The 30th Discworld novel and the seventh in the Watch theme."Thud" is the Discworld equivalent of chess, with pieces portraying dwarfs on one side and trolls on the other, at the legendary Battle of Koom Valley. The anniversary of the Battle is just around the corner. Since this was a very important date for both the Dwarfs and the Trolls (No one knows who won, who started it or what the heck actually happened, but everyone cries "Remember Koom Valley!" when they want to get the blood up), tensions are running high in Ankh-Morpork. Commander Vimes of the City Watch is not happy about this, nor about Salacia Von Humpeding, the new vampire recruit, nor about the Patrician's clerks poking about the Watch. Nevertheless, he takes all this in stride, and still manages to get home every day at six to read his son a bedtime story.The situation only becomes worse when Hamcrusher, a grag (a sort of dwarven preacher and lorekeeper, a "deep-down" dwarf fundamentalist) who vehemently speaks out against trolls, is found murdered beside a troll club. Vimes visits the scene, butting heads with Hamcrusher's right-hand man Ardent and a nervous servant named Helmclever, and finding an expansive tunnel system filled with doorways stretching underneath the streets of Ankh-Morpork. While there, he catches his hand on one of the sealed doorways, and it begins to itch...Preceded by Going Postal, followed by Making Money. Preceded in the Watch series by Night Watch, followed by Snuff.
This book provides examples of:
Adult Fear: Vimes' nightmares about his son, which involve empty cots and darkness.
All Trolls Are Different: Trolls in Discworld are made out of metamorphorical rock (a pune, or play on words, upon the terms metaphor and metamorphic). Once in a while a special diamond troll will turn up; these trolls tend to be the kings and leaders of the troll race. This is because diamond trolls are capable of regulating their internal body temperature; troll brains, being silicon-based, work better and faster the colder they get, so diamond trolls are naturally the smartest trolls around
Angst Coma: Vimes remembered at one point Mrs. Oldburton, who went mad after the death of her baby and began compulsively cleaning the house non-stop.
Arc Words: More like Arc Symbols — the mine signs.
Also: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? — Who watches the watchmen?
A.E. Pessimal is similar — although he's a Battle Bureaucrat... wannabe. At the end of the book, Vimes makes him a watchman with a desk job, but stipulates he needs to go onto patrols two nights a week to make sure he understands the job fully. This is the stuffy, short office worker's dream come true—although Vimes is quick to point out that anyone who would go after a troll bare handed, quite literally tooth and nail to protect his commander has earned his place in the Watch... as well as the right to call His Excellency His Grace Commander Sir Samuel Vimes "Mister Vimes".
Brick Joke: Koom Valley was mentioned back in Men at Arms as the only battle in history where both armies ambushed each other. It turns out that was a misunderstanding.
Calling Card: Supernatural variant, as scattered objects near the Dark-inhabited Vimes keep arranging themselves into the Summoning Dark symbol.
Cerebus Retcon: Vimes' previous joke that he used to be "blackboard monitor" in The Fifth Elephant suddenly isn't so funny any more when he ends up dealing with some very fundamentalist dwarves, who attach the same stigma to someone wiping out words as, say, a human would to someone who defaces sacred items.
Also, the revelation of what actually happened at Koom Valley. What was once a humorous Noodle Incident (both sides somehow ambushed each other) is now a tragic mistake and conspiracy that led to centuries of needless deaths.
Chalk Outline: At the crime scene Carrot examines as "smelter", the position of Hamcrusher's body is outlined in glowing chalk made from crushed vurms. A rare case where Discworld does not play this trope for laughs, but for creepiness.
Character Development: Vimes is forced to compromise on two of his most strongly held principles, which go back to Men at Arms and have been referenced in nearly every Watch book since: his particular hatred of vampires and refusal to employ them in the Watch, and his reluctance to ask the wizards for help.
Also, paralleling the way computer technology has gone from a gimmick to mainstream use in police work, he finally learns how to use one of his Dis-organizers and puts it to good use. Granted, he finds a person to do the same work for him, but he seems quite fond of Gooseberry.
Companion Cube: Reputedly played straight by the Tenth Egg Street Can't-Think-Of-A-Name gang, a band of street trolls so thick that they count a lump of concrete on a piece of string as a gang member.
Continuity Nod: In the barricade scene, when the Watch stands its ground between two mobs of battle-crazy dwarfs and trolls, Fred Colon asks Vimes if he remembers 'another barricade.' Colon is of course referring to the barricades erected by the Watch and the citizenry of Ankh Morpork on the night of the Glorious Revolution, at which both Colon and a sixteen year-old Vimes had been present. Colon also mentions Sergeant Keel, who 'pulled a trick or two that night'. The 'Sergeant Keel' Colon refers to was in fact Vimes himself, who travelled back thirty years into his own past during the events of Night Watch due to a major time anomaly that was the focus of Thief of Time.
Mention is also made of Detritus's girl, Ruby, now his wife.
Several to the immediately previous Discworld novel, Going Postal:
Mr. Pony is mentioned briefly as the head of the Guild of Artificers (quite a step up since Going Postal).
Vimes complains about "that idiot from the Post Office" making commemorative Koom Valley stamps (one showing the dwarves ambushing the trolls, the other showing the situation in reverse); afterwards he and Cheery discuss Sto Plains cabbage stamps, which Moist designed in the last book - with the added nugget that they've turned out to be highly volatile if you place too many together.
Dave's Pin Emporium is implied to have become a stamp collector's specialist shop.
Sybil, accompanying Vimes and co. to Koom Valley, cheerfully mentions her and Sam's last 'holiday'. Vimes reminds her that werewolves tried to eat him.
Sir Reynold mentions that the museum's night watchman lives in the attic. Presumably, it was his time-frozen family whom Lady Myria was using as furniture ("Pull up a small child") in Thief of Time.
Cowboy Cop: Vimes always has elements of this, but after the deep dwarfs make things very personal he has to fight the urge to embrace it totally.
"Beating people up in little rooms...he knew where that led. And if you did it for a good reason, you'd do it for a bad one."
Curb-Stomp Battle: the Summoning Dark-possessed Vimes vs. the dark dwarfs. And the Guarding Dark against the Summoning Dark.
Defictionalisation: There are now official 'Thud' rules and boards available. Well worth a look.
They were around at least a year before the book came out. (It's still a Defictionalization, though: 'Thud' was first mentioned in Going Postal and one of Pratchett's fans came up with a set of rules based on the ancient Norse games of tafl.)
Moreover, Where's My Cow? has been published, albeit as the story of Vimes reading a book by that title.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: The contrast between Hamcrusher and Bashfulsson and those who follow them is obviously based on the contrast between radical and moderate Islam preachers.
Although really, it could just as easily apply to extremist versus moderate Christians. Or Jews. Or probably just about any other major religion you'd care to name. It even works for the different varieties of atheism (gain acceptance vs. wipe out religion).
Once again, female dwarfs admitting they're female reminds one of homosexuality. Especially when Carrot implies that the deep-downers (very religious, set-in-their-ways dwarfs) are very hostile towards them.
Doomed New Clothes: When Vimes meets a gangster troll in a cold warehouse, the trolls give him a fur coat to keep him warm, and offers to let him take it home to give to his wife. Vimes quickly has it destroyed, to show that he won't be bribed.
Foreshadowing: Quite early in, during one of the Summoning Dark scenes, the narration mentions footsteps, slow, but the Dark knows they'll catch up. They do.
And Mr Shine: him diamond! Mr Shine is a diamond troll.
When Vimes thinks of those guilty of the murders, he says "When I catch up with them, and I will, I hope there's someone to hold me back." That's exactly what happens.
This exchange between Vimes and Pessimal:
Pessimal: Who watches the watchmen? Vimes: (immediately) Me. Pessimal: Ah, but who watches you? Vimes: I do that, too.
"You stared into the dark until it blinked. You stared it down."
Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Sally, seemingly just trying to get along in the Big Wahoonie, but is subsequently found to be a spy for Rhys Rhysson, Low King of the Dwarfs... which Vetinari knows already, and Vimes suspects from the beginning but can't prove, in the usual wheels-within-wheels fashion of most things relating to Vetinari.
Full-Frontal Assault: Blink and you'll miss it, but during the climax, Sally uses her "turn into a cloud of bats" ability during combat, which has the abovementioned drawback.
Both Angua and Sally in their scene in the sewers—drawbacks of being shapeshifters.
He raised the bow again, looked round at a noise like two slabs of meat being slapped together, and was picked up and thrown across the cave by a naked woman. An astonished miner swung his axe at the smiling girl, who vanished in a cloud of bats.
Genre Savvy: Indeed, how did Bashfullsson know Vimes would be going to Koom Valley? Was it the power of story, or the Summoning Dark? Or did he just realize that Vimes (with or without the Summoning Dark) would never stop investigating until he'd rooted out the whole mystery?
Getting Crap Past the Radar: When Angua, Sally, Cheery, and Tawneee have their little night on the town, Fred Colon refers to it as "minge drinking". BINGE drinking is the overconsumption of alcohol, which does occur. "Minge", on the other hand....
Watchmen across half the continent will say that Sam Vimes is as straight as an arrow, can't be corrupted, won't be turned, never took a bribe.
Though Vimes is a Deconstruction: the reason he is incorruptible is his constant vigilance against his dark side.
I Never Said It Was Poison: Vimes calls out the troll Chrysophrase during their talk. Chrysophrase knew there was a troll club found at Hamcrusher's murder scene. Chrysophrase dismisses the accusation by claiming that he has merely overheard Dwarf gossip. Which is probably true, as Brick hadn't yet told anyone what he'd seen when Chrysophrase met with Vimes.
Innocent Swearing: Sam Vimes reads his son his own version of Wheres My Cow with the Catch Phrases of prominant Ankh-Morporkians instead of animal noises, including Foul Old Ron's "Bugrit! Millenium hand and shrimp!" The next day Young Sam announces "Buglit!" to his nanny, and from then on Vimes sticks to the written version.
Insistent Terminology: Vimes can tell the difference between "Mr. Vimes" and "Mister Vimes" and only allows people who have fought alongside him to call him "Mister".
Judging from the audiobook, the issue seems to be not so much that Vimes can hear the difference between Mr. Vimes and Mister Vimes as that in the original manuscript, Brick accidentally called him Missus Vimes, and somewhere along the line an overzealous copyeditor "fixed" the "typo."
Ironic Echo: When Vimes first gets an audience with a grag, he mocks their belief that light is evil and blinds you. However, some dozens of pages later, Vimes talks about visible shades of darkness, and recalls the memory of when he stopped using the lantern in the Night Watch.
He'd learned, then, not to use his little lantern. Light only ruined your vision, it blinded you. You stared into the dark until it blinked. You stared it down.
It's Not Porn, It's Art: Spoofed in both directions: Colon reasons that a picture's in a museum and has an urn, a plinth, or a cherub somewhere in it, it must be art; Nobby rationalizes Tawneee's job as "artistic."
Subverted with Tawneee as she honestly believes men come to watch her dance because she's really good at dancing. Some of what she does is quite difficult, see?
Large Ham: Mr. Boggis is apparently in danger of being killed by the god of Over-Acting.
He knew dwarfish, in a 'The axe of my aunt is in your head' kind of way, and it didn't sound like that at all.
Nightmare Fuel: In-universe, Vimes quietly thinks this of his butler. He defended himself against an assassination squad in the cellar using an ice knife. A knife used for cutting foot-wide blocks. It's a foot and a half of steel.
If Willikins wanted someone dead, he wouldn't have taken a prisoner. It must have been a surprise, breaking into a cellar and meeting something like Willikins.
Note that this is a rare positive instance of this trope. When you've got incidents like teams of assassins coming through your basement walls to murder your family it's a very good thing to have a loyal butler like this.
Noodle Incident: Non-comedic example in the Battle of Koom Valley. All they know is that dwarves fought trolls and vice-versa.
The Nose Knows: One of Angua's main contributions to the Watch, but here Sally's ability to sense heartbeats continually threatens to one-up her.
Not in Front of the Kid: When Lady Sybil and young Sam spend time at Pseudopolis Yard, the officers begin combing their hair, speaking quietly and less coarsely, and wiping their boots at the door.
Not So Different: Mr. Shine invokes this subtly on Vimes when the latter questions his concern for Brick:
Not So Omniscient After All: When Vetinari learns that A. E Pessimal attacked a troll bare-handed, he looks genuinely taken aback for one of the only times in the entire series. He has to make very sure they're talking about the same A. E. Pessimal ("Small man? Very clean shoes?"), before asking "Why?"
Carrot: Well, technomantic Devices look like things that are built, you know, out of -
Vimes: Captain, you've lost me again. What are Devices and why do you pronounce the capital D?
Sections of text are set apart, not by Pratchett's usual row of asterisks, but by the symbol of the Summoning Dark. At one point, a section ends with "For Brick, everything went dar-", immediately followed by a symbol that is Dark.
Papa Wolf: Vimes does not react well to the thought of his son being in danger.
Portmanteau: Trolls are said to be made out of "metamorphorical" rock, a portmanteau of "metamorphic", a type of rock, and "metaphorical". This is used to explain Brick: trolls tend to take on the appearance of the dominant rock where they grow up, and he grew up in a city.
Vimes gets a bit narked at the fact that, amid listing his achievements (arresting two armies, killing a werewolf with his bare hands), the people saying this usually include "maybe not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but..."
Revealing Coverup: The dark dwarfs attempt to cover up the truth of Koom Valley, but by trying to do so they lead Vimes right to it.
Shame If Something Happened: After two troll thugs working for the troll crime boss Chrysophrase tell Commander Vimes that their boss wants to see him, Vimes tells them "Well, he knows where I live," to which one of them remarks meaningfully "Yeah, he does." Not a good idea. Later, Chrysophrase insists to Vimes that he never gave orders to make any threats, and had the infractors... dealt with. Later in the story, the Low King of the Dwarfs unthinkingly does this in a moment of anger. To his credit, he immediately shuts up when he realizes what he said and is informed what the fundamentalist grags had ordered earlier in the book (and what happened to the people who carried those orders out)...
Shout-Out: The Long Dark rune, which simply symbolizes the entrance to any mine or delving, is a circle with a horizontal line through it - which in Real Life is the symbol of The London Underground and is displayed on signs outside the entrances to Tube stations.
The term may be a reference to the "long dark of Moria".
"The Gooseberry", the new Dis-organizer, is an obvious one for the Real Life Blackberry mobile e-mail device.
Possibly unintentional, but another well-known fruit-named computer, the Macintosh, was the first computer to become easily usable to new computer users. It was also the 5th Apple computer (after the I, II, III, and Lisa), much like the Gooseberry is the Disorganizer Mark V.
Excellent double pun as well, since (at least in the UK) 'gooseberry' is another term for a third wheel, or in other words someone you really wish would leave you alone and let you get on with the task at hand...
There's also the older than... something legend surrounding King Arthur that his army met Mordred's army to parlay but one of Arthur's knights sees a snake about to strike. The knight raises his sword to kill the snake which Mordred's guys take as an ambush and the whole thing just gets messy. Sounds a lot like Koom Valley, doesn't it?
The unsanitary game of "Poosticks" (referenced in a footnote) seems to be a shout out to "Poohsticks" from Winnie the Pooh
"I do not drink... wine." Subverted by Sally and Angua after a night of what Sergeant Colon terms as a night of minge drinking, as Sally is throwing up in a corner.
Angua: Serves you right for drinking... vine. Sally: Oh ha ha. I am perfectly fine with sarcastic pause "vine" thank you!
A double shoutout, to the American Civil War and the song "War" comes from Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs:
Fred: War, Nobby. Huh! What is it good for? Nobby: Dunno, Sarge. Freeing slaves, maybe? Fred: Absol—well, okay.
"The Battle of Koom Valley" is based on similar pictures in real life. More specifically, it's an allusion to the Civil War cyclorama, famous for being the 'Largest Painting in the World', painted in the 1890's
Vimes maintains three boxes for paperwork on his desk: In, Out, and Shake It All About. This implies the "Hokey Pokey" song is known in Discworld.
Suspiciously Specific Denial: Vimes wonders if "the community leaders appealed for calm" really means that they're winking and saying "Do not use those shiny new battle-axes in that cupboard over there... No, not that one, the other one."
Subverted in that Vimes does, in fact, manage to stop it when it comes to the moment of glowering over the cowering dwarfs with an axe in his hand. Far more awesome than it sounds since in stopping himself he was putting a lot of strain on his body, as in he was tearing himself apart. Thank whatever gods look out for coppers that Angua was about.
Angua: You resisted for about four seconds, and then I brought you down.
Upper-Class Twit: Averted with the museum curator, who despite speaking so posh that Nobby and Colon can barely understand him and being flabbergasted at their (lack of) knowledge of art is never demeaning to either of them.
The dwarves send a suicide squad to assassinate Vimes' family... causing him to pursue their sorry asses all the way into Koom Valley, and filling him with so much primal vengeful rage, he almost murders them.
The Low King of the Dwarves almost pulls this on Vimes in a moment of anger before catching himself and mentioning diplomatically how nice it would be to meet his family. Vimes isn't fooled, but lets it slide.
What You Are in the Dark: Vimes finds himself alone in a cave with the dwarfs who have instigated the entire mess. Egged on by the Summoning Dark, he nearly kills them... but his own will to not cross that line overcomes it.
Who Watches the Watchmen?: Vimes claims that they watch each other. But when he's alone his own inner watchman, the Guarding Dark, watches him.
I watch him. Always.
You Called Me X, It Must Be Serious: Fred is the only member of the Watch alive with more experience than Sam Vimes. Thus when the usually slow Fred calls his commander "Sam," Vimes knows Fred senses something very big and uneasy in the streets.
You Say Tomato: The peculiarly "posh" pronunciation of words used by the Arts Curator draws a lot of comment from Nobby and Colon particularly, complete with its own lampshade and characteristic merciless mocking. Leads to plenty of exchanges like this:
Sir Reynold Stitched: We've had a burglareah, officer! Nobby: A burglar rear? Fred Colon was impressed. You could barely understand the man, he was that posh.