The Bromeliad Trilogy: Truckers, Diggers, Wings
By Terry Pratchett
Published by HarperCollins 
September 2003; 0060094931; 512 pages

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The Bromeliad Trilogy by Terry Pratchett

Chapter One

This is the story of the Going Home.

This is the story of the Critical Path.

This is the story of the truck roaring through the sleeping city and out into the country lanes, smashing through streetlamps and swinging from side to side and shattering shop windows and rolling to a halt when the police chased it. And when the baffled men went back to their car to report Listen, will you, listen? There isn't anyone driving it!, it became the story of the truck that started up again, rolled away from the astonished men, and vanished into the night.

But the story didn't end there.

It didn't start there, either.

The sky rained dismal. It rained humdrum. It rained the kind of rain that is so much wetter than normal rain, the kind of rain that comes down in big drops and splats, the kind of rain that is merely an upright sea with slots in it.

It rained a tattoo on the old hamburger boxes and french fries wrappers in the wire basket that was giving Masklin a temporary hiding place.

Look at him. Wet. Cold. Extremely worried. And four inches high.

The litter bin was usually a good hunting ground, even in winter. There were often a few cold fries, sometimes even a chicken bone. Once or twice there had been a rat, too. It had been a really good day when there had last been a rat -- it had kept them going for a week. The trouble was that you could get pretty fed up with rat by the third day. By the third mouthful, come to that. Masklin scanned the parking lot.

 

And here it came, right on time, crashing through the puddles and pulling up with a hiss of brakes.

He'd watched this truck arrive every Tuesday and Thursday morning for the last four weeks. He timed the driver's stop carefully.

They had exactly three minutes. To someone the size of a nome, that's more than half an hour.

He scrambled down through the greasy paper, dropped out of the bottom of the bin, and ran for the bushes at the edge of the lot, where Grimma and the old folk were waiting.

"It's here!" he said. "Come on!"

They got to their feet, groaning and grumbling. He'd taken them through this dozens of times. He knew it wasn't any good shouting. They just got upset and confused, and then they'd grumble some more. They grumbled about cold fries, even when Grimma warmed them up. They moaned about rat. He'd seriously thought about leaving alone, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. They needed him. They needed someone to grumble at.

But they were too slow. He felt like bursting into tears. He turned to Grimma instead.

"Come on," he said. "Give them a prod or something. They'll never get moving!"

She patted his hand.

"They're frightened," she said. "You go on. I'll bring them out."

There wasn't time to argue. Masklin ran back across the soaking mud of the lot, unslinging the rope and grapnel. It had taken him a week to make the hook out of a bit of wire teased off a fence, and he'd spent days practicing; he was already swinging it around his head as he reached the truck's wheel.

The hook caught the tarpaulin high above him at the second try. He tested it once or twice and then, his feet scrabbling for a grip on the tire, pulled himself up.

He'd done it before. Oh, he'd done it three or four times. He scrambled under the heavy tarpaulin and into the darkness beyond, pulling out more line and tying it as tightly as possible around one of the ropes that were as thick as his arm.

Then he slid back to the edge, and thank goodness, Grimma was herding the old people across the gravel. He could hear them complaining about the puddles. Masklin jumped up and down with impatience.

It seemed to take hours. He explained it to them millions of times, but people hadn't been pulled up onto the backs of trucks when they were children and they didn't see why they should start now. Old Granny Morkie insisted that all the men look the other way so that they wouldn't see up her skirts, for example, and old Torrit whimpered so much that Masklin had to lower him again so that Grimma could blindfold him. It wasn't so bad after he'd hauled the first few up, because they were able to help on the rope, but time still stretched out. He pulled Grimma up last. She was light. They were all light, if it came to that. You didn't get rat every day.

It was amazing. They were all on board. He'd worked with an ear cocked for the sound of footsteps on gravel and the slamming of the driver's door, and it hadn't happened.

"Right," he said, shaking with the effort. "That's it, then. Now if we just go -- "

"I dropped the Thing," said old Torrit. "The Thing. I dropped it, d'you see? I dropped it down by the wheel when she was blindfoldin' me. You go and get it, boy."

Masklin looked at him in horror. Then he poked his head out from under the tarpaulin, and yes, there it was, far below. A tiny black cube on the ground.


The foregoing is excerpted from The Bromeliad Trilogy by Terry Pratchett. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022

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Synopsis

In a world whose seasons are defined by Christmas sales and Spring Fashions, hundreds of tiny nomes live in the corners and crannies of a human-run department store. They have made their homes beneath the floorboards for generations and no longer remember -- or even believe in -- life beyond the Store walls.

Until the day a small band of nomes arrives at the Store from the Outside. Led by a young nome named Masklin, the Outsiders carry a mysterious black box (called the Thing), and they deliver devastating news: In twenty-one days, the Store will be destroyed.

Now all the nomes must learn to work together, and they must learn to think -- and to think BIG.

Part satire, part parable, and part adventure story par excellence, master storyteller Terry Pratchett's engaging trilogy traces the nomes' flight and search for safety, a search that leads them to discover their own astonishing origins and takes them beyond their wildest dreams.

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Author

Terry Pratchett Terry Pratchett published his first story when he was thirteen and had his first commercial sale four years later. His first novel, a humorous fantasy entitled The Carpet People, appeared in 1971 from the publisher Colin Smythe. Before turning to literary writing full-time, he worked for many years as a journalist and press officer. His first book in the Discworld series, The Colour of Magic, appeared in 1983. Since that time he has written an additional twenty-five Discworld novels. A non-Discworld book, Good Omens , his 1990 collaboration with Neil Gaiman, has been a long-time best-seller as well. He has also written two science fiction novels and seven for younger readers.

Regarded as one of the most significant contemporary English-language satirists, Pratchett received the British Fantasy Award for best novel (Pyramids), in 1989, was named an Officer of the British Empire "for services to literature" in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 1998, and received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University of Warwick in 1999. His acclaimed novels have sold more than 21 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 27 languages. Terry Pratchett lives in England with his family, and spends most days at his computer, writing.

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