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The Fifth Elephant: A Novel of Discworld (original 1999; edition 2000)

by Terry Pratchett

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Member:msbhaven
Title:The Fifth Elephant: A Novel of Discworld
Authors:Terry Pratchett
Info:HarperCollins Publishers (2000), Hardcover, 321 pages
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The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett (1999)

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» See also 157 mentions

English (56)  Polish (1)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (61)
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
Oh boy. Here's another book that has twice now fallen through the cracks of my reading and blogging system. First and foremost, it sat pushed in the back of the bookshelf, unseen, and therefore, unread. Then, somehow beyond my ken, it either wasn't added to my list of books I wanted to blog about, or it was somehow deleted from the list before I had a chance to review it. In fact, even more distressing for my own list keeping (a hand written list I've kept since 1987), the book failed to make it into my book diary.

But in it's own special irony, it's the perfect introduction to The Fifth Element by Terry Pratchett. See it opens with a very important thing going missing — the Stone of Scone — the thing upon which the Low King sits during coronation. A replica of the Scone, kept in Ankh-Morpork, has also gone missing.

Vimes due to his marriage to Lady Sybil, has to don the tights and attend the upcoming coronation of the Low King. Vimes, ever the member of the Watch, sees things aren't as they seem.

Now I happened to read The Fifth Elephant on the heels of Raising Steam the 40th and final book of the adult Discworld books — and the sequel to this one. What that meant for me, is that I could see many of things Vimes could see (and a few he couldn't yet see).

Somewhere around the mid-point of the Discworld series, the books became more plot driven and more oriented towards social commentary. What is begun in The Fifth Elephant is finished in Raising Steam. ( )
  pussreboots | Aug 7, 2015 |
he Fifth Elephant is the twenty fourth book in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. While the books all theoretically stand on their own, I would recommend reading some of the other books about the City Watch first, particularly Feet of Clay.

The Fifth Elephant is just such a great book. It still has laughs, but it’s got a darker, more serious edge to it than some of the earlier novels. It contains so much thought and depth to it, that I don’t know how to sum everything up into one review. Here goes my best shot.

The Fifth Elephant breaks the usual format of the Watch novels when Vetinari sends Vimes as the Ankh-Morpork representative to the coronation of the Low King of the dwarfs, all the way in Umberwald. There, Vimes will have to deal with vampires, werewolves, and dwarf politics. But where a policeman goes, a crime is sure to be found.

“Well, he thought, so this is diplomacy. It’s lying, only for a better class of people.”

As usual, the characters are fantastic. Vimes continues to be my favorite protagonist ever, and the supporting cast is really allowed to shine as well. This book had more focus on Carrot and Angua’s relationship than any since Men at Arms, and I think it was a good move for both characters. Also, I need to have a shout out to Sybil, Angua, and Cheery, who are all awesome female characters.

Actually, there’s a lot I could say about Cheery in this. If you liked Cheery’s arc from Feet of Clay, you will love The Fifth Elephant. Basically, Pratchett started out parodying Tolkien by saying that all Discworld dwarfs appear male and that they don’t have even have female pronouns. However, in Feet of Clay, he introduced Cheery Littlebottom, a dwarf who wants to wear a skirt and makeup and be recognized as female. By the time of The Fifth Elephant, this has become a movement, with many more dwarfs now openly declaring their femininity. Of course, this is a great shock to traditional dwarf culture.

I feel so much for Cheery during this. I love her strength and her determination to be herself, despite what others say to her. There’s a lot of queer subtext surrounding her and the dwarf feminist movement, from her having to come out as a woman to dealing with hostile reactions from others.

“You’re free to wear whatever you want, you know that.“

“Yes, sir. And then I thought about Dee. And I watched the king when he was talking to you, and… well, I can wear what I like, sir. That’s the point. I don’t have to wear something just because other people don’t want me to. Anyway, it made me look a rather stupid lettuce.”

“That’s all a bit complicated for me, Cheery.”

“It’s probably a dwarf thing, sir.”

“And a female thing,” said Vimes.

“Well, sir… yes. A dwarf thing and a female thing,” said Cheery. “And they don’t come much more complicated than that.”

This is part of the larger theme of modernity versus tradition in The Fifth Elephant. Changes are taking place on the Discworld. The clacks, sort of like the telegram, is introduced in this book, and the world now seems to be a smaller and more interrelated place (sound familiar?). In the face of great change, people on the Disc are seeking ways to move forward without loosing the core of their identity.

“You did something because it had always been done, and the explanation was, ‘But we’ve always done it this way.’ A million dead people can’t have been wrong, can they?”

The Fifth Elephant was one of the more plot driven Discworld novels, and it was stronger for it. It says something when a book as amazing and wonderful and The Fifth Elephant is not even the best of the series. There’s still more to come.

“Not natural, in my view, sah. Not in favor of unnatural things.’
Vetinari looked perplexed. ‘You mean, you eat your meat raw and sleep in a tree?”

While I think The Fifth Elephant is a fantastic book that would appeal to so many people, I do think you’d get more out of it if you’ve read the previous Watch novels. With that noted, I heartily recommend it.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page. ( )
  pwaites | Jul 2, 2015 |
Maybe 3.5 stars. Pretty good - imo one of the better Discworld novels. Until the convolutions at the end, the adventures were sufficiently straightforward (for me). Lots of little quotable gems of philosophy. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
Dwarves, vampires and werewolves. Oh my.

The Fifth Elephant is the 24th Discworld novel and the 5th in the Guards series. This book builds on the previous Guards novels, with knowledge from those books necessary to fully understand and appreciate the characters and their situations this time around. Also, being a Guards novel, there is a mystery to solve and Vimes is on the case! Or is that on the diplomacy?

This is a bit different than a regular Discworld novel with less quick laughs and a more complicated plot. The story follows three primary threads: Commander His Excellency Duke Samuel Vimes and his diplomatic mission to Uberwald for the coronation of a new Low King; Sergent Angua goes missing and Carrot is off to find her; Sergent Fred Colon is promoted to acting Watch Captain in their absence and just what that does to both the Watch and the City. However, where there are cops there is crime.

The book has many high points. Vimes, Sybil, Detritus, Carrot, Angua and Cherry are great as always. My absolute favorite was the addition of the Igors. What a great play on that old trope! I hope they are included in future books.

While not my favorite Watch book I still found it an enjoyable read. ( )
  Narilka | Mar 25, 2015 |
I registered a book at BookCrossing.com!
http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/12060328
  JosieRivers | Dec 28, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
Trying to summarize the plot of a Pratchett novel is like describing "Hamlet" as a play about a troubled guy with an Oedipus complex and a murderous uncle. Pratchett isn't Shakespeare -- for one thing, he's funnier -- but his books are richly textured, as the pundits say, and far more complex than they appear at first. You don't have to be familiar with folklore, Leonardo da Vinci and Capability Brown, the history of religion, "Macbeth" and Laurel and Hardy to appreciate them, but if you aren't, you will miss some of the in-jokes. Just consider yourself grabbed by the collar, with me shouting, "You've got to read this book!"
added by Shortride | editThe Washington Post, Barbara Mertz (pay site) (Apr 2, 2000)
 

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Terry Pratchettprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Briggs, StephenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kidd, ChipCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kirby, JoshCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
Many thanks to Peter Bleackley for his help with the dwarf opera Bloodaxe and Ironhammer, which was probably a lot better in his version (and had a lot more songs about gold).
First words
They say the world is flat and supported on the back of four elephants who themselves stand on the back of a giant turtle.

They say that the elephants, being such huge beasts, have bones of rock and iron, and nerves of gold for better conductivity over long distances.*

They say that the fifth elephant came screaming and trumpeting through the atmosphere of the young world all those years ago and landed hard enough to split continents and raise mountains.

*Not rock and iron in their dead form, as they are now, but living rock and iron. The dwarfs have quite an inventive mythology about minerals.
Quotations
Sam Vimes could parallel process. Most husbands can. They learn to follow their own line of thought while at the same time listening to what their wives say. And the listening is important, because at any time they could be challenged and must be ready to quote the last sentence in full. A vital additional skill is being able to scan the dialogue for telltale phrases such as "and they can deliver it tomorrow" or "so I've invited them for dinner?" or "they can do it in blue, really quite cheaply."
He wasn't strictly aware of it, but he treated even geography as if he was investigating a crime (did you see who carved out the valley? Would you recognize that glacier if you saw it again?)
A marriage is always made up of two people who are prepared to swear that only the other one snores.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
SAM VIMES IS A MAN ON THE RUN. YESTERDAY HE WAS A DUKE, A CHIEF OF POLICE AND THE AMBASSADOR TO THE MYSTERIOUS FAT-RICH COUNTRY OF UBERWALD.

Now he has nothing but his native wit and the gloomy trousers of Uncle Vanya (don't ask). It's snowing. It's freezing. And if he can't make it through the forest to civilization there's going to be a terrible war.

But there are monsters on his trail. They're bright. They're fast. They're werewolves - and they're catching up.

The Fifth Elephant is Terry Pratchett's latest installment in the Discworld cycle, this time starring dwarfs, diplomacy, intrigue and big lumps of fat.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061020400, Mass Market Paperback)

Terry Pratchett has a seemingly endless capacity for generating inventively comic novels about the Discworld and its inhabitants, but there is in the hearts of most of his admirers a particular place for those novels that feature the hard-bitten captain of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, Samuel Vimes. Sent as ambassador to the Northern principality of Uberwald where they mine gold, iron, and fat--but never silver--he is caught up in an uneasy truce between dwarfs, werewolves, and vampires in the theft of the Scone of Stone (a particularly important piece of dwarf bread) and in the old werewolf custom of giving humans a short start in the hunt and then cheating.

Pratchett is always at his best when the comedy is combined with a real sense of jeopardy that even favorite characters might be hurt if there was a good joke in it. As always, the most unlikely things crop up as the subjects of gags--Chekhov, grand opera, the Caine Mutiny--and as always there are remorselessly funny gags about the inevitability of story:

They say that the fifth elephant came screaming and trumpeting through the atmosphere of the young world all those years ago and landed hard enough to split continents and raise mountains.

No one actually saw it land, which raised the interesting philosophical question: when millions of tons of angry elephant come spinning through the sky, and there is no one to hear it, does it--philosophically speaking--make a noise?

As for the dwarfs, whose legend it is, and who mine a lot deeper than other people, they say that there is a grain of truth in it.

All this, the usual guest appearances, and Gaspode the Wonder Dog. --Roz Kaveney, Amazon.co.uk

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:21 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Everyone knows that the world is flat, and supported on the backs of four elephants. But weren't there supposed to be five? Indeed there were. So where is it? When duty calls, Commander Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork constabulary answers. Even when he doesn't want to. He's been "invited" to attend a royal function as both detective and diplomat. The one role he relishes; the other requires, well, ruby tights. Of course where cops (even those clad in tights) go, alas, crime follows. An attempted assassination and a theft soon lead to a desperate chase from the low halls of Discworld royalty to the legendary fat mines of Uberwald, where lard is found in underground seams along with tusks and teeth and other precious ivory artifacts. It's up to the dauntless Vimes-bothered as usual by a familiar cast of Discworld inhabitants (you know, trolls, dwarfs, werewolves, vampires and such) to solve the puzzle of the missing pachyderm. Which of course he does. After all, solving mysteries is his job.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 9 descriptions

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