The nineteenth novel in the Discworld Series
UK hbk: Victor Gollancz, 85,000 copies on 6 June 1996 (0-575-05900-1)
Book proof: 167 copies
Discworld Collector’s Library: The City Watch Collection (hbk, cover engraving by Joe McLaren): Gollancz, 5 June 2014 (978-1-473-20024-1)
Pbk: Corgi, 50,000 early edition, 250,000 main edition on1 May 1997 (0-552-14237-9)
New issue, with black/gold photographic design cover, on sale at same time as Kirby edition, 26 September 2005 (0-552-15325-7)
B-format, with modified Kirby design, Corgi, 6 June 2013 (978-0-552-16757-4)
Book club: BCA, 1996 (CN 4401)
USA hbk: HarperPrism (jacket illus. Michael Sabanosh), October 1996 (0-06-105250-7)
Originally contracted with the title Words in the Head
Book proof: May 1996. Quantity not known. possibly 150 copies
Pbk: HarperPrism (cover design as for hbk), 4 October 1997 (0-06-105764-9)
Reprinted in July 2000 under the HarperTorch imprint
The 19th reprint (March 2004) had a new cover: HarperTorch
Premium pbk: Harper, 28 January 2014 (978-0-06-227551-6)
Library hbk of Pbk: Paw Prints, 9 May 2008 (1-435-27463-1)
US book club: Science Fiction Book Club, January 1997 (cover design as hbk) 9 December 1996 (ref. 14550)
Bulgarian: Глинени Крака, trs. Vladimir Zarkov, Vuzev/Arhont-V, 5,000 copies on 16 August 2000 (954-422-059-3)
Chinese/complex (Taiwan): Solo
Czech: Nohy z Jílu (trs. Jan Kantůrek), Talpress, 10,000 copies in June 1999 (80-7197-164-2)
Double volume: Feet of Clay and Hogfather, Talpress, 2013 (978-80-7197-500-7)
Dutch: Lemen voeten, trs. ‘Venugopalan Ittekot’, Het Spectrum, June 2000 (90-274-6894-X)
Reissue: Mynx, 2009 (978-90-8968-109-6)
Estonian: Savijalad, trs. Allan Eichenbaum, jacket illus. Hillar Mets, Varrak, 1,000 copies on 3 August 2005 (9985-3-1072-1)
Finnish: Savijaloilla, trs. Mika Kivimäki, Karisto, March 2007 (978-951-23-4835-0)
French: Pieds d’Argile, trs. Patrick Couton, L’Atalante, February 2002 (2-84172-199-x)
Reissue, with new introduction by Terry Pratchett (dated September 2014), 14 October 2016 (978-2-84172-786-5)
Mass market pbk: Pocket, February 2006 (2-266-15954-2)
Pbk with Simonetti cover: Pocket, December 2010 (978-2-266-21199-4)
Omnibus, with Guards! Guards! and Men at Arms : Le Guet d’Ankh-Morpork, L’Atalante, October 2010 (978-2-84172-522-9)
German trade pbk: Hohle Köpfe, trs. Andreas Brandhorst, Goldmann, 22,000 copies on 1 April 1998 (3-442-41539-X)
Mass market pbk: Goldmann, February 2003 (3-442-45398-4)
Double volume, with Maskerade/Mummenschanz, Goldmann, October 2009 (978-3-442-13447-2)
Hungarian: Agyaglábak, trs. Csaban Járdán, Delta Vision, 30 November 2010 (978-963-9890-83-1)
Italian: Piedi d’argilla, trs. Antonella Pieretti, Salani, 24 March 2005 (88-8451-515-7)
Pbk: TEA, September 2008 (978-88-502-1651-2)
Polish: Na glinianych nogach, trs. Piotr W. Cholewa, Prószyński i S-ka, June 2004 (83-7337-719-0)
Issued with much sponsorship to support Terry’s signing tour of 1-4 June, visiting Warsaw, Krakow, Poznan, and back to Warsaw.
Russian: Ноги из глины, trs. M. GubaÑdullin & A. Zhikarentsev, Eksmo, ?December 2004 (5-699-08287-5)
Three book volume with Guards! Guards! and Men at Arms called Стража! Стража!, Eksmo, 28 January 2015 (978-5-699-62981-7)
Serbian/Montenegro: Glinene noge, trs. Aleksander Milajić, Laguna, 2007 (978-86-7436-791-9)
Spanish: Pies de Barro, trs. Javier Calvo, Plaza y Janés, July 2006 (84-01-33594-9 )
Pbk: Bols[!]llo, April 2008 (978-84-8346-623-0)
Kiosk edition: Altaya, 2008 (978-84-487-2625-6)
Swedish: På lerfötter, trs. Mats Blomqvist, Wahlströms, 2004 (91-32-32711-0)
Laminated paper covered boards: Wahlströms 2005 (91-32-33200-9)
Pbk: Wahlströms, 2006 (91-32-43571-1)
Surely there is a point at which the well of Pratchett’s prodigal invention will run dry or repetition set in. But bookshops throughout the land can breathe easy. On the evidence of Feet of Clay the only repetition is the strictly functional one of establishing the familiar Discworld milieu. This tome is categorised as a Discworld Howdunnit, so we have the customary smoothly barbed jibes at human foibles filtered through Pratchett’s ingeniously realised, mad kingdom. This time round, the City Watch is scouring the Autumn fogs that blanket Ankh-Morpork for an invisible murderer. But sudden death from unseen killers is only one of the blights affecting the city: the golems are quietly topping themselves, the wry Corporal Nobbs is socially climbing, and a lycanthrope is adding to the mayhem. Sir Samuel Vimes, the Watch Commander with Michael Howard tendencies, is charged with drawing all the threads together. Pratchett’s invention fires on all cylinders from the first cutting footnote onwards. Booksellers can count on May being a good month with this helter-skelter comic ride. Publishing News
Feet of Clay is crime fiction, Discworld style. There are now lobbying groups for each set of protagonists Pratchett has created – the witches pressure-group, fans of Death, and the City Watch camp. In this nineteenth Discworld novel the City Watch supporters have won out. Sam Vimes, Sergeant Detritus and Ankh-Morpork’s other watch-creatures are back on the case, looking for arsenic in writing-ink and the suicide notes of golems.
Discworld – ‘a billion tons of geography’ carried through space on the back of an interstellar turtle – is a fine fantasy setting, full of ingenuity: but humour is what has made Pratchett one of the most commercially successful British writers, and the humour itself is fantastical, inventive and finally serious. A central concern in Feet of Clay, as in other Discworld books, is the life of art. Stories in Pratchett’s world are monstrous entities, demanding to be ended. Operas make the show go on despite all efforts to bring the house down, and music forces singers to sing and wear frilly clothing. In Feet of Clay poetry and pottery collide in the golems, artificial constructions with rules written in their heads. Mute and mindless, the golems of Ankh-Morpork seem to know more about murder and arsenic than anyone.
Pratchett is frequently described as a moral writer and a humanist. This makes him sound more heavy-going than funny; but the moral stings of Discworld are very much incidental in comparison to the comedy. Feet of Clay is the work of a prolific humorist at his best….
Pratchett is the only author to have topped the best-seller lists for general and children’s fiction at once, and this says something about the generosity of his humour. Feet of Clay is enjoyable as crime fiction and as fantasy. But the real attraction is the laughter waiting to be uncovered on each page. Tobias Hill in The Observer Review
It’s fast-paced and intriguing, the plot is excellent, the characters (as ever) superb, and it’s almost impossible to put down once you’ve started…. I liked this book. You’ll like it too. Trust me. Helen Archer in SFX
Feet of Clay is a typical feast of ebullient and beguiling daftness, mildly seasoned with satire… it is the work of an amazing, Technicolor imagination. Kate Saunders in Sunday Express
It used to be said of Star Trek that no human problem was so complex that it couldn’t be given pointy ears and a latex makeover to be resolved in impeccably liberal fashion by Kirk and co on some distant polystyrene planet. Increasingly Terry Pratchett’s Discworld is serving a similar function in book form with funnier (and intentional) gags. Feet of Clay sees political correctness taking root in the teeming cosmopolitan metropolis that is Ankh-Morpork. Vampires, ghouls and zombies are respectfully termed the ‘differently alive’, while the ‘seamstress’ owners of houses of ill-repute now prefer to advertise their ‘negotiable hospitality’. There’s a certain millennial madness in the air too as the Century of the Fruitbat draws to a close, and the trolls are becoming addicted to the brain melting drug Slab.
Just as the previous Discworld novel, Maskerade, borrowed freely from Macbeth [The Phantom of the Opera, shurely?], so the whodunnit plot of Feet of Clay owes much to The Name of the Rose, with its mysteriously poisoned priests and cunningly concealed arsenic. Except, of course, that Umberto Ecco failed to anticipate the advantages of playing out his drama with a cast of vampires, golems, dwarfs and werewolves. Criticising Pratchett’s plots, as reviewers occasionally do, is an exercise in missing the point on a par with disparaging stadium rock for its lack of restraint. The mystery is merely a wonky skeleton of indeterminate species which the author fleshes out with his winning blend of high and low humour, bottom gags proudly rubbing shoulders with satirical philosophical speculations in the spirit of comic equality, perhaps explaining his widespread appeal.
Scratch the surface humour and you’ll also find that equality is the theme of Feet of Clay. Essentially an otherworldly parable about the evils of sexism, racism (albeit against werewolves and those ‘of the dwarf persuasion’) and class distinction, it’s arguably Pratchett’s most moral tale to date. The trouble with identifying these qualities is that one inevitably undermines the book’s real pleasure: it’s bloody funny, bristling with delicious epigrams (‘Geography is only physics slowed down and with a few trees stuck on it’), hilarious running gags (the suicidal vampire who lands jobs as a garlic stacker, post-sharpener for a fencing firm, and sunglasses tester for an optician), and occasional absurdist forays into the realms of metaphysics. Who else would deduce that inducing existential uncertainty is the best means of getting rid of a bogeyman? Since it goes away when you pull the sheets over your head, reasons Pratchett, all you need do is carry a handy blanket to put over its head so that it doesn’t know whether it exists or not. Robin Askew in Venue
Terry Pratchett’s nineteenth (!) Discworld novel features the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. Who is murdering harmless old men, and who is trying to poison Lord Vetinari with arsenic? Sir Samuel Vimes and his Watchmen have a complex investigation on their hands.
But what has this to do with ‘feet of clay’? The feet belong to the golems, who aren’t really alive and whose actions are directed by the ‘words of purpose’ stored on paper in their hollow heads. Vimes is puzzled. Not only is his investigation not going well, but these ‘undead’ creatures seem to be trying to commit suicide. And who on earth is the mysterious white golem?
Then in an apparent plot red herring, the dull-witted and uncouth Corporal Nobbs discovers he is the long lost Earl of Ankh and finds himself forced to hobnob uncomfortably with nobs. But things are never straight-forward in Discworld and Vimes uncovers a link between Corporal Nobbs’s recent ennoblement and the attack on Lord Vetinari, while Constable Angua, in werewolf guise, sniffs out a link between the golems and the murdered old men.
I won’t spoil things by revealing any more. The fun and games to be had from the plot-twists along the way should more than satisfy the appetites of all Discworld fans. Once again, Pratchett has produced an enjoyable romp what all the plot strands knit seamlessly together. It’s full of memorable characters, puns, sideswipes at sacred cows and sly observations about human (and nonhuman) behaviour). Take, for example, the advice of Angua, the werewolf, to the newly recruited dwarf Cheery Littlebottom who, in spite of a beard, turns out to be female too.
It’s like that in the Watch… You can be any sex you like provided you act male. There’s no men and women in the Watch, just a bunch of lads. You’ll soon learn the language. Basically it’s how much beer you supped last night, how
strong the curry was you had afterwards, and where you were sick. Just think egotesticle.
And he’s made it all look deceptively easy, preferring to use pacy action and humorous dialogue over lengthy exposition, yet adding enough touches of description to convey setting and atmosphere. No wonder he’s so popular with teenagers – his prose slips down a treat.
I didn’t find Feet of Clay ‘screamingly funny’, as the back cover blurb suggests, but it did elicit many chortles. My favourite character is the disorganised organiser imp:
Vimes sighed inwardly. He had a notebook. He took notes in it. It was always useful. And then Sybil, gods bless her, had brought him this fifteen-function imp…
In a running joke which never fails to amuse, the imp keeps popping out at inopportune moments with a cheery cry of ‘Bing bong bingely beep!’ to remind Vimes of nonexistent and inaccurate appointments.
I have no doubt at all that Feet of Clay will be welcomed by Pratchett’s legions of fans and will shoot straight onto the bestseller lists. But then, what else did you expect me to say? Barbara Davies in Vector 189 September/October 1996
Background illustration © and by courtesy of Marc Simonetti