Truckers by Terry Pratchett

Truckers by Terry Pratchett
Truck off!

In 2015 we briefly mentioned Terry Pratchett’s brilliant Nome Trilogy. Now we’re taking a closer look at each novella, as these are wonderful little texts that pack a mighty inspiring creative punch.

Truckers (1989) kickstarted the series in fine style. It follows the misadventures of a beleagured set of nomes, with protagonist Masklin – all four inches of him – suddenly becoming his tribe’s leader. From there, he has to steer his friends to safety (yes, on a truck).

Truckers

The story begins by the side of a motorway, where a small tribe of nomes lives in destitution.

As far as they’re aware, the nomes are the only tribe left alive on Earth. It seems pesky humans and their destructive ways have all but wiped the rest out.

The tribe is presided over by the sole remaining elders – of ancient age, they’re Granny Morkie and Old Torrit. The latter holds a position of power and clutches a small black box to him at all times – it’s the tribe’s symbol of authority.

The nomes refer to it as “The Thing”, although it appears to be useless.

Despite that, Old Torrit insists he must safeguard the box as it’s an item that’s been handed down across nome generations. Although, again, no one has any idea why.

Masklin and his find Grimma, facing starvation, formulate a plan to get the tribe to a local department store: Arnold Brothers. After a daring trip, they make it and find an unexpected world of nomes hidden away under the store’s floorboards.

Amazingly, The Thing (back around electricity for the first time in aeons) fires back to life and begins conversing with the nomes in confusing, sardonic fashion. It claims to be the intergalactic navigational computer of the nome’s Galactic Survey Starship – the Swan.

Of course, that means nothing to the current generation of nomes. That leaves The Thing to try and assist them with getting back to their mothership – clearly not an easy task.

Meanwhile, the “Inside” nomes refuse to accept the “Outside” exists and have created bizarre cults based around some of the signs humans have hung around the shop.

As the Inside nomes fear the likes of the dreaded “Prices Slashed”, a mythical figure who prowls the store at night (actually a security guard with a torch).

But The Thing soon picks up communications that Arnold Brothers is to be demolished, forcing Masklin and Grimma to convince the store nomes to abandon their home – via one mighty big truck!

Just how charming and endearing the novella is should be pretty clear by now. Pratchett’s imagination was in full flow here, creating a wonderfully alien, yet familiar, world that riffs on some of our silly human behaviours.

The cast of characters is magnificent. Masklin is noble and brave, Grimma something of a source of feminist strength, and The Thing is increasingly adorable and funny.

It confides with Masklin and the two become acquaintances, with the latter taking to looking after the cube. But his relentless confusion with its fantastical claims and proclamations is a brilliant literary device – and one that doesn’t get enough credit.

An absolutle gem – Truckers is brilliant for young and old readers alike.

TV Adaptation

Cosgrove Hall produced a stop motion animation series for Truckers at the start of the 1990s – we remember watching it on television.

As you can see from the video quality, this thing has received little love since then and has faded off into obscurity.

We believe it had a VHS release in 1997, but there’s no DVD for it and we could only find the above measly selection of clips on YouTube to showcase it.

You’d think that, given Hollywood’s current creativity crisis, someone would use their brain and adapt Pratchett’s trilogy into a film series. It’s perfect for it!

But, well, there you go. Maybe one day in the distant future our dreams will be realised.

4 comments

  1. Pratchett was SUCH a talented writer! I very nearly had a beer with him once – this isn’t hyperbolic… he used to come to NZ fairly often because his daughter lived in Australia and it was easy enough to hop across the ditch and do some promotional work here. One of those visits involved a lecture in Wellington, for which the local sci-fi society (with which I had some connection, cough cough) had invited him to the pub afterwards. He had to bow out, owing to jet lag. Fair enough. I went to the pub and had a beer with the sci-fi society anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Along with Brian Jacques’ Redwall series, Pratchett was my go-to writer as kid/teenager. I loved all the Discworld work.

      Ah, the evils of jet lag. I had that with a recent US visit, so I can’t blame him – although a shame for you.

      And his daughter is writing scripts for video games now, I believe, along with various other work. I did play a point-and-click Discworld game as a kid, but I can’t remember if it was any good.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My funniest Pratchett story involved the time in 2004 when he was signing books in Whitcoulls’ Lambton Quay store. This was (and, in other owners, still is) the primary NZ book chain, and the Lambton Quay store was (and still is) their flagship. Pratchett was duly installed right inside the main doors and signing books. I had no real idea he was there. I arrived with a group of friends for other reasons, noticed him nearby, but then veered right directly in front of him, in order to show my friends a large pile of my books that were sitting slightly to Pratchett’s left (my illustrated history of NZ which was in its first edition and on the best-selling non-fiction list just then). I get reminded of the moment by at least one of those with me, usually annually… you know – how we snubbed Pratchett… He was a very decent guy of course and took it all in due stride, and good on him for tolerating a gang of lager-soaked Kiwi writer lads and yobbos…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well, you see, us Brits are good at the old stiff upper lip, stoic bravado stuff. Glad to see Mr. Pratchett stuck to his nerves there.

          Frankly, I think you should have demanded he buy your book.

          Interesting on the Whitcoulls, on my visit to America recently one of the main book shops was Barnes & Noble. In England it’s Waterstone’s.

          Like

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