Diggers - Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett's lovable nomes return in "Diggers," the second book of the Bromeliad trilogy. It's an improvement on the first book "Truckers," with a steadier pace and a new twist on this tiny-aliens-among-us plotline. It gets a bit silly at times, but doesn't wear out its welcome.
When last seen, the peculiar, lovable nomes had managed to drive a truck away from the Arnold Bros. store, and had set up a new home in an abandoned quarry. Masklin and his little band are doing fine, although many of the more pampered nomes are having to get used to the idea of farming and living in a place with no heating and too much open space.
Then everything changes. A human brings a paper to the quarry, and the nomes learn that the quarry is going to be reopened -- and the nomes risk discovery unless they can find a new place to live. When Masklin ventures off to the mysterious Florida, to find the descendent of Arnold Bros., a fanatic called Nisodemus takes the opportunity to rally the nomes in rebellion. Just then, Dorcas (a sort of nome technogeek) reveals the Cat (a bulldozer), which might help them against the humans.
Terry Pratchett seems to have found more solid footing in "Diggers." The book feels a lot steadier and surer, now that he's established the groundwork. He weaves in a little subtle social commentary (particularly on religious fanatics); it's not as subtle as it could be, but it isn't too annoying.
"Diggers" is also faster-moving than "Truckers." His sense of quirky humor (like the idea of Florida being made of orange juice) is present constantly, but he doesn't do it in a mean-spirited way. You laugh with the innocent nomes, not at them. Probably the biggest problem is that "Diggers" ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, with the line "I'd very much like to know what Masklin has been doing these past few weeks."
Masklin and the Thing aren't present for most of the story; they show up again in the third book, "Wings." So most of the focus is on Grimma, the girl Masklin wants to marry, and Dorcas the nome technogeek. Their characters are well-drawn, and their struggles to deal with the fanatical nome is tense and well-plotted.
While it's not his best work, Terry Pratchett is in good form in the second book of the Bromeliad trilogy. "Diggers" is a good return for the nomes, and a fun fantasy read.