dodger

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Re: dodger

Postby Quatermass » Sat Sep 15, 2012 6:52 am

For anyone interested, I just finished reading Dodger, and did a review on another BBS. I've put the review in spoiler brackets, not because they contain particular spoilers (there are few spoilers for anything beyond the first few chapters, save for one notable mini-spoiler from about a third of the way through the book), but because my opinions on the book may inflame opinion here. Read at your own risk.

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REVIEW: Dodger by Terry Pratchett


Much of Terry Pratchett's output is occupied by his famous Discworld series, but of late, it seems that he is making a comeback to original novels, particularly for younger readers. In 2008, Pratchett published the alternate history novel Nation, a good but serious work. Now, four years later, he comes to Victorian London, a setting that seems so much like Ankh-Morpork of the Discworld books. And anyone thinking that this will be a Pratchettian take on Oliver Twist is in for a twist themselves...

The life of a tosher is a hard one, scavenging valuables from the muck of London's sewers. The street-savvy kid known as Dodger is a little more fortunate than most, in that he has lodgings and a man looking after him. And so many people in the rookeries and other low places of London know him. But when Dodger saves the life of a young woman, calling herself Simplicity, who escapes from a carriage, he finds himself under unwanted attention from corners both benign and malevolent. There's Charlie, the journalist and aspiring novelist, and associate Henry,both well-to-do men who are concerned about the state of London's poor. But there is also those behind the attack on Simplicity, and they will stop at nothing to get her back. Dodger is thrown into an unfamiliar world of poshness and politics, where a woman's life is a price willing to be paid for peace between countries, and heroes and villains are easily manufactured at the stroke of a pen, but Dodger's street smarts might just put him out on top...

Anyone expecting Dodger to be about the character from Oliver Twist are going to be disappointed, although there is indeed a Dickensian slant to the whole book. And Dodger does not explore as many of the deeper themes as Nation does. But while there is a lack of actual depth compared to that story, Dodger more than makes up for it in entertainment value. To be sure, there are some rather dark themes for even older children (Pratchett revisits the spectre of miscarriage from I Shall Wear Midnight very early on in the novel), but at the same time, it's also lighter than many of his previous books for older children. It's a rocking good yarn that will no doubt interest many people in the history of the time (a number of the characters are actual historical personages, with Charles Dickens and Robert Peel being the most famous) as a beneficial side-effect, even if the tale, in the end, feels a little like a tale of sound and fury, signifying little (with apologies to Mr Shakespeare).

I wish some of the characters were a little more fleshed out. Dodger doesn't seem like that well fleshed-out a protagonist in many regards, but he is a competent and interesting hero nonetheless, and Simplicity, while her backstory is interesting, feels just a tad too flat for my liking. Solomon is a rather more interesting character, as is the brief cameo of a certain homicidal barber. Charlie (aka Charles Dickens) is also interesting, although it feels more like London and its society as a whole is a far more interesting character than the vast majority of those here, real or fictional.

Keep in mind that these criticisms are more nitpicks than anything else. Dodger is certainly leagues above many other books, and while dark, it is certainly alive and interesting and entertaining, and will appeal to fans of Pratchett, Dickens, and Victoriana in general...


9/10
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Re: dodger

Postby Who's Wee Dug » Sat Sep 15, 2012 12:12 pm

London was the model Terry based Ankh Morpork on hence the similarites.
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Re: dodger

Postby Oliver » Sat Sep 15, 2012 1:30 pm

Just finished Dodger and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I'll be picking up a physical copy soon to add to my bookshelf. All I have to do is work out which additional freebie I want... the map of Dodger's London sounds right up my street (or should I say sewer).
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Re: dodger

Postby Jan Van Quirm » Sat Sep 15, 2012 2:30 pm

Love Pratchett - hate Dickens writing style (not his fault necessarily - I had an appalling Eng. Lit teacher), so I'm not really naturally drawn to this one in the way I was with Long Earth or even Nation and consequently I'm happy to wait for the paperback.... :oops: I also don't mind spoilers so I'll post comment on commentary quite happily.

I've always seen Ankh-Morpork as based on the London of Fagin and Bill Sykes (with assists from the film of the Lionel Bart musical) namely, dank, murky, smelly and kind of lawless but with 'rules' (and with social strata of a sort) so I guess Dickens' milieu is something ingrained in me so this is a story I do want to read hopefully, so Terry's 'fanfic' will rub off perhaps and let me have another crack at my glaring gap in classic English literature finally :roll: Historical accuracy with a twist does always appeal and the 'unacceptable' underbelly of so-called Victorian values is a rich seam to mine for a story-teller of Terry's calibre so I'm glad to hear that first impressions are giving off some good vibes for Pratchettphiles. ;)
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Re: dodger

Postby Oliver » Sat Sep 15, 2012 4:36 pm

Contrary to my last post (regarding which physical copy of Dodger to buy, now that I've read the Kindle version), I have opted for a signed copy via pjsm.
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Re: dodger

Postby Quatermass » Sat Sep 15, 2012 10:55 pm

Jan Van Quirm wrote:Love Pratchett - hate Dickens writing style (not his fault necessarily - I had an appalling Eng. Lit teacher), so I'm not really naturally drawn to this one in the way I was with Long Earth or even Nation and consequently I'm happy to wait for the paperback.... :oops: I also don't mind spoilers so I'll post comment on commentary quite happily.

I've always seen Ankh-Morpork as based on the London of Fagin and Bill Sykes (with assists from the film of the Lionel Bart musical) namely, dank, murky, smelly and kind of lawless but with 'rules' (and with social strata of a sort) so I guess Dickens' milieu is something ingrained in me so this is a story I do want to read hopefully, so Terry's 'fanfic' will rub off perhaps and let me have another crack at my glaring gap in classic English literature finally :roll: Historical accuracy with a twist does always appeal and the 'unacceptable' underbelly of so-called Victorian values is a rich seam to mine for a story-teller of Terry's calibre so I'm glad to hear that first impressions are giving off some good vibes for Pratchettphiles. ;)


Jan, I should point out that this isn't even fanfic. It's more about someone who has the spirit of the Artful Dodger than his history, and the nearest his life comes to the Artful Dodger is that he lives under the roof of a Jew, although said Jew being much closer to a lower-class Mr Riah (Our Mutual Friend) than Fagin. If Dickens based the Artful Dodger and Fagin on 'Dodger' and Solomon Cohen, then it was a major d**k move, to be fair.
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Re: dodger

Postby Tonyblack » Sun Sep 16, 2012 11:05 am

Terry has stated elsewhere that he read a book when he was a boy called London Labour and the London Poor by Henry Mayhew that greatly influenced him and a lot of Ankh Morpork was a part of that influence. It's interesting that Terry has dedicated Dodger to Henry Mayhew.

I'm not going to give anything away on this thread, but it seems to me that if Terry had ever wanted to write a book about the youth of Harry King, then maybe Dodger could be that book.

I have never read any Dickens, but 'Dickensian' seems to have become a genre word for books set in Victorian London.
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Re: dodger

Postby Jan Van Quirm » Sun Sep 16, 2012 11:16 am

I did use quotes for 'fanfic' - :P

It's well known that Terry's extraordinarily widely read and that Dickens was a favourite author along with Arthur C. Clarke and Wodehouse etc etc with a goodly mix of classic magazine contributors. Everybody does fanfic to some extent as we all have our literary heroes to aspire to and emulate and that kind of thing 'rubs off' even if we're not actively seeking to follow in their footsteps, however ancient or 'specialised' (like Tolkien's massive crush on Icelandic and Finnish saga forms)? :shifty:
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Re: dodger

Postby Quatermass » Sun Sep 16, 2012 11:29 am

Or George Lucas with Flash Gordon and other serial films. Not to mention Lois McMaster Bujold and Star Trek.

You have a point, JVQ. :think:
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Re: dodger

Postby Sister Jennifer » Mon Sep 17, 2012 12:31 am

Thanks for the review. Am looking forward to reading it.
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Re: dodger

Postby Penfold » Mon Sep 17, 2012 8:02 am

Who's Wee Dug wrote:
Penfold wrote:He was on BBC Breakfast this morning at around 9 o'clock. I just caught the end and missed it. :(

You will be able to get it on BBC I player Penners.

Unfortunately, 'Breakfast' is one of the programs they do not make available on BBC I player. :(
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Re: dodger

Postby Who's Wee Dug » Mon Sep 17, 2012 12:54 pm

He willnae tak' a drink! I think he's deid! , on the other hand though A Midgie in yir hand is worth twa up yir kilt.
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Re: dodger

Postby Tonyblack » Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:04 pm

Really enjoying Dodger! :D
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Re: dodger

Postby Penfold » Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:49 pm

Who's Wee Dug wrote:Try this one Penners.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-19597646

:mrgreen:

Thanks Dug, that was the point that I turned the telly on and had missed the bit beforehand. :lol: (I got the impression that they had been talking for a while before this).
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Re: dodger

Postby janet » Mon Sep 17, 2012 5:11 pm

Tonyblack wrote:Really enjoying Dodger! :D

Ditto :D
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