the Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents
Consistent Pratchett – he’s a funny guy. Also some wonderful characters along the way: I think this time my favourite would have to be Sardines the tap dancing rat. Kevin in this case is our Captain Carrot/Brutha – an untouchable innocent with a deeper insight than expected. There’s a serviceable thriller plot as the sinister ‘Rat King’ is gradually revealed, and the comedy, particularly in the first half of the book, makes the ride a pleasure.
While it’s not quite as pervasive as the anti-religious theme of Small Gods, Maurice still packs a careful and deliberate anti-Narnia message. Lewis’ allegory clearly and sympathetically represents central aspects of Christian belief; here in stark contrast Pratchett makes pivotal scenes about a prophet’s loss of faith in his scripture (revealed to be nothing but fairy tales) and a deliberate fake resurrection which the bogus ‘messiah’ is forced to go along with because the positive potential of faith is more useful than the truth. We fall into some vague (but enormously popular) area where we can enjoy prophets and even messiahs, granting some mystical, philosophical and heroic credibility, but dismissing any nonsense about absolute truth or moral imperatives. I don’t think Pratchett even begins to conceive of the contempt he’s pouring out here.
So I find myself making an odd comparison to Finding Nemo, a Disney movie I recently saw with my five year old. The techniques were fabulous – the animation and colour, and a lot of the patter, particularly due to Ellen Degeneres, worked. Why, in a movie largely aimed at young kids (with enough second level stuff to keep the parents from nausea), do we have to have some appalling Hollywood moral forced upon us as part of the otherwise enjoyable package? Couldn’t my son just have enjoyed some funny scenes with fish without having some brutal lesson that parents have to learn to let go - even if he picked up the message (unlikely), what on earth is he going to do with it? We went to entertained, not taught – and if I’m going to teach him, my first port of call isn’t the cheesy waffly unsound sentimentality of mainstream American movies. Anyway, the comparison, obviously, is I’d like to pick up a Pratchett, relish his humour and characterisations, without having a fairly vicious attack on my faith along the way. Can’t he just have some fun with fairy tales without getting nastily didactic about Christianity? Still, I’ve heard the same criticism launched by non-Christians about the Narnia series, “Can’t we just have an enjoyable kids’ fantasy without the gospel overtones?” To which I’d reply, “But without them you miss the profundity of the whole book,” and I’m sure many non-believing Pratchett fans would feel the same way if we did away with the allegory in Maurice.
Moreover, to be fair he’s so prolific there are doubtless at least a dozen of his books that don’t knock Jesus, several probably having been written in between Small Gods and Maurice – just unfortunate that the couple I’ve read since I’ve been writing reviews (and in the last few months) do.
 And this even if the wife/mother has been killed. What on earth is it with Disney that they have to kill mothers or fathers in front of little kids?! Is it somewhere in Disney’s will that they can’t release a movie (Lion King, Bambi, Ice Age, Finding Nemo … ) without a family death? This is the strangest thing that would be odd to include in any kids movie – let along several. They won’t have a swear word, but they do go domestic homicide.