The Bromeliad Trilogy by Terry Pratchett – Review by Jody Lee Mott
Like so many others, when I heard of Terry Pratchett’s death in the early spring of this year, I was saddened at the loss of such a remarkable writer and, by all accounts, marvelous human being. I also had another reaction of a much more selfish nature: no more Discworld novels!
Discworld, of course, is that wonderfully cracked and fantastical yet strangely familiar place that Sir Terry explored with his abundant imagination through forty-one novels. I’ve made my way through about a third of them so far (as well as the Johnny Maxwell books, Nation and Dodger) and plan to read them all. But my introduction to Sir Terry did not start on Discworld. Instead, it started with a trio of linked children’s books that were set on Earth with characters only reluctantly passing through. This was The Bromeliad Trilogy.
Also known as The Nomes Trilogy, it consists of three books written between 1989 and 1990: Truckers, Diggers, and Wings, later published in one volume. Each of the books tells the story of a group of little folks, or nomes, and their constant struggle to survive in a world of humans that don’t even know, or much care, they exist. Through the three books they seek answers to who they really are and where they belong in the universe. Which all sounds very profound (it is) and serious (definitely not). Getting those answers, though, is anything but easy for them.
In Truckers we meet Masklin, reluctantly in charge of a group nomes barely getting by on the edge of a road. With the help of Gimma (for whom he has not-so buried feelings), he convinces them to stowaway on a truck to find a better life. From there they are deposited in the Arnold Bros. Department Store where they meet another group of nomes who are convinced there is no world outside of the Arnold Bros. store. When the Thing, the black cube Masklin’s group has held onto in reverence for as long as anyone can remember, suddenly comes to life, it tells Masklin that the store will soon be demolished. Masklin must convince the store nomes to abandon the only world they have ever known to hijack a truck and somehow, despite only being four inches tall, drive out miles away to abandoned quarry. Which they do, with many complications.
In Diggers, the nomes are now at the quarry and settled in quite nicely. In this one, Masklin goes off with two other nomes and the Thing to investigate a nearby airport, leaving Gimma to deal with the news that humans are planning to reopen the quarry. She enlists Dorcas, a very inventive nome, to come up with a plan to escape while at the same time dealing with a festering insurrection of nomes who want to return to life at Arnold Bros., convinced that life was better then. She quells the rebellion and enlists the nomes in various plans to sabotage the human’s new quarry equipment. Dorcas manages to get a back-hoe up and running and, like in Truckers, the nomes try to make their escape on it. They don’t get far, but are instead rescued in a surprising way (which I won’t spoil here).
The last book Wings is actually the story of what happens to Malkin and the Thing and the other two nomes at the airport, and it is concurrent with much of Diggers. I won’t say too much regarding the plot of this book, knowing that if you’ve read Truckers and Diggers, you’re going to read this one anyway. I will say that here the Bromeliad metaphor, hinted at in Diggers, is broadened out in ways both wise and hilarious (as is much in Sir Terry’s work).
If you already read Terry Pratchett, check out this trilogy. You won’t be disappointed (but you knew that already). And if you haven’t read Terry Pratchett yet, what are you waiting for! It’s a great introduction for both kids and adults to this British writer’s fertile imagination.
Jody Lee Mott is a former Elementary and Middle School Teacher who has just started a series of podcasts about Middle Grade fiction called Dream Gardens. Learn more about it at jleemott.com.