great a writer he is if he can still hold my interest this far into the series).

At first Feet of Clay reminded me a lot of the movie I, Robot – you know the one where Will Smith discovers that the robots that were created to serve humanity are actually planning a takeover? The problem is that this book was written quite a few years before Will Smith took to the stage playing a cop in a movie that give the term 'loosely based' a completely new definition (and for those who have not seen the film, but read the book, the only similarities between the two is that they have robots in them – well, not quite, but you get the picture).

Mind you Feet of Clay is definitely a 'cop novel'. I would say a 'cop movie' but it is not actually a movie – it is a novel, but I guess the term is sort of transferable. Okay, it is partly a detective novel because there have been a couple of murders, as well as an assassination attempt (isn't if funny that if a person is unimportant then it is a murder, but if they are important they are assassinated – why can't I be assassinated, it would be much better than being murdered – at least in my opinion), and Captain Vimes is trying to find the person behind it. So Vimes (and the rest of the City Watch) goes out to investige the situation - it isn't as if it is an Agatha Christie novel: you know, set in a static place (unless you consider Anhk-Morpork a static place, but for some reason I really don't think that actually counts) where there are a bunch of culprits and you are supposed to work out the guilty party before the author gives it all away. Okay, Sir Terry does give us some clues, such as the Butcher, the Baker, and the Candlestick Maker, but that doesn't necessarily tell you how the poison was administered (and it is quite clever in that regards).

So, what has this to do with robots, you ask? Well, the book is about golems - you know those creatures made of clay (or whatever non-living material may be at hand, including corpses, but in Discworld they are made of clay) who do other people's bidding. Well, they do play a role in this book, and they are effectively the magical version of a robot. Actually, to our modern mind, golems really seem to be a magical version of a robot, and Sir Terry plays that idea up to no end. What is interesting is that this idea goes back to the Ancient Greeks (though I can't quite remember which myth it was) where one of the gods, or was it a mortal, I can't remember which off the top of my head, did create something that was remarkably similar to a robot. There is also another legend, from the Jewish Quarter of Prague, where a golem was created to protect the Jews from their enemies (a legend that I discovered when I actually visited that city where I picked up a book called The Prague Golem).

Interestingly enough he is also playing up the fears of automation in this book as well. We, or at least the working class, don't like robots because they take away our jobs. However these robots are so much more efficient, and faster, than any human could ever be. In Discworld we are told that golems do not eat, sleep, or require any maintenance so they are much better than the ordinary worker. However, the problem is that they scare people, they scare people because they are so life like, yet they are unliving. In a sense they have a body, and a mind, but they have no soul. This is probably why I connected it with I Robot (the movie, not the book) because, in many ways, the robots were so creepy because of that very thing. In every sense of the word they were alive, but in reality they were not. Okay, they aren't undead – at least undead beings were at one stage alive, but they are not exactly living either.

Anyway, I should probably finish this review off here, though I should say that I really enjoyed this book, and am compelled to continue reading his books right down to the final one. I'm not sure if I will get to the last one, but at least I will try.

Also, for those who are interested, you can find my tribute to Terry Pratchett <a href="">here</a> (and sorry, it may not be as fancy as hiding it in computer code, but I felt that I should probably write one anyway).