Continuing on with Terry Pratchett’s Nome Trilogy, which began with the mighty Truckers (1988), here we have Diggers. It follows the aftermath of the first novella, with the nomes now living in an abandoned quarry. Pratchett clearly had his ideas nailed down here, as the sequel arrived in 1990.
A quick turnaround! And although we regard it as the weakest in the trilogy (we’ll explain why later), it’s still a charming account of this fantastical little world.
The nomes have settled into something of a normal life, with the “Inside” store nomes adapting – if not revelling – in their newfound freedom outside the Arnold Brothers department store (demolished, in the previous work, forcing them to flee).
Meanwhile, protagonists Masklin and Grimma are hitting it off. But then the former suggests they should settle down, but the latter (something of a budding feminist non-conformist) tells him she’s not interested in a conventional relationship.
To justify her decision, Grimma uses an analogy that baffles Masklin. She explains there’s a species of frog in South America that lives its life in a flower, clueless about the expanse of the world outside of its petals.
The nomes, still learning about the world around them from books, have a sketchy understanding of the Earth. Grimma, more intelligent than Masklin, has taken to reading about the world.
Of course, this is in stunted form as the nomes only have access to a small amount of books, so their knowledge remains limited (in a cute, child-like way). They have a minor falling out over the issue.
Meanwhile, The Thing (an enigmatic black cube the nomes have handed down over the generations, newly brought to life after coming across electricity again) is picking up signals from a local airport.
It suggests to Masklin, plus his friends Abbot Gurder and Angalo De Haberdasheri, to go and investigate.
The Thing hopes it might find details on how to contact the nome’s apparent mothership in space (that it continues to rant about, even though the nomes remain clueless on it all). This they duly do, leaving Grimma and the others behind.
Essentially, the nomes are weakened by that loss. Especially when it turns out the quarry is to be reopened, meaning Grimma must build on her actions.
The result is a weaker novella from the first outing. But it’s because The Thing – the best part about the trilogy – is removed from almost the entire work.
That remains our overiding experience with it, but rest assured it’s still a fun text. And a strong part of the Pratchett canon.
From Buckinghamshire in sourthern England, Pratchett had his first work published in 1971. We’ll cover more of his history next weekend when we conclude the noma trilogy.
But we must almost remember his alzheimer’s diagnosis. Until his death in 2015, he was one of England’s leading writers.
And fantasy has since exploded, especially with the success of America’s Game of Thrones… which, for whatever reason, has actors sounding like they’re from Bolton. Fabulous.