Gaurds! Gaurds! Go now and arrest Terry Pratchett. He’s made a mockery of the Fantasy Genre! But in all seriousness what’s not to laugh at. Guards! Guards! brings together a bunch of old stuff we know but mashes it all up together into something seemingly new a different (at least to me). I’ll admit, I haven’t read much Terry Pratchett prior to this. Truth be told, Good Omens was the only other thing of his that I had read, and he didn’t even write all of that one (although I’m betting he did the funny parts). So I can tell you now that I wasn’t the least bit prepared for what I was about to experience. First of all Discworld? . . . Ankh-Morpork?
What is this crazy world in which thieves are regulated and must maintain a monthly quota. Where even beggars have unionized (laughably, the head beggar is worse off than the rest because no one is willing to give up the extremely high price he’s entitled to). And of course, the Assassin’s guild is almost completely legitimate. This Patrician guy seems to have thought of everything. Certainly, he’s solved every problem, if not in the most traditional of senses (I think I heard someone say that he turns every problem into the solution for another problem. Seems about accurate. Also, heard him compared to Machiavelli’s Prince. Somehow did both high school and college and never had to read that). Although, I suppose I should have known what to expect by the dedication. But in reality, I feel the dedication was another false trail as well. We did get the perspective of a guard. The City Watch to be specific. However, they still seemed like heroes, albeit extremely incompetent heroes. And despite their often hilarious incompetence, they seem to get the job done (Eh I suppose this could be debated as really the problem gets solved by a dragon, not the City Watch but who’s counting).
Needless to say, Captain Vimes and crew live to drink . . . I mean fight another day. However, the interesting parts of this book had less to do with the actual plot and characters (together they both seemed quite whimsical), and more to do with those false trails I mentioned earlier. Pretty much everything within this novel seemed to involve some sort of misdirection. Nearly everything played off your expectations, building you up to believe you were about to go one place with the story, and instead going somewhere completely different. The English Major in me wants to start raving on about satire and about how Pratchett is using Parody to make a statement about the different conventions of fantasy. My English Major self also wants to say that the statement is: these old tropes and cliches are worn out and over done, and there needs to be some innovation in the fantasy genre. And maybe back in 1989, when this novel was first published (wow this book is actually older than me!) that was the case. Unfortunately, I haven’t the slightest thing to compare it with as my knowledge of fantasy during the 80’s is effectively nil. Sorry for that huge build up for nothing.
I was intrigued with Captain Vimes’ as a caricature of the detective. I seem to remember Raymond Chandler describing the detective as ” . . . a common man, and yet an unusual man . . . He must be the best man in his world, and a good enough man for any world . . .” (The Art of Murder). Now compare that to Captain Vimes, and it seems like what he should have said was: a common man if an unusual man . . . It must be the best world for this man because he’s not good enough for any other world . . . Ok, maybe that is a little harsh, but I think we understand that the humor in Vimes’ character comes from his inability. He wouldn’t be right for any other story. However, when we consider the type of city represented by Ankh-Morpork (strip away all the humor and see what we are really dealing with. Ankh-Morpork is a pretty grim place), it seems that everything Chandler describes is true about Vimes. It also seems like the type of detective Chandler is imagining would not last a second on Discworld no matter how fit he was for adventure. Vimes on the other hand belongs in this world. It is the world he lives in.
In conclusion, I think it is safe to say that I enjoyed Guards! Guards! The pacing was perhaps a little slow but the jokes and style of Pratchett’s writing were worth the time even if I’m still not sure what to make of the plot. I know there are more Discworld books out there and I believe Guards! Guards! was 8th in the series so I’m not sure what possessed me to start there (ahem BSFS book club ahem) but I’m certainly glad that I did. I suppose now the only question is, where to go next?
Any comments would be greatly appreciated. Not sure whether to start at the beginning of the Discworld books or just read the next City Watch book. I guess time will tell.
Oh and Pratchett needs to do a series set in L-space if that isn’t already a thing. Seemed like too good of a set up to not go anywhere. Alright, until next time . . . Laters!