Terry Pratchett,
The Amazing Maurice
& His Educated Rodents

(HarperCollins, 2001)

Terry Pratchett takes the Pied Piper to Discworld in The Amazing Maurice & his Educated Rodents, but naturally, he puts his own twist on the tale.

Maurice is truly an amazing cat; he can think and talk, and while he has a pretty god idea what changed him from a common alley cat, he won't say. He's accompanied by a flock of equally intelligent rats who developed their condition after snacking on the wizard-dumped trash outside the Unseen University. The rats -- who call themselves the Clan -- and Maurice have hooked up with a young piper named Keith in a scam. The rats pretend to infest a village, then Keith leads them away, dancing to his tune, for a price.

But one of the rats, Dangerous Beans, who provides a moral compass for the Clan, believes it is unethical, so Keith resolves to stop after one more village. The village he picks, however, proves to be far more of a challenge than he ever expected.

It seems that the village is already infested, to the point that food is in short supply, and the local ratcatchers can name their price -- and they do. Keith and Maurice also encounter Malicia Grim, the mayor's imaginative and outspoken daughter. When the rats turn up some disturbing news about the "infestation" and the ratcatchers, humans, cat and rodents turn their combined intelligence to saving the village from the evil lurking beneath it.

Like other Discworld novels, The Amazing Maurice contains more than just a story; it has food for thought, as well as excellent advice concerning the green wobbly bit. Pratchett's wit is as sharp as ever, if not quite as over-the-top and manic as in his other books. While most of the characters are original to the novel, Death and Death of Rats make brief appearances as well, and Discworld fans should pay special attention to the village's Watch. The story stands alone from the series and is a good introduction to Discworld for young adult readers.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 23 March 2002

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