"The Bromeliad Trilogy: Trucker, Diggers, Wings"
(reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer JAN 25, 2004)
"I think all we really want is to go home and be safe," said Masklin.
"Go home." the Thing said.
"And be safe."
Later on, those five words became one of the most famous quotations in nome history. They got taught in schools. They got carved in stone. And it's sad, therefore, that at the tome no one thought they were particularly important."
In this omnibus edition of The Bromeliad Trilogy (which includes Truckers, Diggers and Wings ) we find ourselves in the world of the nome...it is a world where pretty much everything is bigger than you, where one year lives like ten. It is a world where a department store can seem like a universe, the store's founder, a god.
It is where we meet Masklin and Grimma, two young nomes who have realized that the life they lead is too hard for them to really take care of the elderly nomes that make up most of their group. It's too cold, food would be easier to come by if they had more than one hunter...so Masklin gathers them together and hitches a ride on a truck, bringing with them a small black box that everyone calls the Thing...because no one knows what it is used for, just that it's important. At the end of the ride they find themselves in the Store, a place where there are more nomes running around than Masklin has the knowledge to count. It is a place of wonders...food is easy to come by, rats are companions and not an enemy or food source, there is climate control and comfort for all. The only thing is that they are very insular...it is all departmental politics and care that the one group of nomes don't find out the trade secrets belonging to another. They also worship the maker of the Store...Arnold Bros (est. 1905). They don't trust the Outsiders who have come among them, because they don't believe it is possible for them to exist (to quote from their scripture, "Is it not so, Arnold Bros (est. 1905) has put all things under one roof?" Masklin and his tribe soon discover that their new home won't last for long. The Thing, now next to electricity, has come to life, proving to be a super computer (well, actually a navigation device) of incredible power. He provides two revelations: That the nomes are not from this world, that they are in fact, from the stars, and that the Store is about to be demolished.
Actually, I just summarized what the first book is about....the second and third of course, would each have their own little summary if I was doing these books as their own. Since I don't want to spoil it for you, I won't go any further. What I'll do instead is point at the quote above. This book is basically about Masklin, Grimma, the Thing and several others, and their journey to go home and be safe. Masklin and Grimma think that this means a place on this planet, somewhere where everyone can live decently. The Thing has other plans, plans that need for them to somehow get in contact with a spaceship abandoned by nomish kind long ago.
This wonderful story is full with the charm and intellect that I've come to love about Pratchett's work. Though it is marketed toward a younger audience, it is so deep, so well wrought, that it is meant for anyone.
Pratchett uses his nomes wisely to make some interesting points about society. The most noticeable is the theological ramifications of the idea that these nomes have made a universe out of this Store. It was only built in 1905, which is ancient history to our 1989 era nomes, who live 10 times faster than we do. I love his explanation of it..."It's all sort of relativity. The faster you live, the more time stretches out. To a nome, a year lasts as long as ten years do to a human. Remember it. Don't let it concern you. They don't. they don't even know." They've built a life around the seasons, a life according to the strange signs and wonders of the store, and, even though they share the Store with humans during the day, they feel that it was meant just for them. Even the nomish garden ornaments have a significance in their theology, as does Prices Slashed, the vile creature who walks in the darkness with a flashlight and does a way with bad nomes who are where they shouldn't be, and Bargains Galore, the good creature who watches over them. How the ordinary aspects of a regular department store is bent just slightly and used to define who these nomes are and their civilization is amazingly clever. They even derive their names from the various departments, such as the Duke de Haberdashery. When these nomes are forced to leave the store to make a life Outside, how they change to adapt...and the doubts that some feel about their religion...say a lot about how any society would be effected by such a traumatic change.
He also uses the nomes as a group on the outside looking in on our own culture. One such instance I loved was a conversation between Masklin and the Thing. He asks the Thing to translate what the humans above him are saying, and he says, "The man with the sign is here to take our human to a hotel. It's a place where humans sleep and are fed. All the rest of it was just the things humans say to each other to make sure that they're still alive." Of course, Masklin asks him what he means by this, and he is told "Things like 'How are you?' and 'Have a nice day' and 'What do you think of the weather, then?' what these sounds mean is: I am alive and so are you." Masklin doesn't agree, of course, because his people do it all the time, but it's one of those odd little revelations that stop you in your tracks. The book is full of such things. Often it is the Thing, quite logical, a little impatient with foolishness, which gives us these revelations. He's also the one that delivers some of the funniest lines. Acting as the straight man...er...thing, so much of the time, that when he says something sarcastic you can't help but laugh.
All the characters, in fact, have great personalities. Masklin is basically someone who just wants to get by and provide for those he cares for, who is thrust into the position of leadership. Grimma is a slightly bossy lady who, trained all her life to be, basically, a housewife, is learning her own potential. Now that they have seen the wonders, the possibilities that the world...or the space outside the world...hold for them, it's hard to for them to be satisfied with the ways things were..
And that is what this book is about. Potential. The potential that knowledge brings, and how it changes you without you even meaning it to. It's also about how some would like to cling to the old way of life, longing for the comfort of what was. And it is about the potential in our own selves. Just as Tolkien used the Hobbits as a sort of symbol, about how even the smallest people (i.e. children) have the ability and the possibility within them to do the amazing (and, in many cases, amazing things that big people (adults) can't accomplish) the nomes are meant to inspire us with their constant inventiveness and strength and courage. To tell us that the only thing that hold us back are our own notions.
All you have to do is find a truck, and climb in, and see where it takes you.
- Amazon readers rating: from 26 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from The Bromeliad Trilogy at MostlyFiction.com
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)The Disc World Series:
- The Color of Magic (1983)
- The Light Fantastic (1986)
- Equal Rites (1987)
- Mort (1987)
- Sourcery (1988)
- Wyrd Sisters (1988)
- Pyramids (1989)
- Guards! Guards! (1989)
- Eric (1990)
- Moving Pictures (1990)
- Reaper Man (1991)
- Witches Abroad (1991)
- Small Gods (1992)
- Lords and Ladies (1992)
- Men at Arms (1993)
- Interesting Times (1994)
- Soul Music (1995)
- Maskerade (1995)
- Feet of Clay (1996)
- Hogfather (1996)
- Jingo (1997)
- The Last Continent (1998)
- Carpe Jugulum (1998)
- The Fifth Elephant (1999)
- The Truth (2000)
- Thief of Time (2001)
- The Last Hero: A Discworld Fable (illustrated) (2001)
- Night Watch (2002)
- Monstrous Regiment (2003)
- Going Postal (2004)
- Thud! (2005)
- Making Money (2007)
- Unseen Academicals (2009)
- Snuff (2011)
- Dodger (2012)
- Raising Steam (March 2014)
- The Carpet People (1971) REPRINTED AS OF NOVEMBER 2013
- The Dark Side of the Sun (1976)
- Strata (1981) (Special Order)
- The Unadulterated Cat: A Campaign for Real Cats (1995)
- The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (2001)
- The Bromeliad Trilogy: Truckers, Diggers, Wings
- Nation (2008)
- Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (with Neil Gaiman) (1990)
- The Streets of Ankh-Morpork (with Stephen Briggs) (1993)
- Death's Domain: A Discworld Mapp (with Stephen Briggs) (1995)
- The Discworld Companion (with Stephen Briggs) (1997)
- A Tourist Guide to Lancre (with Stephen Briggs and Paul Kidby) (1998)
- Gurp's Discworld: Adventures on the Back of the Turtle (1998)
- Nanny Ogg's Cookbook (with Stephen Briggs, Paul Kidby, Tina Hannan) (1999)
- The Science of Discworld (with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen) (1999)
- The Science of Discworld II - The Globe (with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen) (2002)
- Discworld Roleplaying Game (with Paul Kidby) (2002)
- Where's My Cow? (illustrated by Melyvn Grant) (2007)
- The Long Earth (wth Steven Baxter) (2012)
- The Long War (wth Steven Baxter) (June 2013)
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- Official Terry Pratchett Web site
- MostlyFiction.com review of THUD!, Monstrous Regiment, Night Watch
- MostlyFiction.com's review of Going Postal / Making Money
- MostlyFiction.com review of Unseen Academicals
- MostlyFiction.com review of Nation
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About the Author:
Terry Pratchett is a British author of humorous fantasy books, science fiction, and young adult books (which are none the less devoured by his adult fans). He is most famous for his Discworld series of books. He was born in 1948 in Beaconsfield, Bucks and attended Wycombe Technical High School. His first short story was published commercially when he was fifteen-years-old. Having got five O-levels and started A-level courses in Art, History and English, he decided after the first year to try journalism, and when a job opportunity came up on the Bucks Free Press, he talked things over with his parents, and left school in 1965. While with the Press he still read avidly, took the National Council for the Training of Journalists proficiency class and also passed an A level in English while on day release. He published his first book, The Carpet People, in 1971.
He left the Bucks Free Press and started work for the Western Daily Press on 28 September 1970, he returned to the Press in 1972 as a sub-editor, and on 3 September 1973 joined the Bath Chronicle. At this time he also produced a series of cartoons for a monthly journal Psychic Researcher describing the goings-on at the government's fictional paranormal research establishment, Warlock Hall. In 1980 Terry was appointed publicity officer for the Central Electricity Generating Board (now PowerGen) with responsibility for three nuclear power stations ('What leak? -- Oh, that leak'), where he was working when we published the first of the Discworld novels, The Color of Magic, in 1983. In 1987, after he finished writing Mort, Pratchett decided he could afford to devote himself to full time writing.Regarded as one of the most significant contemporary English-language satirists, Pratchett received the British Fantasy Award for best novel (Pyramids), in 1989, he was named an Officer of the British Empire "for services to literature" in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 1998, and received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University of Warwick in 1999. As far as Britain is concerned Terry is now the decade's best-selling living fiction author, with over 21 million copies worldwide and having been translated into 27 languages. According to British BookTrack's weekly bestselling chart, over 60 titles have been constantly in the top 5,000 bestselling titles, and the author with the most titles in this listing is Pratchett with twelve, namely The Colour of Magic, Guards! Guards!, Pyramids, Soul Music, The Light Fantastic, Reaper Man, Interesting Times, Sourcery, Men At Arms, Equal Rites, Mort and Wyrd Sisters.
Terry also works for the Orang-Utan Foundation and went out to Borneo with a film crew to see orangutans in their native habitat, and among the praise that Terry Pratchett's Jungle Quest received was a comment by Sir Alec Guinness in his diary (published the following year), that it was - apart from one other programme - "the most impressive thing I've seen on the box this year." Terry has also done a year's stint as Chairman of the Society of Authors, and was chairman of the panel of judges for the 1997 Rhone-Poulenc Prize.
Terry Pratchett lives in England with his family, and spends most days at his computer, writing.