TerryPratchett's Night Watch (spoilers)

As someone else noted about Pterry in another thread a couple of days ago: We can start calling him Guilty of Literature.

From the dust jacket:
“Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch had it all. But now he’s back in his own rough, tough past without even the clothes he was standing up in when the lightning struck.Living in the past is hard. Dying in the past is incredibly easy. But he must survive, because he has a job to do. He must track down a murderer, teach his younger self how to be a good copper and change the outcome of a bloody rebellion.”

Night Watch might very well be his best work. It’s certainly among the most mature he’s ever written, on par with Small Gods when we’re talking philosophy and morality.

From about the 3rd or 4th Discworld book, it was apparent to me that Pratchett was a very skilled storyteller. Swift movement, good jokes, fabulous imagination. My though upon finishing Night Watch is that he’s finally caught up with himself and is now producing literature of the same level.

His style of writing has matured and as a reader, I can tell that he now trusts his ability to tell a story. He dares touch on very deep stuff and he knows that his readers have a very high tolerance for what he can throw at them. Details will follow in the spoiler space, but without ruining it for any future reader, this is, I think, the first time he really sticks to one very basic plot, without getting sidetracked with minor plots. It’s a beautiful read.

When Thief of Time and The Truth came out, I was a bit… wary. They were good and entertaining, but lacking in the depth Pratchett had shown in Small Gods, Jingo and Interesting Times. I was silently wondering to myself if he had lost the touch. He’s been so productive, it wouldn’t have surprised me. Then came The Amazing Maurice and his educated Rodents, quite possibly one of the best books for a young reader in ages. What I noticed there, was that The Discworld now is much more of a backdrop. The Deus ex Machina elements were lacking, other than saying - this place is ruled by magic, not by science.
The same with Night Watch. Apart from the time travel element, mentioned on the dust jacket, this could be a cop story happening in London or New York. The Discworld as a magic place is not really needed anymore, and I for one is happy that we don’t need explanations about how it all works. I just gets in the way of the story.

So - on to proper spoilers:

  • This is a very moral tale. A frequent quote is “What evil lurks in the hearts of men” and Pterry does a wonderful study. What’s the difference between Sam Vimes and the villain, Carcer? A lot of the subtext in the book deals with this and it’s wonderfully written. The inner monologue of Vimes flows smoothly, without hindering the action.
  • And there is lots of action. I think Pratchett started with The Fifth Elephant which read like an action movie. It was exciting. So is this book, which will make you show up at work, red eyed, and getting comments in the line of: “Someone got some last night.”
  • This is the story of Sam Vimes. Even though we meet some of the characters we know from Ankh-Morpork, in this story that takes place 30 years prior to the other stories about the Watch, the normal cast of sidekicks is all but missing. DEATH makes a very brief cameo. Ridcully and Ponder Stibbons are there briefly in the now where the book starts. The Sweeper plays a part.
  • The supernatural elements are almost totally missing.
  • It’s a story about non-violence as compared to pacifism and the need to do what’s right. It’s a very good look into the minds of people and what makes them tick. It’s, as noted above, a story about why some men turn to evil while others don’t.
  • The ordinary paradoxes that so many writers get hooked upon, when writing about time travel, is handled deftly if at all. Pratchett trusts us to be smart readers and don’t dwell unnecessarily on the subject.
  • Fewer laughs, more deep thoughts.
    And two sidenotes:
  • One of the bad guys - swing - is described very well in the way he talks. The description immediatly got me thinking about Gent Smith in The Matrix. I would be glad if that was Pterry’s intention.
  • I’ve said it before. I find many similarities between Pratchett and Heinlein. I’m sure Pratchett read Heinlein when younger. The appearance of a Jubal St. confirms my suspicion.

All in all: 10/10

I must say, I’m a little surprised to get no replies, since I know other dopers are reading this. Maybe because it was posted during the weekend. So I’ll rub my ego and :bump:

Hi Gaspode!

Actually, I just finished this book yesterday. And while I didn’t like it as much as you, I did like it a great deal. (Mostly I thought it took a while to get going).

Let’s see. A few quick points:

-While I can understand your disappointment with “Thief of Time”, I found “The Truth” to be quite good indeed.

-Literature? Sure. I’d say many of PTerry’s books flirt with Literature, this among them.

-As to the lack of supenatural elements and focus on action, most of the watch books are the same way with the major exception being “Feet of Clay”.

Actually, the more I think about it, I really don’t have much to add to your Orriginal Post. Perhaps I’ll be able to come up with something more useful to contribure later.

Well, there was this dragon, if you remember… =)

Ah yes. I had completely spaced on the plot to “Guards! Guards!”. But this brings to mind a question I had while reading “Night Watch”.

It’s been a long time since I read G!G! but the impression in my memory is that the early Watch presented in that book is very different from the early Watch presented in the most recent one. Didn’t their Watch house back then consist entirely of Sam, Colon and Nobby? Wan’t it much smaller and less organized?

Not that this is a criticism, mind you. I don’t mind these little inconsistencies in the Discworld books and I understand all about the altenate pasts and such. I was just wondering. And you clearly remember this better than I. I’d reread the book myself, but my book pike is pretty high right now.

Guards! Guards! takes place about 27-28 years after the affair of the lilacs that Night Watch tells about. In that time, it becomes what you see in GG. In fact Vimes talks about it a bit as NW progresses.

Remember, after the events of lord Snapcase’s ascention, the Night Watch is basically leaderless save for Knock and Quirke, both of whom are prats. The moral after the lilac affair also probably hit a very low point.

I’m just sort of trying to skim this thread, as I haven’t read the book yet. But yeah, I WILL buy the book next time I get out. Which might be sometime in February, the way things are going.

I thought it was excellent, a welcome return to form for PTerry, but not quite up there with Small Gods or Guards Guards. As if anything could be.

Thief of Time and The Truth were absolutely bloody awful, no question. Thankfully with this one, as with the superb Amazing Maurice, he’s resisted his irritating habit of infesting his writing with patronising sanctimony.

Bloody awful? Hardly. They weren’t up to his usual standard, but they were still good books (IMO of course). The Amazing Maurice on the other hand was rather weak. Then again, I’m not a huge fan of childrens’ books.

Well the Thief of Time in particular was dreadful… that business with the chocolates towards the end was so painfully unfunny, drawn out and forced, it really hurt to read it. I just couldn’t credit this came from the man who created Nanny Ogg!

The Amazing Maurice weak?

I find it absolutely wonderful.
And it’s not really labeled as a children’s bokk, it’s labeled as “for young readers”, whatever that means. To me it’s like his earlier work: Young person coming of age and learning the hard facts about life, but he’s gotten so much better at writing, than he was when he did Equal Rites and Sourcery.

I agree that under Snapcase the Watch probably dwindled down to almost nothing as we see it at the beginning of GG. And I get the impression that at the time of GG, Vetinari hadn’t been Patrician very long. It’s pointed out in several places that he was responsible for the introduction of the Guild system that benefitted the city so much, so I would assume that when he became Patrician that was one of his first acts. It was only a bit later when the events of GG drew the Watch to his attention that he started to enlarge it and give them more responsibilities.

And I agree that NW far and away the best Pratchett has written so far - the scenes where the watchmen discover the torture chambers reminded me of the torture scenes in 1984.

I loved Night Watch. I thought it was one of the best ever. That said, I also thoroughly enjoyed Thief of Time, The Last Hero and The Fifth Elephant. The Truth had some great scenes but wasn’t as good as those.

Maurice is also an excellent book. Kids who miss this because it isn’t advertised as widely as Harry Potter (no disrespect intended. I’ve enjoyed those books too) are missing out on something wonderful.

Just started the book on Tuesday. Finished it Wednesday morning, which I fortuitously had off. It took a little longer than usual for him to hook me, but when he finally did, he got those hooks in deep. It doesn’t quite break my Top Five (In descending order, Small Gods, Hogfather, Lords and Ladies, Soul Music, The Truth), at least not on the first read, but I was very impressed with it. Not nearly as funny as usual, (although “I’m saving up for a house” gave me a fit) but pretty thought-provoking.

A spoilerish quibble:

At the end, I was sure that Vetinari would have known all along that Vimes was John Keel, ever since Guards! Guards! It would’ve put such an interesting spin on all their previous interactions, and explained why Vetinari took such a favorable interest in Vimes right from the start.

Lords and Ladies is in my top five too, along with Men at Arms, Mort, Guards! Guards! and Soul Music.

Remember that it had been 30 years and Vetinari hadn’t been too close to him until toward the end. Even his memory for faces might not be that good. (Although I wouldn’t want to gamble on that if I was hauled up before him.)

I thought the bit with Reg Shoe at the cemetery was funny. This book didn’t provoke the belly laughs that some of the others have, but the humor is there and the story is excellent. Vimes is one of my 5 favorite characters, the others being The Librarian, Granny Weatherwax, The Luggage and Death.

I also am quite fond of The Luggage. Too bad it only shows up in Rincewind books, since I can’t stand Rincewind.

Ah, but of course he wouldn’t recognised him because the time-lines wouldn’t have yet changed at that point.

Rincewind’s best when you read his dialogue with Eric Idle’s voice. He was by far the best thing about the computer games. If they ever make a movie with Rincewind in it (though they won’t, or if they do it’ll be like LOTR, 50 years after Pterry’s dead :)) they’d have to have it animated so he could still play Rincewind since he’s a bit old looking for the part right now.

Um, hijack over. I liked Night Watch – it’s the first Discworld novel I’ve bought instead of borrowed from a friend.

There’s one question I need to have answered: Are there any goddamn Igors?

Because I’m not sure if I can fully appreciate yet another book with goddamn Igors.

Just a brief cameo. (Although I rather like the Igors, myself.)