The Quotable Pratchett: Thief of Time

No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away

With the passing of Sir Terry Pratchett and the publication of The Shepherd’s Crown, I embarked on an epic re-reading of all 41 official Discworld novels, with the goal of finishing by 31 December, 2016.

Famous for its wit and wisdom, the series offers countless quotable quotes on a variety of subjects. The quotes I share should not be considered the whole of Sir Terry’s excellent prose; indeed, they are the tasty appetizers to a succulent, nourishing meal.

About Thief of Time

Thief of Time coverThis is the 25th Discworld novel* and the 5th in the Death series.

*[Note: there may be some confusion as to the number of this book: I am reading them in the order listed in the front of my paperback editions, which places Thief of Time before The Truth; however, various online lists – Goodreads included –  place The Truth before Thief of Time. As The Truth is considered a one-off, I see no discrepancy in reading these two books “out of order” as it were.]

They say that history repeats itself; the “they” in this case being the History Monks: those brave souls who’ve (with one notable exception) mastered the art of circular living and made it their mission not to see that tomorrow happens at all.

The Auditors are up to tricks both old and new as they seek the service of Jeremy Clockson to make the world’s most accurate clock.

The History Monks put history back together once before, but even knowing the signs might not help Lu-Tze stop history from repeating itself and bringing about the Apocalypse – Four Five Horsemen, Iron Book, and all.

I suppose it doesn’t hurt that DEATH has once again recruited Susan to investigate – right?

Examining the ideas of history, cultural memory, family, anthropomorphic personification, and humanity, Thief of Time is a rip-roarer of a tale that’ll make you ask: ” Where did the time go?”

5 stars.

The Goodreads Blurb:

Time is a resource. Everyone knows it has to be managed. And on Discworld that is the job of the Monks of History, who store it and pump it from the places where it’s wasted (like underwater — how much time does a codfish need?) to places like cities, where there’s never enough time. But the construction of the world’s first truly accurate clock starts a race against, well, time, for Lu Tze and his apprentice Lobsang Ludd. Because it will stop time. And that will only be the start of everyone’s problems. Thief of Time comes complete with a full supporting cast of heroes and villains, yetis, martial artists and Ronnie, the fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse (who left before they became famous).

To the Quotes!

Discworld Librarian

The Librarian as he appears in The Discworld Companion, illustrated by Paul Kidby


Questions don’t have to make sense . . . but answers do.


Obviously, he reasoned, if sticking screws up your nose was madness, then numbering them and keeping them in careful compartments was sanity, which was the opposite- Ah. No. It wasn’t, was it… ?


You can’t rewrite history!

Bet you a dollar?

What have I joined?

We’re the most secret society that you can imagine.

Really? Who are you, then?

The Monks of History.

Huh? I’ve never heard of you!

See? That’s how good we are.


When you look into the abyss, it’s not supposed to wave back.


“Childhood is a time for . . . learning through play. After all, kittens and puppies-“

“-grow up to be cats and dogs, which are even less interesting,” said Miss Susan, “whereas children should grow up to be adults.”


If children were weapons, Jason would have been banned by international treaty. Jason had doting parents and an attention span of minus several seconds, except when it came to inventive cruelty to small furry animals, when he could be quite patient. Jason kicked, punched, bit and spat. His artwork had even frightened the life out of Miss Smith, who could generally find something nice to say about any child. He was definitely a boy with special needs. In the view of the staff room, these began with an exorcism.


The wise man does not seek enlightenment, he waits for it. So while I was waiting it occurred to me that seeking perplexity might be more fun . . . After all, enlightenment begins where perplexity ends.


History needs shepherds, not butchers.


They can be very dangerous, things that don’t look dangerous . . . Not looking dangerous is what makes them dangerous. For it is written, “You can’t tell a book by its cover.”


Seeing things a human shouldn’t have to see makes us human.


Sanity is defined by the majority.


In life, as in breakfast cereal, it is always best to read the instructions on the box.


The chocolate outer shell dissolved and her very human senses told her that she had selected a nougat. But she was resolute. Life was tough. Sometimes you got a nougat. You just had to bite it.


Even with nougat, you can have a perfect moment.

. . .

Previous: The Fifth Elephant | Next: The Truth

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