Guards! Guards! (Discworld Novel 8)

by Terry Pratchett | Science Fiction & Fantasy |
ISBN: 0552134627 Global Overview for this book
Registered by erinacea of Friedrichshain, Berlin Germany on 5/19/2015
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by erinacea from Friedrichshain, Berlin Germany on Tuesday, May 19, 2015
After Wyrd Sisters and Pyramids, this is another Discworld book I read over the course of Mark Oshiro's reading project.

I'd actually known (and loved) Guards! Guards! beforehand, ever since SaoDiego introduced me to the audio books, but after some lengthy deliberation I opted to buy a physical copy of the book too so I could read along.

The story:
The Night Watch of Ankh-Morpork is a joke. Led by drunkard Captain Vimes, its only two remaining members are lazy Sergeant Colon and the crook Nobby Nobbs. But when naive rookie Carrot joins their rank and a mighty dragon threatens the city, it's up to them to solve the crime.

Once again, I'm too lazy to type a complete review, so I'll just copy and tweak my comment from the other site:

Guards! Guards! is one of my favourite Discworld books because, as others have put it, this is where the Discworld comes into its own. The beginning is amazing (containing the Brethren's hilarious meeting, the delightful bookshop = black hole equation, and the promise of DRAGONS!) but from there the book somehow only keeps getting better. I love dragons but found to my surprise that ultimately it was the characters that hooked me. Like Wyrd Sisters' witches, the guards are flawed and deeply human characters. It's Vimes and Lady Sibyl, primarily, who carry the book. Sam Vimes, in particular, clearly isn't classic hero material, yet he manages to raise himself out of his own misery because his city needs him.

I've always admired how Carrot's arrival functions as some sort of catalyst for the development of his fellow watchmen. His inexperience and naivety could have caused him real trouble but to not just his own luck but that of the entire city, his striking physical traits (size and strength) mean that he comes out on top of fights the other guards would have been unable to win. As a result, the Watch as a whole gains the necessary motivation and confidence to take on the daunting task of solving a crime involving a highly unusual kind of blunt instrument: a dragon.

Spoilers for later DW books, highlight to read That, and this is only the start to a wonderful series of books. Luckily, we'll meet these lovable characters again and again. In fact, part of my love for this book only developed in hindsight, which is why I'm so happy about Mark's reaction on his very first read-through.

I've read the book a couple of times but for some reason I never realized that it was a parody on the gritty (noir?) kind of story dealing with hard-boiled cops, possibly because it's so much more than that. Also, I've always liked Sibyl but it took this reread for me to really appreciate her character. Over the course of this rereading, I've really grown to love both her and Vimes.

Comparing the beginning and the end of the book shows how far the Watch has come. They started out as a bunch of cowardly nobodies, literally in the gutter of the city. At the end, they are hailed as heroes but refuse to play the part because they just did their job. Having the owner of the Mended Drum treat them to a round of beer was a nice touch though I can't help wondering how much Carrot's earlier impression of beating up all the usual patrons had to do with it. ;)

The first two times I read the book, the romance between Sam and Sibyl came out of nowhere. (I might have been too focused on the plot to notice.) The third time I started seeing hints, and this time I started seeing them everywhere.
In previous books, I got the impression that Pratchett is simply not that good at writing romance but where the previous pairings felt arbitrarily put together (rampant teenage hormones maybe?), this relationship feels like it's built on a basis of mutual respect. Part of the difference might be that the participants are older, used to a life of loneliness and understandably wary at first, but it might also be a sign of Pratchett simply growing as a writer.

There's humour, of course, though in places it's darker. The scenes involving the Brethren come to mind which are both extremely funny and very truthful depictions of the evil pettiness of human behaviour. Another example is Spoilers, highlight to read the Ankh-Morporkians' cowering reaction when a dragon threatens their city. Their willingness to see other people suffer as long they stay clear of trouble is only too human and extremely believable. My own knowledge that I'd have acted no differently only made me squirm even more.

Here's my ranking of the Discworld books so far:

1. Guards! Guards!
2. Wyrd Sisters
3. Mort
-------- (imaginary line splitting favs from non-favs)
4. Sourcery
5. Equal Rites
6. The Light Fantastic
7. Pyramids
8. The Colour of Magic

Highly recommendable. Unfortunately, I happened to grab an edition with an ugly (and sexist) cover instead of one of the cooler ones actually showing the dragons.

Next book: Eric (read and reviewed in German), followed by Moving Pictures

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