Dodger by Terry Pratchett
(Harper Collins, 2012)
Format: audio download via library (read by Stephen Briggs for Harper Audio)
From Goodreads: "Dodger is a tosher - a sewer scavenger living in the squalor of Dickensian London. Everyone who is nobody knows Dodger. Anyone who is anybody doesn't. But when he rescues a young girl from a beating, suddenly everybody wants to know him. And Dodger's tale of skulduggery, dark plans and even darker deeds begins."
Now, this is a funny book. And I like Pratchett, what I've read of him (listened, really - mostly to the Tiffany Aching books, also narrated by Briggs.) I'm not totally immersed into Discworld and all that entails, but I know Pratchett to be a clever, quick teller of tales, and go into his novels expecting a romp both silly and smart. And Dodger is a superb character. I want to live in a world where I can encounter Dodgers at the most unexpected and delightful times. He's not Dodger out of Dickens - he's Dodger as Pratchett imagines his imagined Dickens might encounter and be inspired. (It makes sense, I promise.) He's got street smarts and under-the-street smarts, is king of the sewers and is pleased to have all he needs. And pleased not to need the collections of knick-knacks and fancy useless things that fill the homes he begins to visit after he rescues the mysterious Simplicity from her abusive captors one day. (It's possible he encountered those useless knick-knacks when he wasn't invited into the fancy homes, too, but his roommate and mentor Solomon prefers to think he's moved on from those impulses.)
There's really everything to like about Dodger, which makes spending 10 1/2 hours in his company during the audio a joy. And I liked what Pratchett did with Dickens and the newspapers and even Sweeney Todd. But I felt that the plot of Dodger's adventure wasn't fully baked - just a little squidgy in the middle. Simplicity is too simple, too much of a pretty vessel for Dodger's dreams. And far too often the historical figures are the most lifeless of the bunch. I just coudn't dive into the ins and outs of the plans that centered around helping Simplicity, and kept wishing for more of the well-imagined subplots.
Still, it's not flat, by any means. (That's kind of a discworld joke. Amn't I funny?) (My Irish husband uses the word 'amn't' at times, and I love it. Why shouldn't 'am not' have a contraction, after all?) Pratchett could probably write engaging characters in his sleep. I just wished for something a little more out of the plot.
What I did get was a great audio. Briggs is sharp and wry, a great great pairing with Pratchett's style, and his dialects are, to my ear, top-notch. There's no doubt it's a great contender in the Audies Teen category, and I'm very glad I listened to it.