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The Fifth Elephant - Terry Pratchett

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Author: Terry Pratchett / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 06 November 2008 / Genre: Fantasy / Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd / Title: The Fifth Elephant / ISBN 13: 9780552154222 / ISBN 10: 0552154222

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      23.01.2012 17:47
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      Marks a turning point in series where books go from Great to Good

      For me, The Fifth Elephant marks the end of the Discworld's "Golden Age" that period during the mid-late 90s when Pratchett could do no wrong. This era saw the likes of Maskerade and The Hogfather, brilliant titles which summed up all that was good about Pratchett's bizarre world. The new century however, marked a turning point where Pratchett started to turn out books which were still good, just not as good as those that had gone before them. The Fifth Elephant, arguably, marks that turning point.

      The plot see Sir Samuel Vimes, Commander of the City Watch sent to Uberwald on a diplomatic mission. Accompanying him are Detritus the Troll and Cheery the (female) dwarf. Meanwhile back in Ankh Morpork, the Watch is left in chaos as Angua and Carrot resign for personal reasons, leaving the inept Sergeant Colon in charge.

      The Fifth Elephant effectively sums up a problem with the Watch characters. Sam Vimes and his crew are very popular with Discworld fans who always want to see new adventures featuring their favourite hapless coppers. Unfortunately from an author's point of view, there are only so many times you can have the same characters solving a rather bizarre murder within the confines of Ankh Morpork before it becomes predictable and formulaic.

      All too often the solution to this problem is to take characters out of their natural environment and off to someplace new. Almost invariably, this turns out to be a mistake as taking characters out of their natural environment diminishes them somehow, reducing the adventure that follows to a standard "fish out of water" comedy.

      Such is the issue here. Sending Vimes out (more or less) on his own into the wilds of Uberwald is a bit of an error. Certainly, there is some comedy to be mined from the fact that Vimes is totally out of his depth in the world of diplomacy and that he still takes a perverse delight in rubbing people up the wrong way. Yet, this can only sustain the plot for so long.

      Of course, you could argue that taking Vimes out of his natural territory is not really the problem at all. After all, Jingo did exactly the same and that worked out well. Unfortunately, it's not a case of second time lucky as Pratchett compounds the problem: not only does he take The Watch out of their natural element, he also splits them up.

      This is really where The Fifth Elephant falls down. The Watch have always worked best as a group. Certainly, there are some members (Vimes, Carrott, Colon, "Nobby" Nobbs) who are more prominent and able to sustain some lone adventures. However, their real strength lies in the way they blend together. The bickering, constant misunderstandings and general ineptitude has provided moments of sheer comedy gold, giving rise to conversations which are so funny that they have that rare ability to make you disgrace yourself by snorting loudly with laughter in public. By splitting them up, and sending them here there and everywhere on different missions loses this sense of camaraderie and the real comic strength of The Watch dissipates.

      That's not to say that the Fifth Elephant is not funny, rather that the comedy is a little more intermittent than in the titles which immediately precede it. Colon's inept attempts at "officering" and his obsession with the missing sugar lumps are priceless and capture that same absurd humour of earlier books. Pratchett also uses these moments to make his usual pithy observations on life and the world; particularly about what happens when people get promoted above their level of competence.

      The introduction of a number of other new(ish) characters also provides some compensation for the loss of The Watch. The return of Igor, the lurching, lisping henchman first seen in Carpe Jugulum is great fun and his manner of speech is inspired; poking fun at the clichés of old horror movies, whilst simultaneously acting as an affectionate homage. There's also a welcome opportunity to discover a little more background information about some familiar characters, including a glimpse at Angua's family, which adds some depth to existing characters and enhances our understanding of them.

      Sadly, though, the plot is rather pedestrian and dull at times. Many of the book's funnier moments occur in the first 100 pages or so and after that it becomes rather uneven. As noted above, the funniest episodes surround Colon's attempts to run the Watch in Vimes' absence; yet a strong opening, Colon virtually disappears. In fact, you almost wonder whether Pratchett has actually written the wrong book; instead of following Vimes to Uberwald, should he have remained in Ankh Morpork to focus on Colon's incompetence?

      It's not that The Fifth Elephant is a bad book it's simply that by the standards of the preceding titles it's rather average. There are moments that will make you laugh, plenty of Pratchett's trademark cynical observations on life and lots of amusing footnotes. In other words, all the elements that made previous Discworld novels so successful. The real issue is that there are not enough of them and the void they leave behind is filled with a rather dull plot which never really engages or excites much interest.

      On the plus side, the book can be picked up brand new for about a fiver, and second hand for considerably less. Whilst it might not be quite of the calibre of some of the previous Discworld outings, there's still more than enough for fans of the series to enjoy. If you're a newcomer to the Discworld, though, I wouldn't advise starting with this one, otherwise you might just wonder what all the fuss is about.

      Basic Information
      -----------------------
      The Fifth Elephant
      Terry Pratchett
      Doubleday, 1999
      ISBN: 978-0385409957

      © Copyright SWSt 2012

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        20.07.2010 15:06
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        Another great fantasy book from the master of humour

        Commander Samuel Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, and Duke of Ankh, is sent to Uberwald with some of his finest men, on a diplomatic mission regarding large chunks of fat. Now with the City Watch running as smoothly as ever (remember what it was like back in Guards! Guards! ?), it can probably run itself for a while without Vimes' help. The idea of the mission is to take advantage of the crowning of the new Low King - the king of Dwarves - in order to increase the imports of fat underneath Uberwald, which the Dwarves have been mining since forever.

        Legend goes that once, a fifth world supporting elephant (remember this is the world that's on top of the shoulders of four elephants, flying on the shell of a huge turtle), crashed down onto the Disc and died, leaving with it all its bones and fat to be mined happily.

        However, all is not well. With the replica Scone of Stone (an important replica at these coronations) missing in Ankh-Morpork, the Watch believe another replica is being made, possibly to cause a civil war among the Dwarves.

        And it appears Sergeant Angua's past might finally be catching up to her.

        ---

        The Fifth Elephant (an obvious pun on the Fifth Element), another Watch story not set in Ankh-Morpork. This one is a lot different to Jingo though, and everything is official and diplomatic, whereas everything in Jingo was war and chaos. While, like typically in Discworld Watch books, there is an air of mystery surrounding the story, it's really only there at the beginning of the book. The rest plays out differently, but still very well.

        We get a good idea of the past life of Sergeant Angua - part time werewolf and Captain Carrott's girlfriend. I've always liked Uberwald, as a place. It has all the best "horror" archetypes in it. It's the place where mad scientists go if they want a perfectly timed bolt of lightning just as they cackle insanely. Choc filled with werewolves and vampires and Igors, it's a dark and mysterious place, and there aren't nearly enough stories set there.

        By now you'll all be familiar with the typical Pratchett style of making stories and this one is no different. It mixes in mystery, lampoons at diplomacy and conspiracies all within this madcap insane world of magic where anything is possible.

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        17.07.2010 06:37
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        6/10 overall

        The fifth Elephant is the 24th novel in the Discworld a series written by Terry Pratchett.

        For those who have not read any of the books from the series. The Discworld is believed to be carried on top of a giant turtle called Great A Tuin who has on top of him four giant Elephants who carry the discworld on top of their backs.

        The fifth Elephant which the title refers too was believed to have lost its footing a long time ago and fell towards the discworld and separated the continents.

        The fifth Elephant also features the watch who are like the city's watch.
        The Watch has grown so much that they have a new department that now clamps carts if they stay too long in an area.

        Ubervald is a land full of vampires,werewolfs and anything else dangerous that you can imagine.

        Ubervald was first introduced to us in Carpe Jugulem and the fifth elephant goes into more detail of the land and its people.

        As Ubervald grows the citizen's of Ankh Morpork gain interest as to how they can profit from this.

        I found Captain vimes an interesting choice for an ambassador as he is not someone you would recognize for the job position which did add some humor to the story. Terry could have used Carrot as an ambassador and maybe the storyline may have been a bit more humorous.

        The books that feature the watch are not as funny as some of the other books in the series but they do have interesting takes on history.

        This book may appeal to readers of mystery novels as in this book they have their own to solve who stole the replica of the stone scone.
        I was glad to see that Igor was brought into the story again and hope he features in future books a lot more as he is a very likeable character.
        If the books with the watch had a bit more humor than they do they would have been more easy to read.

        Overall did not enjoy this book but the bits of humor there were enough to give it a 6/10.

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          13.01.2008 15:49
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          Samuel Vimes and key members of the Watch are sent on a diplomatic mission out of town...

          Once again Pratchett shows that he really is at the top of his game with this excellent 24th installment of the Discworld series featuring my favourites- the guards of the City Watch lead by Commander Samuel Vimes.

          This time around Vimes is sent on a diplomatic mission to Uberwald following the possible theft (or not according to the dwarves) of ancient dwarven artifact the Scone of Stone shortly before the new King's coronation. Uberwald is the original home of the dwarves, as well as the werewolves and vampires, all of whom share an uneasy truce and whose main exports are gold, iron and fat but never silver for obvious reasons.... Vimes is sent mainly because Lord Ventari apparently has tremendous respect for his diplomatic proweress (or lack thereof) as a Duke and because Vimes is a man that gets straight to the point and GETS THINGS DONE!! Unfortunately as Sam is soon to discover, politics is a very dangerous game which all too often doesn't follow rules...

          Some of the highlights you can come to expect in this, one of the funniest Pratchetts I have yet had the fortune to read, include Ank Morpork's interpretation of traffic Speed cameras and clamps; the first introduction to the collective race known as Igors (complete with comedy lipth which does tend to make some of the narrative near-incomphrensible at times until it is explained but still remains very funny);Seargent Colon taking charge of the Watch with unpredictable and hilarious (almost devastating) results and a welcome return of probably my favourite Discworld character- Gaspode The Wonder Dog who, as usual, provides his own canine perspective on Discworld and is prone to writing letters about the cruelty shown to strays and posting them anonymously to the watch.

          If you have read these books out of order as I mostly have, then elements such as the Clacks Towers featured in GOING POSTAL and the Vampires anonymous programme get their introduction here and it is fun to see how Pratchett almost stores these concepts up for later- anticipating their use in future novels. Not every Discworld novel is a winner but this is certainly as good as it gets and is probably my favourite with it's sly references to Hammer Horror movies replacing our own Transylvania with Discworld's Uberwald and giving it Pratchett's unique brand of twist.

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            23.04.2005 14:37
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            Everyone knows that the Discworld is being carried through space and time by four elephants on top of a giant sea turtle. (And if you didn't know, you do now). But the FIFTH Elephant? Is the title relevant to the story, or is it just a parody of a (fairly) recent and (fairly) dismal sci-fi film starring Bruce Willis? Guess what? I'm not going to tell you. You'll just have to find out for yourselves.

            In case you happen to have been on vacation to Neptune for the last few years, let me tell you about Discworld. It is a planet similar to ours in many ways, but different in at least as many ways, and even some of the similarities are actually differences. (Such as similar inventions existing in Discworld, but working in a completely different way - the classic example is the camera: you press the button, it starts a little whip going inside the box to prompt a small demon into action who paints very fast ...) The Disc is inhabited by all manner of strange, wonderful and dangerous creatures. There is always some sort of conspiracy going on in Discworld.

            The plot of the Fifth Elephant is a prime example of this. It involves the Dwarves and the theft of their sacred scone... The stars of the show are Stan Vimes (commander of the Watch, but in the guise of an ambassador) and Gaspode the wonderdog (accompanying a heroic wolf), on their separate quests (which end up having a combined purpose) to avert a battle between the races... They travel to the fat-laden country of Uberwald, home of the Werewolves and Igor, the lisping butler of the Uberwald Aristocracy... Oh, and Vimes is accompanied by some... less than competent officers of the watch. And a hired assassin.

            With Pratchett's literary flair and the benefit of having several of the best Discworld characters all in the same book (Vimes, Gaspode, the mad inventor, and many more... not forgetting DEATH, of course), this was always going to be a good read. However, the thing that really stands out with this book is the plot. It is very fast-paced, tightly plotted, full of intrigue and unexpected twists. If you took the humour out (not that this would be possible), it would still be a very good book. As it is, it is fantastic.

            Often when I review a new Discworld book, I end up thinking it must be either the best one yet or at least close to it. The same thing happened with this one, and I've now come to the conclusion that choosing a favourite must be nigh on impossible! All you really need to know is that this one can be regarded as ONE OF the best of the series.

            Even though I’ve now read nearly all of the Discworld books and there are many memorable characters, DEATH is still my all-time favourite character. I love his dry sense of humour, and the way he really tries hard to fit in with the people he meets... which, due to the nature of his job, is obviously not that easy. The following short extract thus stood out to me.


            **********

            “

            GOOD MORNING

            Vimes blinked. A tall dark robed figure was now sitting in the boat.
            "Are you Death?"

            IT'S THE SCYTHE, ISN'T IT? PEOPLE ALWAYS NOTICE THE SCYTHE.

            "I'm going to die?"

            POSSIBLY.

            "Possibly? You turn up when people are possibly going to die?"

            OH YES. IT'S QUITE THE NEW THING. IT'S BECAUSE OF THE UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE.

            "What's that?"
            I'M NOT SURE.

            "That's very helpful."

            I THINK IT MEANS PEOPLE MAY OR MAY NOT DIE. I HAVE TO SAY IT'S PLAYING HOB WITH MY SCHEDULE, BUT I TRY TO KEEP UP WITH MODERN THOUGHT.

            “

            **********


            General thoughts about The Fifth Element’s place in the Discworld series…


            The Fifth Elephant still stands out to me as one of the best action-based Discworld novels of all, though it is perhaps surpassed by Nightwatch (also starring Stan Vimes). That book, however, stands out on its own as it is by far the darkest of all the Discworld books, so comparison with it is not entirely fair. Despite the fact that it is the 24th book in the series, it is actually a pretty good book even if you’ve never read any of the series before (you don’t really need to read them in order, but sometimes the later books require a certain knowledge of the characters and events in earlier books – Nightwatch being a prime example of this.) However you should perhaps read GUARDS, GUARDS to get the full flavour of this one.


            As always, thanks for reading! :-D




            ** This is a modified version of my review of this book on Epinions **



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              23.06.2001 19:19
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              Reviewing the newest Terry Pratchett 'novel' is becoming an oddly familiar repetition of the same sequence of emotions. Surprise, that another has appeared so soon, the slight thrill of the hunt acquiring the review copy, the pleasure of the arrival of the Securicor man with the parcel, and then the trepidation setting in as you settle down to read. Later, not an awful lot later, you close the book and remember all the better books that have come before in the Discworld sequence. 'The Fifth Elephant' (is the joke showing?) is the twenty-fifth instalment in the Discworld sequence. Twenty-five hardback books are a large shelf full or the beginnings of a small library; and that is part of, if not all of, the problem. Mr Pratchett seems compelled to increase the volume of his canon faster than he can supply solid frameworks for the books. The last few have been decidedly threadbare, and while this tale is an improvement on those books, it is still a slight candle when compared to the substantial lamplight of the middle period tales. Reduced to the bare essentials the plot is: Ankh-Morpork needs fat (don't ask), Uberwald has it in abundance (thanks to the Fifth Elephant of the title), but Uberwald is in a delicate political position. Whom should Ankh-Morpork send to the coronation of the Low King of the Dwarves? A skilled diplomat surely! Not so, the Patrician elects to send His Grace, Sir Samuel Vimes, The Duke of Ankh-Morpork, husband of Lady Sybil Vimes (breeder of Marsh Dragons), and first officer of the City Watch. Perhaps the least tactful man on the face of the Disc, a copper first and diplomat second. High jinx, confusion, mayhem, crises of identity and so on ensue. The text is peppered with a liberal assortment of puns, jokes and literary allusions (Chekov even manages to sneak in). However these bright flashes seem almost to heighten the shortcomings of the novel. Pratchett lards (sorry) the tale with all the usual ch
              aracters; Vimes, Carrot, Nobby, Leonard of Quirm and so on. If you have read any of the previous Ankh-Morpork novels you will have a god idea of the outcome. The established Pratchett reader returns to these characters with a warm sense of familiarity, the new reader will soon be able to fill in the blanks and join the dance. The single largest problem with the book is this familiarity, both for the reader and (I suspect) the author. Uberwald is a new location for a Pratchett novel, but that is almost as far as the innovation goes. Another great English humorous novelist deployed a similar tactic, familiar cast of characters, similar locations, often carbon copy plots. At least P.G. Wodehouse had the good grace to keep the books short. It is entirely possible that I have completely missed the point of these books, they have nothing to do with innovation in plotting and seek pleasure in the process of revisiting a cast of characters, but I remain unconvinced of the value of this argument. Mr Pratchett has repeated the process so often that you could be forgiven for assuming that he approaches plotting a novel in a similar way to a player approaching a game of Boggle; shake the cubes in their case, observe the results and then compile the words. Taking up the newest Discworld novel is not unlike having lunch with someone who was once a firm friend and is now little better than a vague acquaintance; you enjoy the meal more because it reminds you of happier times than it allows you to renew your friendship. Last time I reviewed one of Terry's novels I said much the same, although I phrased it differently. It appears he and I have more in common than one might suppose.

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                28.05.2001 03:27
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                just before the Fifth Elephant came out i had only just purchased and read all the other discworld novels and i thought they were all excellent books. When one of my friends first told me the next book was called the Fifth Elephant i just thought it was something to do with his weird sense of humour but when i saw an advertisement for the book on the web i immediateley went down to my local WH Smith to get my copy of the book and after reading the book i wasn't dissapointed. The book delves deeper into the rich history and culture of the Discworld making the story seem just a bit more real and it also retains the humour and wit shown in all Terry Pratchets other works. the Fifth Elephant is set in the country of Uberwald, a cuontry ruled by werewolves and vampires and the home of all igors. the story is based around the city watch characters it features Sir Samuel Vimes adn his wife, Angua, Carot, gaspode the talking dog and an entire family of werewolves. Vimes and his wife are sent as a diplomatic envoy to Uberwald to negotiate a deal for trading fat (uberwalds main resource) with Ankh Morpork, meanwhile Angua is having family issues and she also travels to Uberwald with Carrot and Gaspode in hot pursuit. Meanwhile seargant Colon is left in command with hilarious results. In uberwald the country is being pushed to the brink of war between werewolves and dwarves and only Vimes can stop it but as the book says: "He's out of time, out of luck and already out of breath."

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                  29.04.2001 01:57
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                  This is a very good Book. Out of the many books that he has written I think it is one of his best novels. The main story is about how Sam Vimes (a policeman) travels to Uberwold to witness a great crowning ceromony for trolls. He uncovers a plot and a range of things happen from there. This book has lots of story lines shooting off the original plot. There are a variety of different attitudes in this book as well. He writes about romance, politics, and life in general. Pratchett has a very synical view of life and this is portrayed in a very funny way in his writing. It is a very good book and is easy to get into. It has a great plot with many jokes in. However if you have never read a discworld book before i reccomend that you read the first book 'the colour of magic' before you start this one otherwise you might not understand the idea of the novels.

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                    09.04.2001 01:10
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                    Since Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ series of novels became a bestseller, there have been any number of direct imitations and an absolute explosion in the number of comic fantasy books published — and yet none of these rival authors or series has ever equalled Pratchett’s success, either in sales volume, critical reaction, or literary longevity. Why could this be? It is my firm belief that Pratchett simply writes his novels in an entirely different way to those of his competitors. No, I’m not talking about a better word processor or whether I believe he writes his novels backwards, I am in fact referring to the relationship between the plot, characters and action in a comic novel, and the actual humour that derives from it. Many other comic authors, you see, obviously write deliberately funny situations with characters written specifically for those situations. The result is the publication of books which come across as either a series of sketches which are tenuously linked at best, or even worse one long sketch stretched way beyond its natural lifespan. Pratchett, on the other hand, writes novels with plots and characters which would be sufficient to support a novel on their own, and then just allows whatever humour seems to derive naturally from those situations exude onto the page. Not only does this explain his own popularity and longevity as an author — such an author has, of course, got an almost infinite number of plots and ideas at his disposal — it also explains the longevity of those characters which have appeared with almost uniform success throughout a whole series of novels, generating a fan base loyal not only to the author and to the series, but to the individual characters that populate that series as well. ‘The Fifth Elephant’ is Pratchett’s 24th novel in the series, the title referring to the mystical fifth elephant which once supported the disc on
                    the shell of the giant turtle Great A’Tuin as it meanders through space, which apparently crashed onto the top of the disc millennia ago, leaving large fat deposits buried in the ground in certain areas of the disc which are still being mined, mostly by dwarfs, to this day. Obviously the role of fat in this novel is to be displayed as the Discworld equivalent of oil — not an inherently pleasant substance, and not something valued for its aesthetics in the manner of something like gold, but something nonetheless valuable due to its large number of uses to the extent that it has become a vital international commodity. On the face of it The Fifth Elephant is, therefore, intended as a satirical look at international diplomacy and intrigue in our own world — in the early stages of the book, Commander Vimes, the central character of the novel and not a man who is terribly experienced in these matters, states, “Let me see if I’ve got this right … Uberwald is like this big suet pudding that everyone’s suddenly noticed, and now with this coronation as an excuse we’ve all got to rush there with knife, fork and spoon to shovel as much on our plates as possible?”, to which the Patrician replies, “Your grasp of political reality is masterly, Vimes. You lack only the appropriate vocabulary” — through a particularly jaded but unfortunately justified set of spectacles. As per usual, however, Pratchett has several other targets in his sights, and several other tricks up his sleeves; perhaps even more so here than in most of his novels. The actual plot of the book revolves around a diplomatic delegation, headed by Commander Vimes and also composed of his wife, Lady Sybil Rankin, a career diplomat, Inigo, who may be more than meets the eye, and Watch members Littlebottom — a dwarf who has, controversially among the dwarfs, declared herself openly to be female — and Detritus — w
                    ho, also controversially in the country they are visiting, is a troll — who are to travel to the kingdom of Uberwald, a vast, powerful but in many ways relatively backward kingdom, for the crowning of the new dwarf Low King and the treaty-signing and other negotiations arising from this. In the midst of this political intrigue, several other plots weave their way through the book, making tangential but nonetheless definite impact upon the central storyline. Firstly, Corporal Angua, the werewolf, disappears from Ankh-Morpork, and Captain Carrot, her partner and the man charged with running the city watch in Vimes’ absence, resigns in order to be able to track her down, taking along with him Gaspode the talking dog. This leaves Colon in charge of the Watch, a rather undesirable position for the Watch to be in as Colon, usually a rather indolent man rather specifically cut out for his life as a Sergeant, decides to act in the manner of a little Hitler, provoking Nobby, another rather colourful Watch character, to form a Guild of Watch members and declare a strike. And all of this is in the midst of the murder of tradesman Wallace Sonky, a man whose business specialised in the manufacture of rubber objects, the stealing of a replica of the Scone of Stone (the dwarf Low King’s equivalent of a throne) from an Ankh-Morpork museum, and the rioting of rival dwarf factions in Ankh-Morpork, some of whom do not approve of the new choice for Low King, all of which may directly impact upon Vimes’ ability to negotiate in Uberwald, and in fact the safety of his party. Oh yes, and, Vimes discovers, the dwarfs in Uberwald are covering up the theft of the real Scone of Stone! As you can see, this is quite a densely-plotted book, certainly more densely and carefully plotted than many other comic fantasies would be and a source of justification for my belief, stated above, that Pratchett writes novels with plots and characters which would be suf
                    ficient to support a novel on their own. It is relatively obvious, though, from the above that the plot of this book presents to the author his usual wide range of satirical opportunities; not only can he poke fun at international diplomacy, but also at the crime thriller genre of writing, the nature of trade unionism and that form of interaction between disparate cultures which usually involves one culture viewing the other as ‘backward’ whilst the reaction in the other direction is a distaste at cultural ‘decadence’. It has to be noted, however, that this novel, like a substantial minority of Pratchett’s books, is not side-splittingly funny on every page and, moreover, THIS DOESN’T ACTUALLY MATTER. Pratchett, you see, is not merely a good comic writer: he is a good writer full stop. Those areas of the book in which the jokes are somewhat thin on the ground actually fly past as easily as the more overtly humorous sections of the book due to the author’s genuine narrative skill — he has the ability to make a book interesting, compelling, exciting and even emotionally resonant, without the necessity for constant recourse to humour where no good jokes inherently manifest themselves and where the humour, were it to be inserted, therefore, would not actually be funny in any case. With the plot as outlined above, and a cast of characters comprised of both highly-esteemed regulars who have been well-developed over the course of several volumes already and with whom Pratchett’s regular readers are familiar and fond, and new characters introduced for the purpose of this book who are written with equal skill, what actually makes the author stand out above the crowd of similar writers is his confidence. Pratchett is already a bestseller (the biography on the dust-cover begins, “Terry Pratchett is Britain’s best-selling living novelist”), and he knows the audience will generally welcome w
                    hatever he produces; he therefore has the justified confidence to write what HE wishes to write rather than playing the game of trying to second-guess his readers, which is a risky and inherently inaccurate business in any case. Hence the slightly less joke-packed book than normal, hence the longevity of Pratchett’s career, and hence his ever-growing popularity. Pratchett’s readers can always tell him if they no longer like what he is writing, but as of yet this need not happen. Whilst the author’s books have, recently, all been written to a consistently high standard, The Fifth Elephant, to me, ranks as the author’s best for quite a while.

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                      26.02.2001 18:49

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                      I am a great fan of Pratchett's books, I love the way he satirises a well known plot or myth and turns it into an hilarious adventure set in an intricately detailed fantasy world of his own devising. Yet you can still detect a certain fondness for the original text that seeps through to you, the reader. The fifth Elephant is a complex interweaving of several subplots, the crowning of a new dwarven king, continuing the battle for dwarven sexual recognition liberation, and the development of Sam Vimes, once more venturing forth from his "patch" of Ankh-Morpork to do battle upon the world's crimes, investigation the stolen/imitation dwarf crowning scone (an reference to scots and the english...?). The plot is enthralling and Pratchett continues to develop his likeable characters, a sparkling additon to the Vimes saga. Many witty one-liners intwined in an hilarious plot. A great book.

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                      16.02.2001 01:52
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                      First off, I have to admit that i have read every single book Terry Pratchett has ever written. This does not necessarily meant that he's a good writer - I have a lot of spare time and I can read a thickish book in a night. However, some Discworld novels (especially Pyramids, Carpe Jugulum and Men at Arms are faves at the moment) are definitely better than others. Inventive, funny, well written, absorbing, mad footnotes that go off on impressive tangents and genuine characters. Other books seem to take themselves too seriously, and the dull humour is interrupted by jarringly repetitive cliched takes on society that you will have read in a Pratchett book before, or parodies that are as subtle as a brick through a window. Unfortunately, the Fifth Elephant is one such book. It centres around Vimes, one of the worthier (and therefore duller) characters, who is utterly predictable in his "defiance of authority", "monosyllabic conversations with Vetinari" and "tolerance of a loving but rich wife that he hardly understands". If you have read any of the Watch books (Men at Arms, Guards Guards, Jingo or Feet of Clay) before, there is nothing new. The werewolves are not treated nearly as inventively as vampires were in Carpe Jugulum, and this book came as a real disappointment after reading that. I think that if this was the first Discworld novel I had read, and not the 23rd or 24th, I may have tolerated the lumpen cliches better, but I probably would not have bothered to finish the book. About the only new ideas are the introduction of a new setting (a cross between Iceland and Russia, with an obvious and unfunny reference to various Russian plays at one point) and some bits of new technology like telegraphs. In all, a very disappointing book, that is too formulaic and dull, and just not funny enough. In fact, it put me off going straight out and buying the new Discworld as I would normally do.

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                        06.01.2001 17:23
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                        The Discworld. A disc on the backs of four elephants, standing on the back of a turtle, moving through space. So far, so sane, then. This world created by the genius that is Terry Pratchet has now hatched it's 25th edition, and is still going strong. The Fifth Elephant is a fantastic tale of politics, diplomats, werewolves and lots of crossbows. The main character in the story is Sam Vimes, the commander of the Watch, and Detective supreme. This was the first Discworld book I'd completed, as I'm still reading Moving Pictures, and the Colour of Magic. I read it in the quickest space of time that I've ever read a book, and that shows how addictive it was. Pratchett's easy-reading style is compulsively readable, and yet again he has managed to bring humour and a very good plot together in literary matrimony. It is so funny, that you'll find yourself laughing out loud, but it's also got such a good plot, that it keeps you guessing right to the end. With brilliant characters, awesome set-pieces, and comedy that'll knock your socks off, I recommend that you buy The Fifth Elephant, and any other Discworld book you can get your hands on.

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                        14.12.2000 06:36

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                        In my opinion this is one of the best books so far in the series. It has all the usual features, weird characters as well as some new ones in the form of vampires, werewolves and dwarves. The guards are up to their usual form with Corporal 'Nobby' Nobbs exploring new avenues in dress sense, Captain Carrot his usual innocent yet incredibly cunning self and Commander Vimes with his downtrodden yet commanding self. As well as a gripping storyline there are twists and turns galore, and possibly the best part of any book by Terry Pratchett, the fun of trying to spot the vague references to real world happenings. Highly Recommended!

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                        13.12.2000 03:19

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                        Just when you thought that Terry Pratchett could not get funnier he bowls us over with this excellent novel "The Fifth Elephant". This is the 24th book in the Discworld series, and you might think that after that long it would get a bit old hat. Not in the slightest. We have some old familiar characters such as Sam Vines and the watchmen, but as always we have new characters that keep us interested such as Angua the werewolf's noble and deadly family. The plot is fast and furious, and funny enough to keep you in your chair from beginning to end. A must for all Terry Pratchett and Discworld fans.

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                        21.11.2000 22:34
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                        The latest incarnation in the discworld books, the fifth elephant is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed, and it up there with the best in the series. My main reason for the enjoyment was the almost non-stop humour, which I found to be just right, well suited to the book and very entertaining. This book is both recommended to those who have not yet been introduced to the disc world series (although I would suggest you look at the others too) and those of us who are longstanding followers of these great books (– it sure will answer some questions about the other titles) The book tells the story of ‘Captain Vimes’, delivered to a minuscule nation of Vampires, where he is to be there new ambassador. There he meets super-spies, locked room mysteries and hidden forces out to get him and cause trouble in a hilarious tale of adventure and intrigue. The jokes are non stop, the action is a solid and entertaining as ever, and this is a great book at a very attractive price (I paid less than £5 for my copy)… Terry Pratchett has once again delivered the goods. Some said that he was losing his touch (an opinion to which I never agreed), but this will surely silence all his critics. Great stuff!

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                    • Product Details

                      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 gloomy trousers of Uncle Vanya. If he doesn't make it through the forest to civilization, there's going to be a terrible war.