Book Review : The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
– Kalyani Gadgil.
Take the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Put it in a blender. Take all the fairy tales you’ve heard when you were kids and squeeze out all the good bits and add it to the blender. Blend till the mixture is quite smooth. Now add a lot of salt. That’s the recipe for Terry Pratchett’s “The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents”. Satirical to the point of lunacy, Terry Pratchett was one of the greatest writers of our times.
Maurice is a talking tomcat with the perfect scam. He gets together with a stupid-looking kid with a flute and a plague of intelligent rats to fool towns into believing they have the rat plague. But that is till they reach the town of Bad Blintz.
The story twists and turns around the fantastic concept that rats are intelligent. But, as the author said in his acceptance speech for the Carnegie Award, the book is about the even more fantastic idea that humans are capable of intelligence as well.
In the town of Bad Blintz, we have some ratty rat catchers and a catty girl. But the Clan and Maurice would be offended if we called them that. The characters in the book do pretty much whatever they want, sometimes making us feel that they don’t care for the storyline at all. They pick up and leave, they are stubborn and stay, they ponder, they negotiate. The girl, Malicia, is quite the reader and loves to spin tales around everyday situations. The cat, the rats and the boy are trying to earn their living, albeit dishonestly. The rat catchers are up to catching rats, or are they? Somewhere in the book are a few fights, a war, and lots of evil.
In this book, the rats bring the reality. Dangerous Beans is their religious leader, a blind white rat. Peaches is his associate, Hamnpork is the Clan leader and Darktan is in charge of the troops. From the time they Changed and began to talk, think and ideate, Dangerous Beans has been curious about their existence, why they do what they do. Between these characters, the author has eloquently explored subjects like religious conflict, faith and belief, reading skills, story-writing skills, old age, leadership qualities, racism, moving on and getting it over with. And we all know reality can get ugly. But in Bad Blintz, reality is dark, evil and sometimes ambiguous on moral issues (but they are resolved in the end). The book fluctuates between satire and comedy and blood and gore.
Wise, vulgar, hilarious, this book is a part of the Discworld Series which, in itself, has over two dozen books and is in keeping with Pratchett’s style of making us think. About 13/20th into the book, Darktan gets stuck in a trap. Nourishing pulls him out of it but notices a difference. “The Darktan she pulled out of the trap was a different rat. It was as though his thoughts had slowed down but got bigger.” That is effect Discworld has on you. The Discworld series is a must-read for any fantasy fiction lover. You shall be missed, Mr. Pratchett.
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- The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett - March 16, 2015