Though it doesn’t feel like it, Feet of Clay was the book that served as my formal introduction to Terry Pratchett’s writing. Through Choosing to Die, a documentary that chronicled Pratchett’s battle with Alzheimer’s and addressed the issue of assisted suicide, I had learned about the man. His writing, however, remained a bit of a wild-card because, unless you count Good Omens, which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman, or the small portion I read of Making Money, I was new to this man’s ever-so-popular style of prose.
Still, that limited experience was enough to leave me feeling somewhat optimistic. Good Omens drew comparisons in my head to The Hitchhiker’s Guide, my joint-favorite alongside Flowers of Algernon,while what I remembered from Making Money left me unsure why I’d never bothered to finish it. This is why, when I saw Feet of Clay at the university’s book store, I was quick to snatch it up, wondering the whole time why their selection included only it and Making Money. Then I remembered how, after buying and reading The Gunslinger, I’d found The Drawing of the Three conspicuously absent from the shelves, despite the fact that the rest of the series was all accounted for. How they stock Anansi Boys, yet not its predecessor, American Gods. Clearly they’d grown accustomed to not making sense.
Looking back, having finished Feet of Clay, it’s even more curious that those were the two that were chosen, as the two appear, to my eyes, to be nothing alike. One follows the City Watch storyline, whereas the other focuses on Moist von Lipwig. Their release dates are over a decade apart. Neither is, as far as I could tell, among the series’ best-sellers. Most important of all, however, is that Feet of Clay reads more like what I’d expect of Rhianna Pratchett’s forthcoming Discworld novels, a daughter whose attempts at capturing the spirit of her father’s work, though admirable, end in relative failure.
With Feet of Clay, I don’t sense the same effortlessness that I recall Making Money having. His humor, in this case, feels unnatural and forced. To provide an example, there’s a scene in which a horse doctor is called in to tend to a man who’s been poisoned, and Pratchett milks the he’s-talking-as-if-the-guy’s-a-horse joke bone dry. Then there are the names of the characters. Things like Cheery Littlebottom and Carrot. It was enough to make me question whether Pratchett was a closet Dragon Ball Z fan; honestly, I was half-expecting a character named after a type of undergarment to show up at some point during the proceedings.
Then there’s the story itself, like the humor, too on-the-nose. Pratchett aims to launch a satirical attack on matters including, but not limited to, slavery, racism, and politics; however, it’s all so transparent that I could feel myself being led along forcibly by the hand to where Pratchett wanted me to go, all the while he stood atop his soap-box lecturing me. Without the humor to enliven it, the satire falls flat.
Which is why there’s hope for Pratchett yet; Making Money, in the short snippet I read, amused me more than the entirety of Feet of Clay. While it could very well be guilty of many of the issues mentioned above, it should at least do what I expect one of the man’s books to do, which is make me laugh, and that’s all I really need.
Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.