Summary and book reviews of The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

The Fifth Elephant

A Novel of Discworld

by Terry Pratchett

The Fifth Elephant
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2000, 321 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2001, 400 pages

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Book Summary

Everyone knows that the world is flat, and supported on the backs of four elephants. But weren't there supposed to be five? What happened to the fifth elephant is only one of the many perplexing mysteries solved in this new novel by today's most celebrated fantasy humorist.

Everyone knows that the world is flat, and supported on the backs of four elephants. But weren't there supposed to be five? Indeed there were, and what happened to the fifth elephant is only one of the many perplexing mysteries solved in this new novel by today's most celebrated fantasy humorist.

Terry Pratchett's profoundly irreverent Discworld novels have been number one bestsellers in England for more than a decade, securing him a position in the pantheon of satire and parody alongside Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and Carl Hiaasen. Pratchett's fame, like his imagination, is now going global--if such a term can be used in connection with an author whose creation is so uncompromisingly (though no longer quite so unfashionably) flat.

Which brings us back to the missing mythical pachyderm. The Fifth Elephant begins, like so many of Pratchett's satirical inventions, with an invitation. This one is both royal and engraved, requiring that Commander Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork constabulary attend as both detective and diplomat. The one role he relishes; the other, well, requires ruby tights.

Where cops (even those clad in tights) go, crime of course, follows--and an attempted assassination and a theft soon lead to a desperate chase from the low halls of Discworld royalty to the legendary fat mines of Uberwald, where lard is found in underground seams along with tusks and teeth and other precious ivory artifacts.

Vimes's "elephant" adventure is as profound as it is hilarious, sending up every aspect of modern life from royalty (a British specialty) to bureaucrats (inescapable anywhere), from cops (especially those unusually dressed) to criminals (who, like fools, have their own guild), from fantasy literature to satire itself.

The world is busy discovering Terry Pratchett. Shouldn't you be doing your part? 



They say the world is flat and supported on the back of four elephants who themselves stand on the back of a giant turtle.


They say that the elephants, being such huge beasts, have bones of rock and iron, and nerves of gold for better conductivity over long distances.


They say that the fifth elephant came screaming and trumpeting through the atmosphere of the young world all those years ago and landed hard enough to split continents and raise mountains.


No one actually saw it land, which raised the interesting philosophical point: When millions of tons of angry elephant come spinning through the sky, but there is no one to hear it, does it-philosophically speaking-make a noise?


And if there was no one to see it hit, did it actually hit?


In other words, wasn't it just a story for children, to explain away some interesting natural occurrences?


As for the dwarfs, whose legend it is, and who mine a lot deeper than other people, they say that there is a grain of ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

San Francisco Chronicle

Unadulterated fun. Pratchett parodies everything in sight.

Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine

Consistently, inventively mad . . . wild and wonderful!

Library Journal

The latest installment in Pratchett's popular Discworld series features sendups of politics and communications technology, along with a hearty dose of cosmic comedy and genuine slapstick humor. Suitable for newcomers to the series as well as regular series followers.

The Times (London)

Other writers are now mining the rich seam of comic fantasy that Pratchett first unearthed, but what keeps Pratchett on top is--quite literally, the way he tells them.

Author Blurb A. S. Byatt
Discworld is more complicated and satisfactory than Oz. Truly original. Pratchett creates a brilliant excess of delectable detail!

Author Blurb Elizabeth Peters
If I were making my list of Best Books of the Twentieth Century, Terry Pratchett's would be most of them.

Reader Reviews

Tobie

As a long-time Pratchett fan, I loved the way this book kept three or for seperate plotlines going simultaneously, as well as giving us another look at some old favorites like Angua, Carrot, Vimes, Cherry, etc. The plot twists and mystery going on ...   Read More

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