Dodger by Terry Pratchett
Come one come all to greatest city in the world.
In London, all men are free, the streets are lined with gold and the naughty ladies are friendly to all.
In London there are geezers on ever street corner and every urchin and tosher is an angel with a dirty face. Home to Her Majesty, Fleet Street, the Square Mile and Dodger - known to all, Dodger is crafty, nimble and some what flexible object of lost and found. Its not really stealing if it could have fallen out of a pocket any way, It's a service really. So, you saw nothing, you heard nothing and Dodger wasn't even there.
Dodger rises from the gutter as the hero of London; rescuing damsels in distress and defeating the villains with a smile and a quick wit, but lets not forgot wit gets you only so far so brass knuckles and a crowbar do help.
I still remember my first Terry Pratchett novel. I picked it up by chance and I haven't looked back since, thank god for specials at Waterstones.
It's hard not to compare to Terry Pratchett's non Discworld novels because I love them so much and in Dodger I feel like I am getting a Discworld novel in structure and flavour, but with a difference. There are some definite Discworld style characters, Onan, Dodger's dog has been illustrated in a manner, and with such personality, I expected him to be able to speak or turn out to be a Wizard of the Unseen University on an expedition from the next universe over, except disguised as a dog.
Pratchett has beautifully narrated Dodger. The story has been written in such a way you can feel the cobblestones under your feet as Dodger works his way around London; thankfully you don't have to feel some other things described. The quality of the writing takes me back to discovering Terry Pratchett for the first time.
Without giving too much away the sewer grate has definitely been left open for further book, and I say yes, more please. One of the few negatives I had of the book was I would have liked a little more back story on the main characters, but there is always room in the sequel. I am not sure if I would have liked it a little grittier but that would have just made it a different book with a different feel.
This is a little left field but I feel that story was been written in such a way that once Terry succumbs to his illness it could be continue on in its own fashion without trying to recreate Discworld, that uniqueness and wizardry belongs to Terry Pratchett. I can think of no greater tribute to Terry Pratchett if his works could be continued in a small way by others.
If you love Terry Pratchett novels you will love this, if you haven't read any off Terry's works before and want to start, you can't go wrong here.
Fergus McCartan, 9.5/10
Dodger is a tosher – a sewer scavenger living in the squalor of Dickensian London.
Everyone who is nobody knows Dodger. Anyone who is anybody doesn't.
But when he rescues a young girl from a beating, suddenly everybody wants to know him.
And Dodger’s tale of skulduggery, dark plans and even darker deeds begins...
Sir Terry Pratchett is most famous for his Discworld series, which is already running 39 books, and although I have given these books a fair chance I just never could quite get into them. When the chance arose to review Dodger, a stand-alone young-adult book, I just had to give it another shot. From the short synopsis I didn't really know what I was in for, but it turned out to be unique, fresh and gave me a sense of urgency to finish it.
Dodger takes place in London during the reign of Queen Victoria, focusing on a time when the majority of inhabitants were poverty stricken. Several historical figures make an appearance in Dodger, including Charles Dickens, Robert Peel and Henry Mayhew. Using this realistic setting of poverty stricken London gives more weight to the story, but the essence of the story centers around Dodger, a young boy orphaned off who now lives as a right ol’ tosher.
It is the character of Dodger that truly brings the book to life. We first get to meet Dodger after he emerges from a manhole to save a young lady’s life. We get to see him as a scoundrel, immediately going on the defensive when surrounded by citizens and police officers who just want to see what all the commotion is about. This was nicely shown by the dialogue that followed, which helped to again emphasize the early 1800’s setting. When this encounter hits the newspapers, Dodger finds himself having to deal with a completely different life. After this point you see his character taking a great developmental leap in terms of growing up, looking after the people he cares about, learning to see the good in people, but also becoming bolder when dealing with thugs. It is a “coming of age” story, and also a “rags to riches” story. Dodger’s philosophies were also a great enjoyment for me to read about. For example:
Even worse, he was being spied on. Plain-clothed policemen!
There ought to be a law against it; everybody said so - it was, well, it was unfair. After all, seeing policemen around kept you honest, didn't it? If they were going to lurk around like ordinary people they were basically asking you to commit crimes, weren't they? It was entirely unfair in Dodger’s opinion.
Excerpt from Dodger p255-256.
This is just one example, but it illustrates why Dodger is such a loveable character – his philosophy portrays young-boy innocence combined with “street-smarts”, protectiveness and surviving.
When I first started reading Dodger, I assumed that the story would revolve around Dodger and his adventures around London as a tosher. But to my pleasant surprise, there is much more to this story. The story often took a number of turns, keeping things interesting and showcasing what a great lad Dodger is. We get to see Dodger trying to right a wrong, trying to track down villains that are beating up young girls, and much more. It is these actions that reveal the true heart of Dodger
Although the whole story was great, I was especially pleased with the ending - it had a real “and they lived happily ever after” kind of feeling. When I finished the last paragraph, an image immediately sprung to my mind of Dodger leaping all over Paris with jewellery in hand, just like a cartoon thief. Great stuff!
All in all Dodger is an amazing book and I am more than happy that I picked up this book. It creates a great display of historical London, contrasting the above ground cleanliness against the below ground filthy and often-times rotten sewers. Add in a lively set of support characters, funny dialogue, great action, and finish it all off with Dodger, one of the most lovable characters that I have read about.
Jasper de Joode, 9/10
Thanks to Random House Children's Books for kindly providing me with a review copy.
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