15 February 2012
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
This book was advertised as young adult. If it's a young adult book, than it should probably be for much older young(ish) adults. It was actually a tad on the scary side for me, and I've been out of the young adult stage for, well, long enough. I've talked about Terry Pratchett before and I don't feel the need to do it again, other than to say he's actually pretty darn clever, and I'm glad I we are acquainted.
The Amazing Maurice is a cat who has a simple scheme worked out with a pack of rats who have eaten some chemical substance that has given them thoughts and words and intelligence. Somehow Maurice (without eating the chemicals) also has the gift of thoughts, words, and intelligence (wonder how that could have happened). Maurice and the rats go from village to village accompanied by "a stupid-looking-kid" named Kieth. The rats "infest" the villages and Kieth (marketing himself as a piper) is payed to play his pipes and get the rats out. This scheme goes on pretty well until they come to the town of Bad Blintz.
Something is happening in Bad Blintz. It's not just a rat plague. It's not just the fact that the rat catchers are goons who are running a dog vs. rat rink in the town's underbelly. It's something the rats have never known before. Evil. It's up to Maurice, Kieth, the rats and Malicia (the mayor of Bad Blintz's daughter who is far too attached to stories) to save the town.
I can't give very much more than that away. It is a little scary, but a well told story. Like all Pratchett tales it ends happily. The good guys always win, which sometimes is very reassuring. There are good characters and a great deal of humor.
Something I did notice about many of Pratchett's novels (The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents not being an exception) is how he takes big questions and incorporates them into his books. I'm unsure of Mr. Pratchett's faith, or even if he has any. After reading the first in his The Science of Discworld series (which I don't plan on finishing), I don't think he is a believer. He does; however, put some thought into questions like "life after death" and many of his characters have a firm attachment to Truth. There is an interesting conversation among the rats about their own thoughts. One of them wonders what happens to the thoughts when they die. Throughout the conversation it is established that thoughts are not in "the green wiggly bit" (pardon...his words not mine) which are the guts, nor in the "pink bit" (the brain). So, when an educated rat dies, where do his thoughts go? The question is never settled, but it's an important question.
Another side issue that I thought about (I don't know if Mr. Pratchett actually intended this) was, the rats couldn't really ever be rats after they received the power of reason and speech. Maurice also has a struggle over the fact that he'll never really be a cat. They have developed rules, and a conscience, and a knowledge of something that was "evil." The rats and Maurice had become, in a way, human. Reason and speech have been given to human beings for a reason: Dominion. Books that have magical intelligent animals are fun and sweet and great for developing a child's imagination, but The Amazing Maurice takes this to a whole new level of reality. What IF animals could reason? What if animals could really know good and evil? There is a profound difference between men and animals. Man was indeed specially created.
As you can tell I think too much about what I read, but I don't think it's a bad thing. I liked the book. I give it two thumbs up, but I wouldn't give it to anyone very young, regardless of where the library shelves it.