Feet of Clay’s central story tackles one key idea: What makes a person a person?
In this case, the idea is personified by the golems–a constructed race of humanoids made of clay, animated by a religious text stored inside of their head, and bound to service (inspired by Jewish folklore). According to just about everyone, golems aren’t alive. They are nothing more than tools.
So if a golem were to kill someone… is it murder?
It’s a really interesting question, making one think about the nature of ‘personhood’ and about how everyone has preconceived biases. Golems are among my favorite supernatural beings to read about and somewhat underused. Off the top of my head, the only other novel I can remember recently reading with a golem is The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (also worth the read).
On top of that, we also get an interesting comment about the nature of athiesm in a world where ‘gods’ can and do take a quite literal and obvious hand in events from time to time:
Another priest said,“Is it true you’ve said you’ll believe in any god whose existence can be proved by logical debate?”
Vimes had a feeling about the immediate future and took a few steps away from Dorfl.
“But the gods plainly do exist,” said a priest.
“It Is Not Evident.”
A bolt of lightning lanced down through the clouds and hit Dorfl’s helmet. There was a sheet of flame and then a trickling noise. Dorfl’s molten armour formed puddles around his white-hot feet.
“I Don’t Call That Much Of An Argument,” said Dorfl calmly, from somewhere in the clouds of smoke.
It’s not a huge part of the novel, but it’s an interesting thought. I hope to see more of that later.
Other than the golems, we have the ever expanding cast of the City Watch. In particular, Commander Vimes continues to amuse. He’s a both of the watch and a noble now. It’s going just about as well as you’d expect.
“Commander, I always used to consider that you had a definite anti- authoritarian streak in you.”
“It seems that you have managed to retain this even though you are authority.”
“That’s practically zen.”
Overall, it’s a wonderful book. The City Watch subseries continues to be the best of the Discworld books and each has been well worth the read.
Random amusing quote:
“A dwarf who can’t get the hang of metal? That must be pretty unique."
“Pretty rare, sir. But I was quite good at alchemy..”
“Not any more, sir.”
“Oh? How did you leave the guild?”
“Through the roof, sir. But I’m pretty certain I know what I did wrong.”