Book Review – Dodger by Terry Pratchett

This is something different from Sir Terry, a Victorian historical mystery and adventure story. Dodger, a 17-year-old orphan living in the slums of Victorian London, rescues a mysterious damsel in distress. The people who were distressing her want her back — or dead, and Dodger has to use every skill and contact he has to prevent this.

Dodger is a great hero who exemplifies some of the best traits of humanity. He is caring, kind, intelligent, generous… Okay, he’s picked a pocket or two, and he sees nothing wrong with retrieving items that were lost, or about to be lost, but for the most part, he’s a fine young man.

This isn’t an accurate reflection of history, but it does include fictional portrayals of historical figures, some well known such as Charles Dickens, Benjamin Disraeli, and Sweeney Todd, and some who are not so well known (so there is no point in naming them).

I did think Dodger might be a bit too refined at times, almost unbelievably unaffected by his deprived environment. This made him almost too good, although to be honest, this is probably why I liked the character as much as I did. He could rise above his poverty, his lack of education, and still be hopeful, considerate, and even wise.

I only have three gripes, and they are not about the story. The first is that the book was not released in the U.S. until a week after it became available in the U.K. Why is that? The second is that the U.S. cover is not as good. I’ve found this to be common with Terry Pratchett books. The U.K. cover is often great, and something far duller and less relevant to the story is used for the U.S. edition. I have no idea why this is.

My last gripe is about how this is marketed. It is not ‘YA’ in that it’s not a kid’s book. It reminds me of Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart books, which are also Victorian mysteries that are misleadingly labeled as YA, although Dodger is lighter and more, well, uniquely Pratchett. This book may interest some teens and exceptionally bright and well-read children, but it’s probably not going appeal to kids (sorry, Young Adults) expecting to find a comic book action story or a mindless vampire romance. I’m not saying those are bad, necessarily (although I am pretentiously implying it). What I’m saying is that a YA label may misrepresent what a great, well-written story this is.

Obviously, I enjoyed this book, but then I am a longtime Pratchett fan. There really should be more books like this, charming, witty, positive, with likeable characters doing admirable things. It is a real pleasure to read such a book.

About Dave

A reader and writer of speculative fiction. See my website for more information on me and my writing.

Posted on October 5, 2012, in 5 Star Reviews, Book Reviews and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. To get back to the cover:

    The invoicing of design is two-fold. First, the publishing house pays for the cover design (all depending on the experience and the expertise of a designer – this may be $2,000 – $10,000 for the art work. In addition, the designer is compensated for the production rights. Production rights may include a certain number of print runs and regional restrictions. In this case the foreign publishing house will have to compensate the designer for further reproduction rights for its country or have a new cover designed. This concept might have changed regarding publishing houses but it is still standard in the marketing and advertisement industry. In Terry Pratchett’s case, I can understand the complaints because of his large fan base. It has something to do with wanting to have the original book and this will include the original release cover.

    As for coordinating print runs – Covers and pages are printed seperately. The covers usually have a different type of paper and sometimes have fancy embossing which makes an additional run necessary after the paint has dried. In addition, a further cover run is required by certain types of lamination. Count around one week of production for the cover (drying process, additional runs).

    But that’s not all: The inside pages have to dry and also be cut or trimmed. Afterwards, they have to be sorted with the cover and then glued (additional drying process). Actually, the difference of one week is good considering the fact that there print runs are taking place in two different countries. It used to be longer and in some cases it still is. I assume, the only way to avoid different dates would be by having let’s say the U.K. publishing house decide to wait those one or two weeks until the U.S. version is ready for delivery.

    • I’ve seen cases where they are the same, the Harry Potter books for example — and Amazon delivered them the day of release, which I also wish could happen for other books. I suppose I should not complain. When I first discovered Pratchett, I had to buy his backlist from Canada or the U.K. because the books simply were not available in the U.S. It’s much better now.

  2. Thanks, Rowan. In this case, I think the publisher is making a mistake, though. I don’t see why the better cover would not work in the U.S. Other Pratchett fans have commented on this with regard to some of his Discworld books. Coordinating for same day release shouldn’t be that big a problem either. I’m not faulting the book in this case. It’s still a 5-star read in my opinion. I just think the publisher made a poor decision with the cover and the U.S. release date.

  3. Release date and different covers: Terry Pratchett like Lee Child are from the U.K. and therefore deal with U.K. publishing houses. I haven’t read the Terry Pratchett book but I know that Child’s books are released at a later date and with a different cover for the U.S. market. The U.K. books use the U.K. spelling and this is changed for the U.S. market. Furthermore, the cover art is usually adapted to the market.

    If a publishing house has the universal rights for a book, they will sell the rights for the foreign markets to domestic publishing houses. In other words, the domestic publishing houses will then translate or adapt a book (U.K. vs. U.S. spelling) and give it a cover that might work better in their specific country. AFAIK, U.K. publishing houses use U.S. publishing houses and vice versa when it comes to international sales. BTW, sometimes the title of the books is also changed if the publisher thinks it will sell better.

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