Man. I really wanted to give this book five stars, but I just can’t. The writing was on point, but the plot was just too amateur to reward it. Dodger by Sir Terry Pratchett is the story of Dodger and his adventures in the slums and sewers of Victorian England and his sudden rise to fame and fortune due to his aiding a young woman, Simplicity, who is under attack. Their quest to find her attackers and bring her to safety is the basis for Dodger’s adventures.
Sound familiar? It should. It’s basically the story of a boy who could have been the basis for the likes of Pip of Great Expectations fame and Artful Dodger of Oliver Twist notoriety. In fact, there’s a character named Charles Dickens in the book so it’s pretty heavy-handed that we are supposed to assume that Charles Dickens is going to be inspired by the events and characters in Dodger. This is where the amateur plot comes into play. When certain phrases such as, “great expectations”, “our mutual friend”, and “bleak house” are mentioned in the book, Dickens writes them down in the notebook that he keeps. What saves this from complete disaster is that Pratchett is able to capture the style of the Victorians which showed that he can write well. It just seems like he put more into the words rather than the plot.
I liked the characters and the plot overall, but Dodger’s rise to fame seemed too easy and too fake. The downfall starts when he happens to get a haircut at…wait for it…SWEENEY TODD’S BARBERSHOP!! [insert face palming memes here]. I really did groan out loud and roll my eyes. This just seemed like one of those films where they cram a ton of famous and somewhat famous actors into a plot and call it indie (I’m looking at you, I Love New York). Maybe if Dickens, Robert Peeler, Sweeney Todd, Queen Victoria, etc. hadn’t all been in the same book, I might have forgiven Pratchett, but after Dodger single-handedly takes down Todd and feels sorry for him, I prepared myself for the worst.
Ultimately we never really do find out who is after Simplicity. We never know who her nefarious father-in-law is and why he hates her so much. And yet this is what brought all the characters in the first place. I feel like this is a prime example of an author missing the trees for the forest. I like the Victorians and this period and I enjoyed seeing Pratchett play with history and literature in a tongue-in-cheek style, but to drop the ball with the main plot is like leaving the readers in the sewer beneath the brewer’s draft horses (if you venture to read the book you’ll understand otherwise just use your imagination).