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Feet of Clay (1996)

by Terry Pratchett

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Discworld: City Watch (3), Discworld (19)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,471102652 (4.12)191
It's murder in Discworld! -- which ordinarily is no big deal. But what bothers Watch Commander Sir Sam Vimes is that the unusual deaths of three elderly Ankh-Morporkians do not bear the clean, efficient marks of the Assassins' Guild. An apparent lack of any motive is also quitetroubling. All Vimes has are some tracks of white clay and more of those bothersome "clue" things that only serve to muck up an investigation. The anger of a fearful populace is already being dangerously channeled toward the city's small community of golems -- the mindless, absurdlyindustrious creatures of baked clay who can occasionally be found toiling in the city's factories. And certain highly placed personages are using the unrest as an excuse to resurrect a monarchy -- which would be bad enough even if the "king" they were grooming wasn't as empty-headed as your typical animated pottery.… (more)
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» See also 191 mentions

English (95)  Spanish (2)  Polish (1)  Dutch (1)  Hungarian (1)  Norwegian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (102)
Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
Another attempt to install a king in Ankh-Morpork coincides with a disturbance among the golems of the city. ( )
  ritaer | Jun 29, 2020 |
I really enjoy the City Watch novels because every character is a hoot. Vimes is off the hooch, Nobby is about to be crowned king, and there are truly mysterious murders going on. And attempted murders. Of Vetinari, no less.

This is one of those super-solid Discworld novels. Pratchett has his thing going on, full tilt. Discrimination is explored on a much broader basis than ever before and just imagine... GOLEMS! So everywhere that NO ONE NOTICES them. Solution?

Revolution. Of a sort. If you're going to demand your freedom, make damn sure you ask for a receipt. :) ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |


Reading Terry Pratchett is like eating the perfect fruit cake: textured, complex, filled with bursts of intense flavour that nevertheless catch you by surprise, easy to eat, satisfying but still leaving you wanting more.

Here's an example of one of the surprises.

Mr Hopkins, a museum curator, has been murdered using one of his exhibits as the murder weapon. He is so annoyed by the damage caused to the exhibit by being used in this way that he refuses to acknowledge his own demise even with DEATH standing next to him. When he finally accepts his own incorporeality, he complains to DEATH, saying:
"This really is most uncalled-for. Couldn't you have arranged a less awkward time?
ONLY BY CONSULTING WITH YOUR MURDERER
It all seems very badly organised. I wish to make a complaint. I pay my taxes, after all.
I AM DEATH, NOT TAXES. I TURN UP ONLY ONCE."
The shade of Mr Hopkins began to fade.
"It's simply that I've always tried to plan ahead in a sensible way...
I'VE FOUND THE BEST APPROACH IS TO TAKE LIFE AS IT COMES
That seems very irresponsible...
IT'S ALWAYS WORKED FOR ME"
This small slice of fruitcake is so rich it's worthy of Bettys Tea Shop in Harrogate. It deserves to be savoured, perhaps with a good slice of Wensleydale and a cafeterier of coffee.

As this was a re-read for me, I managed to control my appetite and consumed "Feet Of Clay" one small slice at a time for three weeks. Re-reading this confirmed my respect for Terry Pratchett's storytelling craft, his irrepressible sense of humour and his ability to bring complex issues to life in a way that makes sense in Ankh-Morpork but which also resonate with my current experience of the world, more than twenty years after "Feet Of Clay" was written.

As I rolled through this enjoyable romp of a book again, I kept finding things to admire.
The means used to poison Vetinari was fiendishly clever. Even so, I'd forgotten it since my last read so I had the joy of rediscovering it and I fell (as I probably did last time) for his playful nod at "The Name Of The Rose".

I love Pratchett's ability to let me see things in new ways, sometimes just through a play on words and sometimes through refreshing a concept.

He never takes words for granted. He knows that, like the Golems of the story, the words in our heads have power over us. So, in the midst of all the chaotic action of Fred Colon's slap-stick attempt to escape a killer Golem we get:
Firstly, the drainpipe he was riding hit the wall of the building opposite. I a well-organised world he might have landed on a fire escape, but fire escapes were unknown in Ankh-Morpork and the flames generally had to leave via the roof.
It's just a little wordplay but it does make me stop and think, "If I blinded myself to reading fire escape that way, what else am I blinding myself to?"

Sometimes, the concept-twisting works more like a running joke, gathering meaning as it splashes through plot puddles. Pratchett gets us used to the idea that Golems are powered by the words in their heads, then he gets us to think about how those words might change and who would change them. He has us nodding along because we're all thinking programming computers and then he twists it back to people. Carrot watches, unable to get close enough to act, as one Golem kills another and we get this exchange with the always pragmatic Angua:
Carrot shook himself free. 'It's murder,' he said. 'We're Watchmen. We can't just... watch! It killed him.'
'It's an it and so's he-'
"Commander Vimes said someone has to speak for the people with no voices!'
He reallybelieves it,Angua thought. Vimes put words inhis head.

This reminder of the consequence of well-turned phrases resonated with me. I've been watching terms like "Brexit means Brexit" and "Make America Great Again" spread across social media like mould on a shower curtain and I know they affect real life.

Then there's the way Terry Pratchett twists that moment, which is a commonplace in crime drama, when the detective and the (smug at being so astute while actually having been led by the nose) reader have the insight that solves the case. This is how Vimes, a man who is too sunk in despair and too quick of mind to believe in clues, sees that ah-ha moment:

This is it, he thought- This is where we've filled ourselves up with so many questions that they're starting to overflow and become answers
This reframing of the commonplace so that I see it differently makes reading and re-reading Terry Pratchett rewarding. We see the twist, we smile and then we say to ourselves, "but actually, that's true as well as funny."

Part of the power of the City Watch series comes from Terry Pratchett's deep understanding of the need for the rule of law. It's in Vimes' marrow, a bone-deep belief, not a theoretical concept. This time, it's balanced against the hunger for freedom on one side and the reflexive need for a King or other authority figure on the other. Vimes uses the law to mitigate the worst effects of both urges. I particularly liked this exchange between Vimes and Vetinari. I've been on the receiving end of a comment much like Vetinari's and both he and Vimes make perfect sense to me. Vetinari says:
'Commander, I always used to consider that you had an anti-authoritarian streak in you.'
'Sir?'
'It seems you've managd to retain this even though you are authority.'
'Sir?'
'That's practically Zen'
'Sir?'
Finally, I admire the lightness of touch with which Terry Pratchett explores what it means to be a person, the power of choice, the need for individuality and peoples' natural tendency to step back from freedom into long-forged habit.

He avoids pompous lecturing by orbiting his diverse cast of characters in the Watch around the central problems of the book: how is Vetinari being poisoned and what is going on with the Golems, to generate a series of choices and insights that make these issues personal and real.

"Feet Of Clay" kept me curious, made me laugh and invited me to think. That's what Terry Pratchett does. ( )
  MikeFinnFiction | May 16, 2020 |
Feet of Clay is probably the weakest City Watch novel in one sense: it's the one I remember the least about, and probably has the least to say. At times it's a bit too much like Men at Arms to be satisfying on its own. But it's also the strongest City Watch novel thus far, as Pratchett continues to refine and perfect the format of this subseries, nailing the existing characters and adding new ones. Vimes's single-mindedness in pursuing the poisoner of Lord Vetinari was pretty great, too. Despite the comedy trappings, there's obviously something fundamentally meaningful underneath all this, and at times ominous; I really liked what was done with the golems. On the other hand, I was surprised that there was a whole chunk riffing on Ian Fleming's On Her Majesty's Secret Service! (Or maybe Pratchett and Fleming just have the same thoughts about heraldry and its devotees.)
  Stevil2001 | Jan 13, 2020 |
The more Discworld I read the more I appreciate the genius that is Terry Pratchett with his social commentary. This one is literally a group creating their own idols, that of course fail to live up to expectations. And this was displayed in more than the main arc, several different cases of the same point were made through the whole book, as well as plenty of other things to think about. It also makes a case for why such useless people like Trump are able to get power and keep it despite their ineptitude. Too many people want a king to tell them what to do, and even more, to tell others what to do. ( )
  readafew | Jan 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
Feet of Clay is another in the sub-series of books about the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. It involves golems, and murder, and an assassination plot, and the Watch's new forensic alchemist, and the rightful king, and the problems of being a vegetarian werewolf. It manages to be both a fine fantasy and a unique police procedural, with some cogent things to say about the human urge for kings. And it is almost continuously hilarious. It is difficult to say anything else about this book without sounding like a jacket blurb. Let us simply note that Pratchett performs to his usual standard.
added by Shortride | editThe Washington Post, Janice M. Eisen (pay site) (Sep 29, 1996)
 

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Terry Pratchettprimary authorall editionscalculated
Blomqvist, MatsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Briggs, StephenCoats of armssecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ittekot, VenugopalanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kirby, JoshCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kirby, RonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pieretti AntonellaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Planer, NigelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sabanosh, MichaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It was a warm spring night when a fist knocked at the door so hard that the hinges bent.
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Just because someone's a member of an ethnic minority doesn't mean they're not a nasty small-minded little jerk.
You never ever volunteered. Not even if a sergant stood there and said, "We need someone to drink alcohol, bottles of, and make love, passionate, to women, for the use of." There was always a snag. If a choir of angels asked for volunteers for Paradise to step forward, Nobby knew enough to take one smart pace to the rear.
It wasn't by eliminating the impossible that you got at the truth, however improbable; it was by the much harder process of eliminating the possibilities.
When you've made up your mind to shout out who you are to the world, it's a relief to know you can do it in a whisper.
'Atheism Is Also A Religious Position,' Dorfl rumbled.

'No, it's not!' said Constable Visit. 'Atheism is a denial of a god.'

'Therefore It Is A Religious Position,' said Dorfl. 'Indeed, A True Atheist Thinks Of The Gods Constantly, Albeit In Terms Of Denial. Therefore, Atheism Is A Form of Belief. If The Atheist Truly Did Not Believe, He Or She Would Not Bother To Deny.' (p. 241 of the Book Club Edition)
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There's a werewolf with pre-lunar tension in Ankh-Morpork. And a dwarf with attitude and a golem who’s begun to think for itself.

But for Commander Vimes, Head of Ankh-Morpork City Watch, that’s only the start…

There’s treason in the air.
A crime has happened.

He’s not only got to find out whodunit, but howdunit too. He’s not even sure what they dun. But as soon as he knows what the questions are, he’s going to want some answers.
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