Discworld really doesn't get any better or funnier than this. For the first time in the series, we get an extended up-close view of life in the remarkable city of Anhk-Morpork. We are introduced to such wonderful characters as Captain Vimes of the City Watch and his singular subordinates Nobby, Colon, and the giant dwarf (adopted) Carrot; the formidable Lady Ramkin; and Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler. The remarkable fashion in which the Patrician Lord Vetinari runs the city is explained in some detail, we begin to really get to know the Librarian of Unseen University (who was of course turned into an orangutan some type back as a result of a magical accident), and Pratchett gives us a basic rundown on the theory of L-Space under which all libraries work and are magically connected.
Everyone knows that dragons do not exist, not the type of giant mythical creatures who fly around breathing fire all over the place. Thus, it comes as something of a surprise to people when Anhk-Morpork begins experiencing incidents of the body-melting variety; such a perpetrator can only be dismissed for so long as a giant wading bird, however. It seems that a group of unimportant have-nots has been wooed into a secret society bent on teaching the haves a lesson or two by magically summoning a dragon to carry out their wishes. Naturally, things get out of hand, and the dragon finds a way to establish permanent residence in reality. Declaring himself king of the city, preparations are made to turn over treasure and begin sacrificing maidens. The City Watch has long been nothing but a joke in town, especially after the establishment of proper guilds virtually eliminated illegal illegality, and Captain Vimes and his men have no desire to enforce the law anyway, unless enforcing the law somehow involves drinking copious amounts of alcohol. Young Carrot (who has just found out he is a human and not a dwarf after all, all six and a half feet of him) amazingly volunteers for the Watch and actually tries to enforce the law, thereby causing a bit of controversy at first. Then the dragon business comes along, and the City Watchmen take it upon themselves to try and overcome the wossname since no one else, aside from the noble swamp-dragon enthusiast Lady Ramkin, seems to offer much resistance at all (even when extolled by Sergeant Colon's rally cry "The people united can never be ignited!"). Of course, the odds of solving such a crisis as this are a million-to-one; odds of a million-to-one guarantees success, as everyone knows, and the problem comes in making sure your plan's chance of success does not miss the mark; it can't be a thousand-to-one or even 999,999-to-one odds because you've never heard of anyone succeeding with those odds against them, now have you?
There is so much that goes to the very heart of the Discworld in this novel that one cannot begin to list it all here. Captain Vimes and the City Watch members are some of the most human characters in the series, and they also happen to be very funny. Virtually everything about this book is terribly funny. The only question I have about this novel is how in the world the inept wizard Rincewind managed to be completely absent from such a dangerous situation as the one represented by the dragon to the city. It's really best that he does not appear in these pages, though, as it would take something away from the incredible appeal of the City Watch characters. If ever a Discworld novel were required reading, it would have to be Guards! Guards! If you can't enjoy this book, then Pratchett's Discworld series is not for you.
on December 10, 1999
This is the first Discworld book I read and 24 books later it is still my favorite. The plot is so twisted, and the characters well developed, its a must read! It is a fun series to read and I would recommened to everyone to read this one first. You don't have to read the series in order. Each book can stand alone although there are several "mini-series" of books in the whole series. Guards! Guards! is full of humor yet thought provoking. While you enjoy the story you also realize the point that Mr Pratchett is making about problems in our own world. So buy it now! And enjoy!
on February 20, 2006
"Guards ! Guards !" is the eighth book in Terry Pratchett's hugely popular Discworld series and is the first to focus on Sam Vimes and Ankh-Morpork's City Guard. Although the City Guard was once a fine and noble profession, it has fallen by the wayside in recent years. Once, there had been hundreds of members : as the book opens, the City's Night Watch is staffed only by Sam, Sergeant Fred Colon and Corporal Nobby Nobbs. Like the Night Watch itself, Sam has also fallen on hard times. Having started drinking to forget (it was possibly something to do with a woman), he now drinks to forget the drinking. Despite his faults, though, he's a likeable cynic who has a well-developed sense of fair play and identifies with the underdog.
Things start turning around for Sam and the Watch in "Guards ! Guards !". The force sees a dramatic rise in numbers with the arrival of Carrot Ironfoundersson. Orphaned as a baby, Carrot had been taken in by the dwarfs and raised in a gold mine. Until shortly before he left home, he didn't realise he was human - he'd always thought he was just tall for his species. His adoptive father decides it's best for Carrot to spend some time with other humans and 'manages' to secure a position for him in the Ankh-Morpork City Guard. Carrot, on his arrival, is viewed with some amazement : an actual, honest volunteer. He takes things very literally (as dwarfs tend to do), is very innocent (he wouldn't know what to do with a seamstress if one fell into his lap) and a lot of the humour comes from his utter confusion.
The problem for Sam and the Night Watch is presented by the Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren. Well, actually, the problem is its mysterious (and big-headed) Supreme Grand Master, an ambitious and manipulative individual. (The remaining members are bitter, vitriolic, small-minded, jealous, resentful and a bit stupid. As a result, they're very easy to manipulate). He's devised a Machiavellian plan that will involve the removal of the Patrician (Ankh-Morpork's tyrant) and lead to the restoration of the monarchy. Unfortunately, his plan involves the controlling of a very dangerous dragon - to that end, Brother Fingers has managed to 'acquire' De Malachite's book on summoning dragons from the Unseen University's library. For some reason, it doesn't seem to bother him that the book is badly burnt.
This is the first of the Discworld books to feature Sam and the City Guard. As a result, it's a pretty good starting point if you've never read any of the other Discworld books before and want to see what you're missing. Pratchett's books are always very funny and this one gets better as it goes along. Definitely recommended.
on January 1, 2014
Okay, so this is the best dragon book ever. For adults. Well, for those of us who think we are adults, who hope we are adults, but are really little kids in adult suits. I thought all the previous Discworld novels were funny. I was so wrong. This book left me in fits of giggles. At times I laughed so hard that I couldn't laugh anymore and just whimpered, and almost peed my pants once. Okay, twice. Okay, I don't remember how many times. Anyway. People told me that one of their favorites in the Discworld series is Guards! Guards! I get why. I mean, I haven't read the rest of them, but here Terry outdid himself. Every sentence is a pun, a joke, a clever satire, a poke at everything under the sky, marriage, religion, stupidity, politics, love, cowardice, you name it, he's got it all. Of course the dedication to the book alone will leave you struggling for breath. Haven't we all seen those movies with those unnamed men rushing at the hero, only to be butchered to smithereens? Yeah. You know what I'm talking about. Enter secret societies, ruthless rulers, or, rather, loathsome men willing to become ruthless rulers, kings, kings, dragons, heirs to the throne, did I mention dragons? Yes, dragons, swamp dragons, dwarfs, big ladies (I will leave it here, because in the big ladies lies the secret of this book). But I'm rambling. Mind you, my stomach still hurts from laughing, so I'm a little jerky writing this. As to the actual story, because every proper review should do this.
Let's see here. We start with a secret brotherhood doing something strange and mysterious… wait, no, before that we start with dragons dwelling in a mysterious place, and then a strange happening in the library, where, as you remember, an orangutan is a librarian. So, some plot is unfolding in the midst of the brotherhood, of course, as you might have guessed, to overthrow the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork and, well, everything that goes with it. But then, of course, everything goes wrong. Because there are still noble and honest men, like the men of the City Watch, especially the young recruit by the name of Carrot who was adopted by dwarfs but is actually twice their size and who has memorized the book of law of the city and is putting it to practice. You can imagine what that would cause in the city that is home to a Guild of Thieves, and Guild of Assassins, and stuff. Enter love. There is lots of awkward and hysterical love here, the details of which I can't disclose because I would spoil the book for you (it kept me guessing almost to the very end, which is rare, because I'm usually very shrewd.) There are also very important things like a tea kettle that gets eaten, and rats that understand English, and maidens chained to a rock, and lots of courage and pride and folk wisdom. That last one gave me stomach aches, one of those painful fits of laughter when you double down and lose all hope of ever standing upright. I think I need to cut writing this review, because you need to cut reading it and start reading Guards! Guards! as I can't possibly do it justice. Don't forget a pack of tissues. You'll need it.
Time to pack up my luggage (wouldn't it be nice to have a suitcase like Rincewind's?) and take off for Discworld while the rain and gloom of a January thaw engulf the northern hemisphere. "Guards! Guards!" is the eighth book in the Discworld series, in which Captain Sam Vimes of Ankh-Morpork's Night Watch gives up drinking and gets married (just the opposite of most folks). I don't read the Discworld novels in order any more, just pick up a favorite and start in.
The blurbs on the back and cover pages compare Pratchett to Charles Dickens (Pratchett is better), Chaucer, "J.R.R. Tolkien with a sharper, more satiric edge," and P.G. Wodehouse. I think any author who garners comparisons with such wildly disparate writers must be in a category by himself. Heck, Pratchett IS a category by himself.
So on to Ankh-Morpork where the Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren decides, with a little prompting from its Supreme Grand Master, to conjure up a dragon. The dragon will cause enough death and property damage (including a vegetable stand and a brother-in-law's shiny new carriage) so that when the Supreme Grand Master's nephew rides into the city with his sharp, shiny sword and slays the beast, the grateful citizens will proclaim him king.
This plot works rather well, except that the dragon decides that it wants to be king and cremates its would-be slayer. Its requirements are simple and traditional: one well-bred virgin per month, and all of the gold, silver, and jewels in Ankh-Morpork for its hoard.
The new regime fires Sam Vimes from his job as captain of the Night Watch. How he wonders, could things get worse?
Well, at least he's not a virgin and no one is talking to him in capital letters.
on July 11, 2000
This book is dedicated to all the guard-characters in fantasy-novels. Most of the time these characters only appear as an obstacle to the hero of the story, and most of the time they either don't survive the first scene in which they appear, or end up with a chandelier on their heads, in the more classical versions.
This book takes the perspective of those poor suckers.
Poor suckers indeed, trying to uphold nonsense like law and order in a city like Ankh-Morpork. The story starts out with the introduction of a new member of the guard, Carrot, a quite naive, but simplistically honest and brave young man, raised by dwarfs. The scene where his parents tell him he's not a dwarf is an absolute masterpiece parody on adoption-drama.
As brave as Carrot is, as pathetic is the rest of the guard. First, there's captain Vimes, who takes on the main role in the rest of the story. Though basically a good guy, he's been brought down by his alcohol addiction. Then there's Colon, the gravitationally challenged sergeant of the guard. And last but not least Nobby, whose exact appearance is never fully described, but he's supposed to be the ugliest, filthiest and nastiest excuse for a human being there is.
These poor suckers take on a struggle against an occult society (whose members are society's ultimate losers) trying to summon a dragon from their dimension. The story is very entertaining and involves some very onorthodox views on classical fantasy, like all discworld-novels. Dragons are no longer majestic monsters, but either badly designed, self-destructive walking chemistry-sets, or impossibly sadistic giants.
Less entertaining are the attempts on parody, like captain Vimes holding a dragon like a gun, quoting Dirty Harry ("how many times has he thrown flames? Five? Six?"). In this discworld-novel these parodies are sometimes just too obvious and over the top.
This was the third disworld-novel I read, The color of magic and The light fantastic being the first and second. Although G!G! is generally regarded as superior to Pratchett's earlier work, I have too say I enjoyed the first two novels better. G!G! lacks the feeling of exploration I felt while reading those, since the entire story takes place in Ankh-Morpork instead of being a quest across the whole of discworld. The humor on the other hand is less "silly" and can be appreciated after rereading.
All in all a very entertaining book, with heart-warming characters, ingenious plot twists and a great sense of humor.
on April 11, 2015
I hope Death is taking good care of Sir Terry Pratchett, because when he comes to take me to the other side, I’d like to kiss Sir Terry on the mouth. Because I’m in love.
I don’t think words like clever, witty, cynical, hilarious, dark, gut-busting-funny really do justice to his writing, but it’s kind of all of those combined and you get this amazing writing that is both funny, clever, and underneath it all incredibly dark and somewhat sobering. But how else do you point out to people all that is wrong with humanity? No one wants to hear what’s wrong with humanity unless they want to become a deeply depressed, chain smoking, alcoholics. So you do it the only way that will get people to listen: you disguise it as a joke. So that people can laugh, sigh, and say “that clever bastard” and go on with their day without thinking of drowning themselves in a bottle of gin.
I’ve been holding off on starting Terry Pratchett’s works for years because the collection is so massive and apparently you don’t start with book 1. After hearing about his passing, however, I knew I just had to do it. Since there are several viable starting points,after some consideration and research, I decided to start with The City Watch collection, as it is lauded as one of the funniest and best books in the collection.
The book is about the city of Ankh Morpork and it’s Watch. “The city wasa, wasa, wasa wossname. Thing. Woman. That’s what it was. Woman. Roaring, ancient, centuries old. Strung you along, let you fall in thingy, love, then kicked you inna, inna, thingy. Thingy, in your mouth. Tongue. Tonsils. Teeth. That’s what it, she, did. She wasa … thing, you know, lady dog. Puppy. Hen. Bitch. And then you hated her and, and just when you thought you’d got her, it, out of your whatever, then she opened her great booming rotten heart to you, caught you off bal, bal, bal, thing. Ance. Yeah. Thassit. Never knew where where you stood. Lay. Only one thing you were sure of, you couldn’t let her go. Because, because she was yours, all you had, even in her gutters…”
If you take a city and turn it upside down, put criminals in charge, and the “respectable” folk at the bottom you’ll have something vaguely resembling Ankh Morpork. Cover it in trash, alcohol, and feces and you’ll be much closer.
Like any true fantasy this book has it’s heroes, it’s tyrants, it’s would-be-kings trying to beat the tyrants, secret societies, magical books and artifacts, and of course, last, but never the least: dragons.
We go to the gutter to find our anti-hero Sam Vimes, Captain of the Night Watch, a depressed alcoholic brought low by a woman. The woman in this case is Ankh Morpork herself, his true love, his city. Our other hero is Carrot, a six foot Dwarf who may not be a Dwarf afterall do to human genetics, in possession of the most non-magical sword in existence. And of course, Srg. Colon and Srg. Nobbs. Oh, and the Librarian mon— beg pardon, Ape. Who may have been a man once. They are all brilliant, lovable, and while slightly cowardly, ready to stand behind their Captain.
Then there is of course Lord Havelock Vetinari, who is the city’s ruler, a tyrant who you probably actually don’t mind having in charge, since he’s not very tyrannical, but a very effective ruler. He demands greats respect and you have to give it him, because if you didn’t he’d send men to come and take it away.
It takes a threat to the city, to the livelihood of all it’s criminal citizens, to get the good Captain out of his drunken malaise and turn him into the cynical, brooding, anti-hero his city needs, but never knew it wanted. That threat, of course, is a dragon, for what other creature could disturb a city that is already run by organized crime.
But a dragon is only a dragon after all, and it will do what a dragon will do. That is, hord anything shinny, set things on fire, and demand a human snack to appease it’s hunger.
Full of puns, wordplay, and humours cynicism this book would give Monty Python a run for it’s money, all while showing just how petty some powerful people can be, and how heroic some pathetic people may turn out to be. It a one in a million chance, but it just might work.
The question is: Are you feeling lucky, punk?
on August 29, 2011
The last few weeks, my reading has been monopolized by the mind of Terry Pratchett. I have been sucked into the Discworld, and I am just fine with that. I sought out experts on which order to read the books, since there is no one straight linear way to read the books.
I read the entire sequence centered on Death (and his extended family) first, since my introduction to the world of the Disc was the movie version of _Hogfather_.
I bought the first one, _Mort_, just to see if I would like it. I liked it well enough; I bought the next two books in the series on the Death story-arc. A quarter of the way through the second book, I bought the final two books of the arc.
I neared the end of one of those books and I bought the first three books from the "Guards" story-arc. At this point, I have only read one of those books, the first _Guards, Guards_. I was pleased, since I have to admit that I was a bit worried about the continuity of quality between story-arcs. Was I just interested in the character of Death, or did I like the world as a whole?
It turns out that I like the world as a whole, and this is a huge strength of Pratchett. I want to learn about all the inhabitants and read all the stories, no matter how tangential. I don't usually keep many books in my wish list, but it is now filled up with Discworld books. He builds a world like Vonnegut did. There are many familiar elements of the world we inhabit but there is the magic element that rips from genre fiction: what Vonnegut did with science-fiction, Pratchett does with fantasy elements.
There are a couple of things about the series generally that I really enjoyed. The first is what you try to develop as a writer, a unique voice. I've been struggling on finding the right word to really describe what I would characterize as Pratchett's voice. It is arch and tongue-in-cheek and just fun if you've read enough. He's a post-modern Tolkien, but that's a little off.
Secondly, he is funny, and he's not afraid to go for the easy joke. There are puns-galore, if you like that sort of thing. I happen to. There is one very memorable one that he just sort of sneaks in during _Soul Music_. He takes the reader 90% of the way to the pay-off but allows the slow dawning to set on the reader, so that a bad pun feels like it was done masterfully. Which it is, it really is.
If I had to make a critique of the books in the series that I have read so far is that I have read them too fast. My wife often tells me to slow down and enjoy the books you like, but I seldom listen to her. I should have here. There have been a couple of times that I enjoying the ride so much, I didn't even bother to remember what I had just read. I had to go and reread the last 50 pages of _Guards, Guards_ because of this. I enjoyed it too much.
Otherwise, this is an unqualified recommendation for the Discworld books. Spend some time there, you won't regret it.
on November 8, 2015
I had heard a lot of good things about Pratchett's writing, and someone had suggested that if I wanted to start reading his work that "Guards! Guards!" would be a good place to start. In the interest of transparency, fantasy isn't usually my genre but I've been a big fan of LOTR and some of Tolkein's other work and more recently I've read a bit of the GoT series, so its not entirely foreign to me. I can find little fault with Pratchett's writing from a technical or storytelling point of view -- its well written, thoughts are clear, and the reader isn't easily lost -- however there are a few times where he seems to be silly just for the sake of being silly, which can be a little off-putting. Overall its an enjoyable book, but for me there hasn't been anything thats "hooked" me and drawn me back to it like other books have.
on December 14, 2013
In a universe of terrific characters, I think that Sam Vimes of the Guard might be my favorite, although I do love the witches. One of the best Discworld books, stands pretty well on its own if you wanted to skip the first couple books featuring Rincewind and get right to the witches and guards. But they're all great.
If new to Pratchett and Discworld this makes a fine place to start. These books are funny, use the English language like a jazz musician uses notes, and make surprisingly pointed comments on society.