“Lobsters flying through the air,” said Vimes flatly.
“And something about sending ships by semaphore, sir.”
“Oh dear. And what is Mr. Scrope saying?”
“Apparently he says he is looking forward to a new era in our history and will put Ankh-Morpok back on the path of responsible citizenship, sir.”
“Is that the same as the lobsters?”
“It’s political, sir. Apparently, he wants a return to the values and traditions that made the city great, sir.”
“Does he know what those traditions were?” said Vimes aghast.
“I assume so, sir” said Carrot, keeping a straight face.
“Oh my gods. I’d rather take a chance on the lobsters.”
Terry Pratchett was an angry man with an incredible sense of humor. That’s why his books have many different themes. On the face of it, The Truth is about how Akh Morpok’s first serious newspaper, The Times, gets started and how it’s competing with the Inquirer and losing badly (because the public interest is not what people are interested in). And it illustrates the value of serious papers. There appears to be a murder. The Patrician appears to have gone insane. The Times gets to the bottom of it all in a drama that will have you chuckling. And that’s great and important. But it’s only the surface plot.
If you read it closely, you will see that it’s also about what happens when a city changes really quickly. Ankh-Morpok used to be an all (or mostly all) human city. It also was not much of a commercial center. Then Lord Vetinari (its Patrician and despot) let in the other races and other ways of doing things. The new technology and the new races transform the city. More dwarves, we learn, live in Ankh-Morpok than anywhere else. It’s not just dwarves, of course. There are zombies, vampires, werewolves, goblins, trolls and golems. Ankh-Morpok’s economy booms as the city becomes a universalist place where everyone pulls in roughly the same direction. Oh, the different races don’t necessarily care for one another but they work together. There is money in that, after all. But all this happens in a very short time. That is the background.
For some people don’t like these changes—even as they personally profit from them. A collection of err.. concerned citizens of some standing decide that they have a different vision of what Ankh-Morpok ought to be. And their vision does not involve a universal place where the different races (more or less) get along minus the occasional brawl. They want an all-human city. Perhaps they would allow a few of the other races to stay but it would be clear that those other races are in Ankh-Morpok on sufferance; the humans could kick them out at any time. And these nobles take action to make that happen.
But the “concerned citizens” of some standing are not the only ones who don’t like what Ankh-Morpok has become. You hear much the same sentiment expressed in boarding houses and on the street. By ordinary people and dwarves. This rapid change is not easy for anyone. And Ankh-Morpok’s first serious paper is right in the middle of it all in more ways than are immediately apparent.
So yes, this is a story about the fifth estate, the first newspaper, the public interest, and what people are (really) interested in. It is also the story of what it takes for a city to become a mass multi-cultural place where different species rub along. More or less. About how hard it is to make that transition and how fragile it is.
Goodmountain grinned. “Don’t worry too much about your father, lad. My grandfather used to think humans were sort of hairless bears. He doesn’t anymore.”