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gnat (29)

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Journal of gnat (29)

Monday January 13, 2003
02:20 PM

Review: Night Watch, by Terry Pratchett

[ #9944 ]
As you've guessed by now, I'm a big fan of mysteries and thrillers. I don't mountain bike, don't sky dive, don't scuba dive, and don't even like spicy food. Novels are where I get my thrills. I also like funny novels--I'm a big fan of Douglas Adams, P.G. Wodehouse, and the third name in the triumvirate of The Funniest Englishmen Ever: Terry Pratchett.

Pratchett's a polarizing force in literature. Many people dislike his writing because they dislike the fantasy world in which he sets his Discworld novels. I have a very low dragon/leather/quest/wizard threshold and yet I love his books--why? I can only assume it's because I love his humour. It's about life and what's good, bad, and silly about it. He takes sharp pokes at religion, science, politics and love, all by turning the tropes of fantasy fiction back on themselves.

His characters are very rooted in rural English life, so the people in his books are what everyday English folks would be if they were thrust into this bizarre world fuelled by magic. All Pratchett fans have their favourite character: is it Rincewind, the hapless would-be magician; of the Witches who overcome obstacles more through understanding how people work than through magic; or is it (like me) Captain Vimes, the archetypical world-weary good cop? All the Vimes novels are thrillers/mysteries, and this is no exception.

I've followed Vimes through several books now, and each just gets better than the last. He keeps getting promoted, which takes him further from the streets and the hands-on policing he likes. This book sees him thrust back in time to mentor a younger Vimes during an upheaval in the city's rulers. There are a lot of very pointed observations on the difference between a police force, secret police, and an army, and Vimes's wisdom, clarity of thought, and determination to do the right thing in a complicated world is a pleasure to behold. If you read between the lines (or sometimes even on the lines) you'll find some very relevant observations on the War on Terror.

This is as good an introduction to Pratchett's Discworld universe as any, although it features very few of his other staple characters. Newbies to the Discworld might want to read this with an eye to then reading all the novels in sequential order. If you are already a Discworld fan, then all you need to know is that this book is out and you should order it immediately :-)

Rating: 10/10.[*]

[*] Might be biased in that I think Pratchett's one of the top three authors writing today. Period.

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  • Death :) He gets all the most clever quips and lines and, of course, he is in every book since once can never escape death. I've been meaning to read his carpet people books...ever read those?

    • Have I read them? Ho ho. They're okay, but not great. His non-Discworld books didn't do as much for me as the Discworld ones. The exception was the Johnny pair of young adult books--I can see myself giving them to William in a few years.

      Death is easy. Vetinari is my second-favourite character :-)


      • I haven't read them which is why I asked :) I've heard mixed reviews and they're a bit of a challenge to find in the states. You might also consider the 'amazing maurice' as well as 'the last hero' book for William too as the illustrations are impressive. :)

        • William and I read "The Last Hero" around Christmas time, and we're reading "The Amazing Maurice" now. Was it just me, or was "The Last Hero" not well edited? I found a lot of cases of repeated words that made it really clumsy to read out loud. William's a bit too young for the complexity of "The Amazing Maurice", but I'm reading it to him anyway just to get him used to complex stories and sentences. He could take "The Last Hero" more easily because that book had lots of pictures :-)

          Hard to find? Ama []

  • I too love Terry Pratchett's writing. I heard of him in one of your journals (yes must take the blame for many things), and stumbled across the Gnome series in our local library. The family loved them, and I was hooked!

    Not too many of the discworld series are translated into danish, so I would love for someone, who has access to the whole lot, to point out the major works - so I can pester the library to get them for me. OK I could read them in english (and I do prefer it myself), but the rest
    • Honestly, everyone has a different favouriate. The classics you should read are: "Equal Rites" (which introduced the witches), "Mort" (which really fleshed out Death's character, so to speak), "Guards! Guards!" (which introduced Vimes), and "Small Gods" (which was Pratchett's first foray into the very weighty topic of religion). "The Color of Magic" started it all, and is well worth reading (the contrast between early Discworld and late Discworld is very interesting to observe), and it's a good introducti
  • I've never ever in my life met anybody who liked Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchet or P.G.Wodehouse, let alone all three! Unbelievable.
    • If I'm not real, I'm a good enough AI that I'm fooling myself :-) If you like all three of those, you might like another very funny English author: Tom Sharpe. I don't know that you can get his novels in America, but his four best are: "Wilt", "The Wilt Alternative", "Wilt on High", and "The Throwback". The latter isn't part of the Wilt series, but is just as funny. All my mental images of Comet (Ajax) in condoms come from that book.