Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett
This is one of the novels that shows glimpses of how absolutely wonderful Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels would become. First off, there’s the zany plot. Someone is trying to assassinate Lord Vetinari. At the same time, there’s a problem with the golems, which is to say, one appears to be killing people. If that isn’t bad enough, the civic leaders of Ankh Morpork have begun to imagine life without their leader and have concocted a hilarious plan to put someone more malleable in Vetinari’s office. As you can imagine, it’s up to Sam Vimes and the watch to sort all of this out and they do it in their typically hilarious fashion.
But the best Pratchett novels offer something a little more and this one has a look at prejudice and what it is to be human. Golems are just things—tools—with no rights of their own—except in a world with vampires and zombies, is it really right to say that golems aren’t alive? There’s a lot here for everyone.
Run like Hell by Elliot Kay
I really enjoyed this novel. It takes the current trend toward writing stories that are really simply roleplaying adventures and turns it on its head. The monsters are the good guys—but here’s the twist—they really are. Our “heroes” are a group of outcasts who band together to try and survive a group of adventurers who are overrunning the dungeon they are currently employed in. Most of the monsters in that dungeon are nasty bullies but our heroes are the ones who were getting kicked around by them so in addition to avoiding the adventurers they have plenty of trouble with their supposed allies. And of course, there are the legions of undead who inhabit the lowest levels of the dungeon (an old dwarf stronghold) who are a threat to everyone.
As the novel advances, Kay does an excellent job of drawing out the backstories of these misfits making them even more likable and sympathetic. He also shows us that they aren’t wimps. Their problems largely resulted from having no one to watch their backs in the survival of the fittest atmosphere of the barbaric monstrous society. We also learn that the humans, elves and dwarfs are not so likable either (or at least their governments aren’t). The humans have broken a treaty with the monster races that had kept the peace for three generations and appear to have done so for the basest of motivations—greed and racism. Even the adventurers (who would normally be the heroes of this tale) show themselves to be the worst kind of mercenaries.
This is a fun adventure all around and I look forward to the next installment. I’m particularly grateful that Kay avoided all the leveling up and character statistics that usually dominate this subgenre. The novel was much better for concentrating on story and characterization than on character sheets.