Tyler Strickland's Reviews > Night Watch

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
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Nov 11, 13

bookshelves: fantasy, satire
read count: 3

I am a Terry Pratchett fan through and through, so my reviews of his novels are always delivered through rose-tinted glasses. But if I were to recommend a good jumping-off point for new readers, Night Watch would be my pick.

Pratchett's Discworld is a (mostly) chronological series exploring religion, society, and philosophy through the prism of a fantasy realm. It's difficult to explain Pratchett's tone to those who haven't read him. He doesn't put the fantasy genre up on a pedestal, and it's difficult to pin him down as strictly a fantasy author. No one should discuss him in the same breath as Tolkein or George R.R. Martin. He is an architect with the mind of Christopher Buckley, but was given the building blocks from Tolkein's world to play with, a satirist who writes about a world that doesn't exist but is very familiar.

Night Watch features Commander Sam Vimes and Ankh-Morpork's police force, the city watch. The novel opens with Vimes in a rooftop pursuit of the psychopathic murderer Carcer. As Vimes attempts to make his arrest, the bizarre confluence of a lightning storm and the inherent hazards of Unseen University's magical library throw Vimes and Carcer 30 years into the past.

What follows is Vimes's dangerous traverse of his own history. He joins the night watch under the guise of John Keel, a real-life mentor to Vimes when he was a teenage recruit in the watch. The real Keel in this altered timeline has been slain by Carcer, and Vimes is compelled to step in using Keel's identity to clean up the night watch, which is at this point little more than a gang.

Seeking Carcer and trying to preserve events as he knew them, Vimes tiptoes through the oppressive regime of Lord Winder and his secret police of torturers and thugs, the Unmentionables. Vimes must do all he can to steer events towards a familiar future while dealing with his greatest challenge: meeting himself as a naive, impressionable lance-constable.

Pratchett mixes satire, solemn social commentary, and his patented self-aware cheekiness in a rich, nourishing soup. To Pratchett neophytes, it's a wild sprint through Discworld lore. For dedicated Pratchett readers, it gives us a wonderful exposition on what made the man Vimes.
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