The twenty-fourth novel in the Discworld Series
UK hbk: Doubleday, 145,198 copies on 4 November 1999 (0-385-40995-8)
This was primarily for the UK market. The Antipodes were covered by a separate Australian printing, which has slight changes on the title verso – printer’s imprint and the decimalisation of the font sizes: 10.5/13.5 instead of 10½/13½ – and the blocking on the spine. The UK edition has author and title in a single line, whereas the Australian printing has the title in two lines at the foot of the spine, separated from the author’s name by two rules. The front flap of the jacket lacks any prices (the UK edition has the British and Canadian ones). The embossed pattern on the binding material is of a finer grain than that on the British printing. I am not sure whether the first print figure included the Australian print-run.
Book proof: 155 copies
Doubleday’s double-sided publicity streamer for the Carpe Jugulum pbk and this title has a reference no. ‘ISBN: 072410’.
Discworld: The City Watch Collection (hbk, cover engraving by Joe McLaren): Doubleday. 20 October 2016 (978-0-857-52416-4)
Pbk: Corgi, 2 November 2000 (0-552-14616-1)
B-format, with modified Kirby design, Corgi, 6 November 2008 (978-0-552-15422-2)
Black/gold B-format: Corgi October 2011 (978-0-552-15430-7)
Bookclub: BCA, 2000 (CN 9185)
Large print hbk: Charnwood [Thorpe/Ulverscroft], 550 copies in December 2000 (0-7089-9210-2)
USA hbk: HarperCollins, jacket design by Chip Kidd, April 2000 (0-06-105157-8)
HarperCollins printed approx. 5,000 copies of an advance reader’s edition for publicity purposes (0-06-019645-9). It had a special 16 page section at the end entitled ‘The World of Terry Pratchett’, containing information on the Discworld, principal characters, Ankh-Morpork, a non-map, a jigsaw, review quotes and details of other Discworld titles published by HarperCollins.This section also appeared in each of the promotional editions HarperCollins issued in February of The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic and Equal Rites at $3.99.
Large print: G.K.Hall 2000 (0-7838-9307-8)
Pbk: Harper Torch April 2001 (0-06-102040-0) pages. 371-389 contain the opening pages of Thief of Time.
Premium pbk: Harper, 29 April 2014 (978-0-06-228013-8)
Bulgarian: Петият Слон, Mirela Khristova, Vuzev/Akhont-V, 5,000 copies on 11 December 2001 (954-422-063-1))
Chinese (complex/traditional): Solo, February 2014 (978-986-90149-0-8)
Czech: Pátý Elefant, trs. Jan Kantörek, Talpress, 10,000 copies in ?May 2001 (80-7197-179-0)
Dutch: De Vijfde Olifant, trs. Venugopalan Ittekot (pseud. of Ruurd Groot), Uitgeverij M (De Boekerij) May 2002 (90-225-3154-6)
Pbk: Mynx, July 2009 (978-90-8968-114-0)
Estonian: Viies Elevant, trs. Allan Eichenbaum, jacket illus. Hillar Mets, Varrak, January 2007 (978-9985-3-1336-7)
Finnish: Maanalainen elefantti, trs. Mika Kivimäki, Karisto, March 2009 (978-951-23-5074-2)
French: Le Cinquième Éléphant, trs. Patrick Couton, L’Atalante, September 2004 (2-84172-282-1)
Reissue, with new introduction by Terry Pratchett (dated September 2014), 23 March 2017 (978-2-84172-804-6)
Pbk: Pocket, November 2009 (978-2-266-19405-1)
Pbk with Marc Simonetti cover: Pocket, September 2011 (978-2-266-21204-5)
German hbk: Der fünfte Elefant, trs. Andreas Brandhorst, Manhattan (Goldmann) c.20,000 in August 2000 (3-442-54509-9) The first novel to be issued in hbk in Germany.
Bookclub: R.M. Buch und Medien Vertrieb, 2001 (07128-2)
Mass-market Pbk: Goldmann, August 2002 (3-442-41658-2)
Hungarian: Az ötödik elefánt, trs. Csaba Járdán, Delta Vision, 10 December 2012 (978-615-5161-76-6) [not yet seen]
Polish: Piąty Elefant, trs. Piotr W.Choleva, Prószyński i S-ka, 2006 (83-7469-377-0)
Russian: Пямьійзлефанм, trs. N. Berdennikov & A. Zhikarentsev, Eksmo, 24 April 2007 (978-5-699-224-7-4)
Serbian: Peti slon, trs. ? , Laguna, 4 October 2011 (978-86-521-0832-9) [not seen]
Spanish: El quinto elefante, trs. Javier Calvo, RandomHouse Mondadori, July 2008 (978-84-01-33684-3)
Massmarket: Bestseller/Debols!llo, January 2010 (978-84-9908-135-9)
Reading a new Discworld novel is like trying to eat a doughnut without licking your lips, but the strength of Pratchett’s writing is that the books can happily stand repeated readings. A second, more leisurely scrutiny reveals the subtler pleasures of his prose. There are the sly references (from Bela Lugosi to the Jam), the running jokes, the vivid encapsulations of places and faces: ‘his overlarge head gave him the appearance of a lolly nearing the last suck’. The plotting is dense but precisely balanced with some excellent set pieces. Above all, it is a cracking comic thriller. Peter Ingham in The Times
Terry Pratchett has a seemingly endless capacity for generating inventively comic novels about the Discworld and its inhabitants, but there is in the hearts of most of his admirers a particular place for those novels that feature the hard-bitten captain of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, Samuel Vimes. Sent as ambassador to the Northern principality of Überwald where they mine gold, iron, and fat – but never silver – he is caught up in an uneasy truce between dwarfs, werewolves, and vampires in the theft of the Scone of Stone (a particularly important piece of dwarf bread) and in the old werewolf custom of giving humans a short start in the hunt and then cheating.
Pratchett is always at his best when the comedy is combined with a real sense of jeopardy that even favourite characters might be hurt if there was a good joke in it. As always, the most unlikely things crop up as the subjects of gags – Chekhov, grand opera, the Caine Mutiny – and as always there are remorselessly funny gags about the inevitability of story:
‘They say that the fifth elephant came screaming and trumpeting through the atmosphere of the young world all those years ago and landed hard enough to split continents and raise mountains.
‘No one actually saw it land, which raised the interesting philosophical question: when millions of tons of angry elephant come spinning through the sky, and there is no one to hear it, does it – philosophically speaking – make a noise?
‘As for the dwarfs, whose legend it is, and who mine a lot deeper than other people, they say that there is a grain of truth in it.’
All this, the usual guest appearances, and Gaspode the Wonder Dog. Roz Kaveney, Amazon.co.uk
“Superb popular entertainment.” Washington Post Book World
It is well known that Pratchett’s Discworld is supported by four elephants standing on the back of a giant tortoise. Once there was a fifth elephant, which fell off the tortoise’s back and crashed onto Discworld with a mighty impact, leaving behind rich deposits of minerals and fat. Now Überwald, the country that has most of the deposits, faces a succession crisis among the dwarfs, because the Scone of Stone, their emblem of kingship, has been stolen. With a motley but effective team of aides, Chief Constable Vimes and his wife arrive as ambassadors from Ankh-Morpork to solve the mystery and prevent civil war among the dwarfs, werewolves, and vampires of Überwald. Vimes needs all the help he can get, as the werewolves, led by one Wolfgang, who would have been at home in the Waffen SS, are busily trying to take over Überwald by throwing the other races into chaos. As usual, Pratchett satirizes everything in sight and a few things buried in the subtext, always with a great knowledge of and fondness for his fellow primates, even in their more foolish moments. He never lets a proper tone flag; thus, in the midst of all the satire, Vimes’ death struggle with the werewolves is as grim as any thriller’s climax, and the growing love between Captain Carrot and Corporal Angua the werewolf is handled straight. Pratchett is now inviting comparison with Kurt Vonnegut, but if he ends up with a reputation equivalent only to that of P. G. Wodehouse, the world will be the better for his having written.
Roland Green in Booklist (USA)
More gloriously uproarious doings from Discworld (Carpe Jugulum, 1999, etc.). This time, dwarfs are rioting on the noisome streets of Ankh-Morpork. Why? Well, it’s just politics as usual: they’re about to choose a new Low King. So the city’s Lord Vetinari must send a representative to the coronation ceremony at Überwald (where he might also nail down the rights to develop Überwald’s vast, untouched natural resources). Reluctantly, City Watch Commissioner Vimes accepts the job; he has no talent for diplomacy whatsoever, and his assistants are a werewolf, a troll, and a dwarf. Among the complications Vimes must grapple with: the theft of the coronation Scone of Stone; vampires; werewolves; food (“noggi: buckwheat dumplings stuffed with stuff”); and Death (“Are you Death?” / IT’S THE SCYTHE, ISN’T IT. PEOPLE ALWAYS NOTICE THE SCYTHE”). Pratchett’s humor is international, satirical, devious, knowing, irreverent, unsparing and, above all, funny. Kirkus Reviews (USA)
Background illustration © and by courtesy of Marc Simonetti