Sunday, July 19, 2009

Night Watch

Title: Night Watch
Author: Terry Pratchett

What it's about: In this installment of the Discworld's City Watch arc, His Grace Sir Samuel Vimes, Commander of Ankh-Morpork's City Watch, is anxiously awaiting the birth of his child when he's called away to deal with a persistent serial killer. Carcer Dunn is a deadly psychopath, but Vimes and his watchmen have him cornered atop one of the buildings of Unseen University when a freak accident sends Vimes and Carcer hurtling back thirty years through time, to a period of significant importance to both him and to the city itself. Now Vimes has to pursue his man in the Ankh-Morpork of the past, as well as navigate the old Watch through a time of coming crisis. If he's lucky, he'll come through this all alive, and so will one of the old Watch's newest recruits, a young lance constable named Sam Vimes.

What I thought: While rife with Pratchett's trademark wit and black humor, this is a book that's actually very deep, serious, and full of emotion. Vimes has to relive events that shaped him into the man he is in the present, and he has to struggle with changing and doing what he can and knowing his limits. The allusions to the People's Republic of Treacle Mine Road and its fate in the framing sections taking place in the present help to up the emotional impact when we see the republic take shape and start to grow. The Ankh-Morpork of the past is a dim, gritty place that we only even saw a shadow of in Guards! Guards!; after all, by that point, at least, Vetinari was in power and making the city run more efficiently and peacefully. So this view of the city's past is interesting, as are all the cameos of characters we know from the rest of the series, like Vetinari and young Nobby. We also quickly come to care for characters who've never been seen before and will never be seen again, just because of Pratchett's dynamic writing style that quickly develops and creates empathy for even the more minor characters through small details and observations that make these characters seem like real people, not just names with quirks. A lot of people name this as Pratchett's best, and I think they may very well be on to something.

Overall: A poignant addition to the Discworld series.

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