The Bromeliad, or Nome, Trilogy (Truckers, Diggers and Wings) - Terry Pratchett (1990-ish)

This series of three books, Truckers, Diggers and Wings is not set in Pratchett's Discworld. This may be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your personal preferences. Rather the books are set in a world much like our own, the major difference being that we are sharing the planet with nomes, not gnomes mind you, who we learn are space travellers stranded here many years ago and who have reverted to something like barbarism when trapped on a planet where nothing is on their scale - either physical or time. Nomes, you see, are about 4 inches tall and live about ten times faster than humans.

In Truckers, some nomes from "Outside" make ther way into "The Store." After some amusing, and sometimes touching, cultural confusion, things settle down for a little while, until the nomes learn that "The Store" is to be demolished. This causes a religious crisis, and Pratchett works in some of the wry humour he does so well. Eventually the nomes steal a truck and flee "The Store."

In Diggers, the nomes' new life at "The Quarry" is threatened once again by humans who are intending to re-open the quarry. Life is complicated by the fact that the main nome leader, Masklin, has gone missing, never returning from a mission to explore the nearby airport. Eventually, the nomes flee again, this time in an earthmover. All looks dark, though, as the forces of humanity close in. At the last moment, the nome starship arrives and our heroes are saved.

Wings flashes back and takes up the story of Masklin and his companions as they travel to the airport and beyond to try to find and reactivate their ancient and legendary starship. It, too, concludes (more or less) with the rescue of the nomes from the quarry.

Apparently this trilogy was intended as "young adult fiction" or somesuch. I learned this after reading the books, and it came as a bit of a surprise. They work just fine for not-so-young adults such as myself. It is the mark of good juvenile fiction that it does not talk down down to its audience and that it addresses issues that are real, even if it does so in a fantastic setting. Heinlein was a master of this, Lewis' Narnia books are a good example, and even the Harry Potter books achieve the difficult task of appealing to a wide range of readers. With the nomes, Pratchett is able to comment on religion, science and human (or nomish) nature.

Oddly, or perhaps not oddly, since Pratchett is not trying so hard to be funny there are more moments of insight or tenderness than one finds in a usual Pratchett book.

"I reckon," said Angalo, looking down, "that humans are just about intelligent enough to be crazy."

"I think," said Masklin, "that maybe they're intelligent enough to be lonely."

Pratchett has captured something essential abut the human condition there. But fear not, there is much humour to be had as well. Ultimately, the trilogy works very well and I place it well up in my ranking of Pratchett's work, for (as Corgi books puts it) adults of all ages.

Overall Grade: A

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