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The fifth elephant by Terry Pratchett

The fifth elephant (original 1999; edition 2000)

by Terry Pratchett (Author), Stephen Briggs (Narrator)

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Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
My re-read through the City Watch sub-series of Pratchett's Discworld novels continues. This one sends Commander Vimes on a diplomatic mission to the land of Uberwald, where he deals with dwarf politics, bloodthirsty werewolves, a scheming vampire, and a potentially disastrous theft.

I think this one feels a bit slower than the last few Discworld books I've read, despite some action scenes involving werewolves or assassins, and the details of the plot are apparently not terribly memorable, based on the fact that I'm not sure I could have actually told you what it was about before I started re-reading. It's also not laugh-out-loud funny the way some of these books are. But it was nevertheless a satisfying read, and one that left me with a smile on my face at the end.

Mostly, I think, because it goes a great job with the character stuff. Casting Sam Vimes in the role of diplomat is pretty much guaranteed to be entertaining, and Prachett definitely lives up to expectations there. Vimes is simultaneously terrible and brilliant at it, and it is glorious. I'm also pleased that his wife Sybil gets some moments to really shine, after mostly just being a vague, supportive figure in the background for the last couple of books. Angua gets some development and backstory, too, although I have to admit I didn't find that quite as interesting as I would have liked. Oh, and I had apparently utterly forgotten what an appealing character the Low King of the Dwarfs is. Actually, this is a great novel for dwarfs in general, as it features some surprisingly interesting world-building involving dwarf history and culture. Pratchett being Pratchett, the political and cultural issues here have strong and deliberate echoes of our own world, but they also feel like they work on their own terms, too.

Rating: I guess I'm going to call this 4/5, being as it's a solid Discworld novel, but not one of the real standouts. Although I'm very tempted to bump it up a half-star just for Vimes being so... Vimes. ( )
  bragan | Jul 18, 2017 |
Just okay (political intrigue not my favorite theme) but 3 stars because of the Igors. ( )
  mrsrobin | Jun 24, 2017 |
The Fifth Elephant is the fifth book in the Watch subseries of Discworld. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, my enjoyment of the Watch books has grown as the series has progressed. With this book however, I wasn’t as entertained by it as I had been by the last couple. I’m not sure if it was the book or if it was me, since I was traveling on business this week and I was surprisingly tired even though it wasn’t a particularly strenuous trip. There were also a lot of distractions during the bulk of the time I spent reading it.

As with the last couple of Watch books, this is one of the more plot-driven Discworld books. Vimes is sent on a “diplomatic” mission to Uberwald to attend a coronation but he ends up with a mystery to solve. The plot was somewhat interesting, but not riveting. The humor was there, but it didn’t often have me laughing out loud. While the other characters all had their parts to play, Vimes had the largest role and maybe that’s part of the reason I didn’t enjoy it as much. I usually think the other characters in this subseries are more entertaining.

So, all in all, I found this book to be pretty average. I enjoyed it, but it probably isn’t one of the books I’ll look back on with any particular fondness. ( )
1 vote YouKneeK | Feb 3, 2017 |
Yet another romp through Discworld with Terry Pratchett. This time Vimes of the Watch is delegated Ambassador to the distant kingdom of Uberwald to attend the coronation of the new Low King of the dwarves. But when the Sacred Scone goes missing and werewolves, vampires and dwarves all seem plausible suspects in a scheme of international espionage, will Vimes and Carrot be up to the job? And how will Nobby and the others cope with difficult labor relations in their absence? Hilarity and excitement, of course, ensue.
( )
  kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
Vimes goes to Uberwald as a diplomat. Lots of things happen and Ankh Morpork gets good deals with the dwarves. It seems that Pratchett has replaced Rincewind [and other wizards] and the witches with Vimes. I am not sure how I feel about this. Vimes is a good protagonist but I really enjoyed the hapless terror that was the daily deal for Rincewind. ( )
1 vote BookstoogeLT | Dec 10, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 69 (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 (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Terry Pratchettprimary authorall editionscalculated
Briggs, StephenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kidd, ChipCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kirby, JoshCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mazzone, PhilipDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.
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

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.
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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)

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