Night Watch

Monday, November 21, 2011



Night Watch
Terry Pratchett, 2002

This was a re-read for me of one of my favorite Discworld books. Some spoilers in the premise for earlier books, and a few light spoilers in the review, because otherwise I couldn't talk about my favorite parts.

Premise: Samuel Vimes has come a long way from a kid who joined the Watch. Under his leadership, the City Watch actually became a force for law and order. He eventually married and is now expecting the birth of their first child. This is all suddenly torn away when Vimes is thrown through a rip in time into his own past, along with the murderous psychopath he was chasing.

I sometimes wonder if you could construct an interesting personality test from the Discworld series, based on which characters and which plotlines you most enjoy. For example, I know plenty of people like the Witches of Lancre books best, but they might be my least favorite. I really enjoy the books about Death, but my very favorites, the ones I go back and re-read again and again, are the books about the Watch. The struggles of the fantasy cops, both standard and extraordinary, have some of the best heart, not to mention adventure, in the series. Either Night Watch or Thud might be my very favorite Discworld novel.

By this volume, Vimes' personality, philosophy of policing, and plotline is fully developed, and throwing him back to 'the bad old days' allows for a fascinating exploration of his character, and adds an unusual level of introspection. It also expands the world by giving Ankh-Morpork, and many of the city's prominent citizens, a real history.

It's Discworld, so there's humor and satire, in this case largely of governments and revolutions; the commentary often has a dark bite.
"Vimes had spent his life on the streets and had met decent men, and fools, and people who'd steal a penny from a blind beggar, and people who performed silent miracles or desperate crimes every day behind the grubby windows of little houses, but he'd never met The People.  
People on the side of The People always ended up disappointed, in any case. They found that The People tended not to be grateful or appreciative or forward-thinking or obedient. The People tended to be small-minded and conservative and not very clever and were even distrustful of cleverness." - pg 250

The plot itself, in which Vimes has to play a new part in a dark time of political unrest that he's lived through once already, is both tragic and inspirational. He's always aware of his own inner tension between wanting to do right by the living, real people of this time and a desire to 'fix' history so he'll be able to return to his future. This is complicated by the necessity of playing role model to his own younger self.

I absolutely love this book, although it might be a bit less affecting to those who haven't read a few of the earlier books featuring the Watch.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

2 comments:

Jamie (Mithril Wisdom) said...

Completely agree about the personality test thing - And I'm the same that the Witches books are my least favourite and the Watch books are by far the best. I've yet to read Night Watch (I'm going through the series in order, just finished Carpe Jugulum) so I'm looking forward to getting into that one :)

Lindsay said...

I hope you have fun reading through! Also, did you hear earlier this year there was a lot of chatter about possibly turning the Watch into a tv series. Don't know what that status of that is now, though http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/03/14/terry-pratchetts-discworld-being-adapted-to-crime-of-the-week-mystery-tv-series/

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