Men at Arms (Discworld)

Monday, September 28, 2020

Men at Arms (Discworld)
Terry Pratchett, 1993

Premise: Book 2 starring the Night Watch. Vimes is getting married and retiring, the other members of the Night Watch are dealing with nonhuman recruits, and somewhere in the city, a dangerous weapon has been found...

This is more like what I remember. This book is the source of the famous Samuel Vimes “Boots” Theory of Economic Unfairness. A lot of it is about the danger of the one gun that has been invented, and how it is as seductive and deadly as Sauron’s Ring. (Quite literally, as this is a fantasy world, but metaphorically as well - when you can kill so easily, it’s tempting to find a reason...)

The murders that bring the weapon to the attention of the watch really affect the characters (even though there is a literal Assassin's Guild in the city) because of their power and randomness. It’s appropriate that for this book, while there is a villain, several in fact, they aren’t major characters. The villain who sets the plot in motion isn’t the same as the one in the end, and it isn’t about either of them, it’s about the ability to kill. 

This book also deals more explicitly with the fact that Carrot is descended from the ancient kings of Ankh-Morpork and shows that he’s inherited the natural charisma but none of the megalomania. Angua and Detritus are both introduced as members of the Watch, and both have time to shine and show how they will become indispensable. 

Vimes spends much of the book depressed or drunk, but he eventually rallies and ends the book recommitted to fixing the City Watch - tossing out the corrupt and pompous Day Watch and expanding to better serve the various communities that make up the city. Also, there’s a great scene where he has to deal with horrible obnoxious rich people.

4 Stars - A Really Good Book

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