A talking rat is fighting for his life against a terrier, inside a circle of excited men who whoop and roar and snarl. Another rat bungee-jumps down from the rafters to rescue him. In the instant of astonishment before both rats are whisked skyward, the human onlookers just have time to notice that the rescuer is wearing a tiny boater on his head. He lifts it. “Good evening!” he squeaks.
In The Amazing Maurice and his educated rodents, Maurice is a talking, thinking cat. And Darktan, Dangerous Beans, Peaches, Hamnpork and Sardines are talking, thinking rats (they chose their names from bits of writing they saw at the dump where they lived). They’re busy, with a “stupid-looking kid”, doing a kind of Pied Piper of Hamelin scam, but it all starts to turn nasty in the town of Bad Blintz.
Amazing that Terry Pratchett, in amongst all the wise-cracks, quirky references, and one-liners, manages a kind of meditation on what evil is and what it is to be human. As another blogger writes: “Originally intended for a young adult audience, this is actually a very adult piece of work – it has themes that are deep and abiding…”
As he said on receiving the Carnegie Medal for the book:
Far more beguiling to me than the idea that evil can be destroyed by throwing a piece of expensive costume jewellery into a volcano [as in Tolkien] is the possibility that peace between nations can be maintained by careful diplomacy.