This is the Discworld novel wherein Captain Sam Vimes of Ankh-Morpork's Night Watch retires and gets married, the Night Watch itself becomes an equal species organization, and Gaspode the Talking Dog falls in love with new recruit, Angua, the werewolf. She has just joined the Night Watch under the Equal Species Act, along with Detritus the Troll and Cuddy the Dwarf.
No wonder Sam, who is a bit of a male chauvinist speciesist is going to retire.
Not since Stephen King's "It" have clowns gotten such bad press as in "Men at Arms." They seem to be the saddest creatures on Discworld. One of them, Beano is murdered and ends up playing 'Knock Knock - Who's There?' with Death, who is trying to develop a sense of humor.
Humor will never be the strong suite of a hooded, seven-foot skeleton with glowing blue eyes, but Death does get in one inadvertently funny line. He tells Beano to think of his newly deceased state as being 'DIMENSIONALLY DISADVANTAGED.'
Meanwhile back in the world of the living and undead, Captain Sam Vimes and his command investigate the circumstances of Beano's death. Sam is also under orders from his wife-to-be to find a missing swamp dragon, which is likely to explode if it comes under stress.
When a large hole is blown in the headquarters of the Assassin's Guild, Sam has a pretty good notion of what caused the explosion. What he really wants to know is whether this latest calamity has something to do the Beano's death. After all, the Assassins are right next door to the Guild of Fools and Clowns.
What he does not yet know is that mad genius, Leonard of Quirm's deadliest invention has fallen into the hands of a rabid monarchist who will do everything in his power to restore Ankh-Morpork's rightful king---and that king is a member of his own Night Watch.
"Men at Arms" (1993) is another great slapstick-with-a-message adventure in the Sam Vimes/Night Watch Discworld novels. If you'd like to read them in order of publication, they are: "Guards! Guards!" (1989); "Men at Arms" (1993); "Feet of Clay" (1996); "Jingo" (1997); "The Fifth Elephant" (1999); "Night Watch" (2002); and "Thud!" (2005).
on September 17, 2002
I wonder if Discworld fans ever feel like they are in on a big happy secret, that people who think "fantasy" genre novels are beneath them aren't entitled to know.
I guess I used to be one of those naysayers. My inherent interest level in dragons and trolls is not that high. But "Men at Arms," the first Pratchett novel I've ever read, is the funniest most entertaining read I've had in years, in ANY genre.
My only problem now is that I want to go right out and read the other 20+ novels ASAP, but fear I will lose my job because I am reading them under my desk at the office, and lose my husband because I wake him up laughing so hard while reading in bed.
BTW if you want a real treat, try this (or other Pratchetts) on audio CD/cassette/download. The fellow doing the reading (Nigel Planer?) is a riot. Plus, if you listen in your car on the way to work, you can keep your job and your spouse.
Of all Pratchett's brilliantly drawn characters, Samuel Vimes stands unique in providing a realistic role model for the rest of us. He's honest, forthright, deeply suspicious of aristocracy, and best of all, despises the idea of kings. The last is important here, for someone wishes the return of the Ankh-Morpork monarchy. And Sam Vimes' remote ancestor, Old Stoneface, executed the last one.
Edward d'Eath [how does PTerry come up with these names?!], an impoverished aristocrat, seeks fulfillment of his destiny by restoring the monarchy. Recruiting fellow lords to his cause proves difficult. It's been a long time since the last king, and the Patrician runs the city with commendable, if frightening, efficiency. So Edward embarks on a solitary campaign.
Pratchett's inventive mind takes us from the "fantasy" genre into the murder mystery domain. Murder isn't a common event on the Discworld, and its occurrence here creates an intensity of feeling rarely evoked by Pratchett's works. Vimes is particularly irritated by such abhorrent events as murder. Assassination is bad enough, although carefully regulated by its Guild. For Vimes, murder is too arbitrary. It reflects the one aspect of society he resents the most, the exercise of absolute power. He's affronted both as a copper and a man.
Partly inspired by Corporal Carrot, Vimes is no longer content having the Watch "let things lie anymore". Forces that used to push a drunken Vimes into the gutter are forces he now resists, even struggles to overcome. It's an inspiring read watching Pratchett give Vimes a new sense of dedication. Vimes has always sought justice, and his recent rise in society and the Watch has given him fresh impetus, and clout, to gain it. However, first he must survive. He's up against a new force. A force of absolute power, without soul or pity - the Gonne.
There are other aspects in this book beyond the new Old Stoneface trying to catch a murderer. Pratchett pays homage to the struggle for women's and immigrants' rights in Britain [and elsewhere]. The Watch has been compelled to recruit dwarves, trolls and, um, a woman. Sergeant Colon's attempts to reconcile size, attitudes and anatomy with a traditional human, male, role must bring tears to the eyes of all recruiting sergeants reading it. Pratchett's sympathetic view of Angua pays homage to the efforts of women striving to enter men's realms. But for a novel view of the world we all inhabit, there's few that can out-express Gaspode, one of Pratchett's finest creations.
Pratchett possesses a superior ability to create timeless works. Nestled in this library since its publication, this book is taken up as an old friend for repeated enjoyment. There's nothing lost in re-reading Men At Arms - the issues remain timely, the characters worth noting - sometimes emulating, and the wit undiminished. If you're new to Pratchett, this is a fine place to start. If you're coming along in the Discworld sequence, be prepared for an item of exceptional value, something beyond the humorous fantasy of wizards, witches and Mort's employer.
on March 29, 2016
I really enjoyed this book. It is one of the ones that I would say you really kind of needed to read the other one that deals with the night watch. It isn't a necessity but it certainly added to it, having gotten to know the characters. The whole series is a lot of fun but I would definitely suggest this book.
on January 28, 2013
I was very disappointed to find the footnotes missing from this edition. If there's a way to get to them, I couldn't find it & Pratchett's footnotes are a significant part of the humor. So buy the print version of the Discworld books - and do buy them. Prachett is always entertaining!
on January 20, 2013
I just finished re-reading this novel, which remains high in my esteem. My review will contain some spoilers, so avoid it if you don't like those. Its main theme is the final success of integrating city minorities, starting with a dwarf, a troll and a woman, into the all-human-male Watch. Dwarfs and trolls are ancient enemies from the mountains, now moving in droves into Discworld's biggest city, Ankh-Morpork. Putting two of them together as a police team seems insoluble, and would be but for Corporal Carrot. The new watchwoman is also a werewolf (actually werewolfhound), and her kind of minority is shunned by just about everyone--except Carrot--but Angua no longer bites people and is trying to be a vegetarian! There are numerous subplots, skilfully woven into the main story--the insanity of extreme royalist snobbery; the growing affection between Sam Vimes and Sibyl Ramkin, his temporary backslide into alcoholism, Sibyl's steadfastness and (at the end of the book) a happy beginning; the reluctantly heroic talking mutt, Gaspode, who reminds me of Huckleberry Finn (he refuses to be "sivilized"). Most relevant to our own problems is the world's only "gonne" (the earliest English spelling of "gun") invented by Leonard of Quirm. Supposedly it was destroyed, but instead was put away in a private museum and stolen. Like our own guns, it has a murderous personality of its own that infects its users, but Discworld is luckier than our world. At the story's end the gonne is destroyed by Carrot--and there are no others in existence.
on August 27, 2006
I've decided he's too good and too prolific for me to write a brand new review every single time I read one of his books. Discworld currently has 34 titles and every one of them will probably knock your socks off. His mind bubbles and flashes like a boiling pot of electric eels, and I simply can't get enough of his writing.
A reviewer has compared him to Geoffrey Chaucer. He reminds me more of Douglas Adams, or perhaps S Morgenstern. Great company, isn't it? He's an extremely skillful and imaginative writer, damn funny, clever and observant to boot. He's also very easy to read. A master of characterization, and if there's anything else you like about reading that I didn't mention here, assume I simply forgot. He's awesome.
Another reviewer mentioned Jonathan Swift and PG Wodehouse. Why such hallowed company? Because Pratchett belongs there! Truly, I'm enjoying my quest to read every book in the series. You should do the same, and begin your quest at the library because he's got to be there. He's awesome!
Yet another reviewer said Jerome K Jerome meets Lord of the Rings. Yeah, that works too.
Why do we, as reviewers, compare authors to other authors? Because it's easier than thinking. In the case of Terry Pratchett, it's probably because we'd otherwise wind up quoting the guy. He's so unique that we just don't know how else to cope with his greatness. Even this paragraph sounds like foamy drool raving, doesn't it? That's how all readers react to Pratchett. Reviewers simply don't have the good sense to keep it to themselves.
I could call his writing fantasy, but I could likewise call what Douglas Adams wrote science fiction. In both cases, I wouldn't be wrong, but I'd be neglecting so much and just totally missing the point. A rare few authors transcend a genre to such a degree that you know they're shouting out, loud and proud, a big fat "Bite me!"
I love Terry Pratchett's writing, and I completely understand why some folks refer to him as their favorite author. Or favourite, I should say, since we're being British. He's one of those authors that makes you want to grab whoever's in hearing range and start reading passages aloud. I'm simply thrilled that there's such an extremely talented and prolific author who's been working for years without me being aware of him. Now I have much catching up to do, and I will love it.
This is the fifteenth book in Terry Pratchett’s series on the Discworld--a flat world, supported on the backs of four massive elephants riding on the back of a planet-sized turtle. Anything hilarious can happen here, and eventually does.
Even as the Ankh-Morpork night watch is being expanded, a series of strange and probably interconnected murders takes place. The city is on the edge of a dwarf vs. troll race war, and the watch is only holding things together with their fingernails. There’s a long buried secret being dug up, and it’s going to cost far too many lives if Captain Samuel Vimes doesn’t get to the bottom of things, and fast!
I have been a fan of Terry Pratchett of many years now, and consider him one of the master storytellers of this era. As with all of his books, this one is extremely funny, with a gripping storyline, and fascinating characters. If you like fantasy stories, and want a nice twist on the genre, or if you just like good humor, then I highly recommend that you get this book!
on June 12, 2014
Corporal Carrot is more than he seems…..or is he??? This loveable six foot tall dwarf is a part of the Watchmen in Discworld, along with a troll, a werewolf and many other characters. There is also the possibility that he is royalty. This is the quest of Edward d’Eath, a member of the Assassin’s Guild, to discover the truth.
In the true Terry Pratchett manner though, there is so much more to the story. This magician with phrases and words weaves many story lines into one story so they totally make sense.
This is a wonderful part of the Discworld series.
on May 10, 2013
"Vimes smiled. Someone was trying to kill him, and that made him feel more alive than he had done in days.
And they were also slightly less intelligent than he was. This is a quality you should always pray for in your would-be murderer."
Murders are rare in Ankh-Morpork. Suicides and assassinations...well, they're a dime a dozen, but genuine murders are pretty darned rare. But DEATH has been busier than usual lately, and it's up to Carrot and Vimes of the Night Watch to figure out what the heck is going on.
This is a most excellent entry in the Discworld series. In addition to the thrilling mystery, we get to:
* Meet an adorable gargoyle.
* Dine at a dwarf deli, where it seems impossible to order anything that doesn't come with Spam, oops! I mean rat.
* Attend the funniest clown funeral since Chuckles bit the dust on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show.'
There's all this...PLUS, the Librarian gets to attend yet another wedding! Oook! Oook!
Did I enjoy this book?
Does a dragon explode in the woods?