Discworld: The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
The 28th Discworld book, and the first written for young adults.Imagine a million clever rats. Rats that don't run. Rats that fight...Maurice, a streetwise tomcat, has the perfect money-making scam. He's found a stupid-looking kid who plays a pipe, and he has his very own plague of rats — rats who are strangely educated, so Maurice can no longer think of them as "lunch". And everyone knows the stories about rats and pipers. When they reach the stricken town of Bad Blintz, the little con suddenly goes down the drain. For someone there is playing a different tune. A dark, shadowy tune. Something very, very bad is waiting in the cellars. The educated rats must learn a new word. Evil.It's not a game any more. It's a rat-eat-rat world down there, and that might only be the start.The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents won the Carnegie medal for best children's book published in the UK in 2001, making it Pratchett's first book to win a major award.The story was adapted into a ninety-minute radio drama in 2003, starring Harry Meyers as Maurice and David Tennant as Dangerous Beans. It simplified the story a little, but largely kept to the tone and feel of the book.
This book provides examples of:
Animal Eye Spy: The Rat King can do this with any animal. Even Maurice.
Blood Sport: Hamnpork is thrown into a ring with a terrier. This does not go as expected.
Body Horror: Keith's description to the Ratcatchers of Number three rat poison. It was only laxative they were given, but the effects of the poison are real and no less horrifying.
A Boy and His X: Averted. Maurice does not like being referred to as anyone's cat.
Break the Cutie: Dangerous Beans dealing with the fact that Mr Bunnsy, a children's book where animals are less animal, is fiction.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Sardines is the quirkiest and most eccentric of the rats, always laughing and joking and dancing everywhere. While other rats don't always take him seriously, they can't deny that he, in many ways because of his quirks, is exceptionally good at what he does.
Continuity Nod: A subtle one: at the end, Darktan and the Mayor both express skepticism about Mr. Bunnsy, because who ever heard of a talking rabbit? Anyone who read Moving Pictures, the first time that talking animals appear in the series, of course!
Cross-Dressing Voices: In the BBC radio drama, Nourishing (who is clearly referred to as female) is voiced by a man. Interestingly enough, Fresh and Inbrine (who are clearly referred to as male) are voiced by women.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: What do you get when you Mind Rape intelligent talking cat that is terrified sh*tless for the reason of being surrounded by hundreds of VERY big rats? When you mind rape it so hard that there's no mind left any more, that all the traces of intelligence and even common sense completely disappear? Answer: "A clever cat, but still... Just a cat. Nothing but a cat. All the way to the forest and the cave, the fang and the claw... Just a cat. And you can always trust a cat to be a cat.", indeed. Cue Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
Dark and Troubled Past: Maurice eventually admits that the reason he's intelligent is that he once ate an intelligent rat, and that he still has nightmares about that.
Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Maurice pounces on the Death of Rats to protect Dangerous Beans, then stands there with the Grim Squeaker in his mouth, stunned by the realization of how much trouble he's bound to be in for...
Do Not Go Gentle / Don't Fear The Reaper: Darktan manages to combine both of these tropes in his Rousing Speech to the rats: death in itself is not something to be feared, but the Bone Rat will only pass you over if you can look him in the eyes. Given that it's the Disc, he's likely not speaking figuratively.
Early-Bird Cameo: The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (and their scam) were first mentioned in Reaper Man, although most people reading it assumed Maurice was a human conman who trained rats.
Edible Theme Naming: Since the rats learned to read from food packaging, many of them are named after foods or food-related words (like Additives).
Expy: At first glance, and indeed at second glance, Maurice can come across as one for Gaspode the Wonder Dog; Maurice's Origin Story is similar to Gaspode's second origin (normal stray animals made intelligent from exposure to magical garbage), they're both, on the whole, smarter than the humans they hang out with and use similar tactics in manipulating said humans, and they are both masters of snide and sarcastic comments. As the story goes on, however, it turns out that despite similar set-ups and circumstances, the two animals are actually very different when it comes down to it — where Gaspode is ultimately a pessimist who loves to wallow in self-pity and set himself up as a tragic hero, Maurice has a more positive outlook on life and is a lot more unashamedly a self-centered Jerk with a Heart of Gold — with a bit of a Dark and Troubled Past. Although, given how Gaspode mentions that other animals were affected by the magical garbage, the rats' intelligence comes from the same source.
Fake American: In the audiobook version, Stephen Briggs reads Maurice's lines in a faux-American accent, giving him a casual "used car salesman" voice.
First-Person Smartass: Maurice, in the BBC radio drama, narrates the story, with a bit of extra snark added. The one he's telling the story to is an unresponsive (and dead) Dangerous Beans, while they're both in Death's domain, and Maurice is basically doing a "how did we end up here?" recount.
Idiot Ball: Maurice briefly picks it up in the BBC radio play adaptation when he reveals his ability to talk to Malicia (as opposed to the book where he reveals it in a moment of shock and horror), though, since he immediately Lampshades it and for the rest of the story behaves in an intelligent manner, this can probably be said to be a Rule of Funny:
Malicia: Everyone knows cats can't talk — can you, Puss? Maurice: I can't say a single word! Malicia:Hah! Keith:Maurice! Maurice:Damn! I just fell for the oldest trick in the Talking Cat Book!
Lampshade Hanging: Often by Malicia, occasionally by Maurice, most of all by both together.
Malicia: How come a cat knows a word like that?
Maurice: Everyone's got to know something
Laxative Prank: Malicia puts laxative powder in the Rat Catchers' tea, then tells them they've been poisoned and holds the antidote hostage until they do as she says. The "antidote" is laxative powder too.
Monster Protection Racket: The educated rodents make themselves known and the stupid-looking kid gets paid to lead them out of town and into the nearest river. People never check whether the rats are good swimmers...
The Ratcatchers themselves have a variant going, extorting money from the town to "get rid of" a plague of rats that don't exist, except in their own rat-breeding cages.
Morality Pet: Dangerous Beans to Maurice, much to Maurice's surprise.
Nice Hat: Sardines wears a straw boater with holes for his ears. He says you've gotta have a hat to get ahead.
Sardines is a milder example; the rats generally accept that he's a talented and intelligent rat, but he spends so much time goofing around that they tend to underestimate him. Darktan is amazed at how wily he really can be.
Darktan: I can see I'm going to have to watch you, Sardines. You think like Maurice. Sardines: Don't worry about me, boss. I'm small. I gotta dance. I wouldn't be any good at leadering.
Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Maurice swears he will never eat prey that can talk but is afraid he learned to speak by eating one of the intelligent rats (who had a speech impediment).
Reality Ensues: Used positively at the end: rather than the humans simply accepting the rats and going into a Happily Ever After ending, the rats (with Maurice as their agent) have to broker a complex set of contracts, peace treaties and amendments to the town charter to ensure that this human-rodent cooperation is going to work.
Plus in general, this is always going to crop up with someone as Wrong Genre Savvy as Malicia around the place.
Rodents of Unusual Size: The Ratcatchers acting under the Rat King's influence try to breed larger and larger rats for their rat-coursing pit.
Confronting Spider the Rat King is so horrifying, it robs some of the Clan of their speech and sentience. In The Last Battle, the same thing happens to Ginger, a talking cat, when he comes face to face with the demon/god Tash.
Jacko the terrier is named after a Real Life champion rat-courser from Victorian times.
Nourishing's desperate pleas for Darktan to wake up, she's gotten him out of the trap, are reminiscent of Bigwig's rescue from a snare in Watership Down. Both rescues are made possible because a young, not-too-competent character chewed through part of the trap.
When the rats get philosophical about what happens after you die, one rat is being expressively skeptical and doubting everything. His name turns out to be Tomato, which makes him a Doubting Tom.
Sympathetic Murder Backstory: Maurice once ate a talking rat. However, he was only a dumb animal at the time, and had no way of knowing until he gained his intelligence from said meal. The guilt is shown to be why he's so careful about what he eats.
Unfortunate Names: Well, that's the kind of name you might end up with if you learned how to read off food labels, and chose names based on how you liked the sound. Dangerous Beans in particular deserves special mention.
What Happened To The Keekee?: It's never stated what eventually became of the female rat Dangerous Beans touches paws with. Nor what happened to the eight blind keekees who were freed when Maurice bit through the tail-knot that merged them as Spider: did they regain their individuality, become comatose, or just drop dead?