Night Watch – Terry Pratchett

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This is an emotive one.  This book has made me weep every time I have read it and this latest re-read was no exception.

Blurb:  ‘Don’t put your trust in revolutions. They always come round again. That’s why they’re called revolutions. People die, and nothing changes.’

Night_watch_discworldFor a policeman, there can be few things worse than a serial killer loose in your city. Except, perhaps, a serial killer who targets coppers, and a city on the brink of bloody revolution.

For Commander Sam Vimes, it all feels horribly familiar. 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. But he must survive, because he has a job to do. He must track down the murderer and change the outcome of the rebellion.

The problem is: if he wins, he’s got no wife, no child, no future…

A Discworld Tale of One City, with a full chorus of street urchins, ladies of negotiable affection, rebels, secret policemen and other children of the revolution.

Truth! Justice! Freedom! And a Hard-boiled Egg!

Anyone who speaks disparagingly of fantasy novels, or genre fiction in general, should read Night Watch and then try to tell me that it’s just escapism or fluff, or whatever dismissive snobbery they hide behind.

Because, yes, this story has time travel and magic, but they are unimportant, irrelevant.  The heart of this story is about people, and being human, and doing the right thing, and bad things happening anyway.  It is also about having to make the hard decisions.  Sam Vimes has to choose between the two great loves of his lives, and either way the loss is unbearably great.  The true strength of this character is in his sheer dogged refusal to do anything but the job in front of him, to the best of his ability, and take the consequences that follow.

Whilst in theory this is a standalone story, in fact you would be missing out on one of the most intriguing and endearing aspects of the novel:  the chance to spy on our familiar friends (and foes) ‘before they were famous’.  We meet the student assassin Vetinari, the budding entrepreneurial Dibbler (CMOT pending), and the perpetual urchin Nobbs, amongst many other familiar faces.  Seeing their early days has a feel of a behind the scenes glimpse into the Discworld green room, and as a long-time fan I was definitely not disappointed.  For best effect, obviously reading all previous 28 novels would be ideal, but if not I certainly recommend reading the five previous City Watch novels (Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo and The Fifth Elephant), as the characters evolve as the series-within-a-series progresses, and this novel is both a recap and culmination of how far Vimes in particular has come.

You can buy Treacle Mine Road merchandise in real life, in our Roundworld.  You can sing All the Little Angels, and find hard-boiled egg sloganed momentos, and even wear the lilac.  And that is because this book resonates in a very real way with anyone who has lost a friend, or fought a losing battle.  After reading Night Watch we were all ‘there’.

And so the children of the revolution were faced with the age-old problem: it wasn’t that you had the wrong kind of government, which was obvious, but that you had the wrong kind of people.

As soon as you saw people as things to be measured, they didn’t measure up.

– Terry Pratchett, Night Watch

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You can find Sir Terry’s website here.

Obviously (and sadly) you can’t contact him, with him already having risen up high, but you can certainly check out his Facebook and Twitter pages which have information about his writing, new editions and adaptations, and other useful/funny stuff.

 

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