Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Terry Pratchett Challenge 2010: Guards, Guards.

Guards! Guards!So we're a couple of weeks into the challenge now, and I've finish two books: Lords and Ladies (review upcoming) and Guards, Guards.  Since I'm going to at least try and review in the order that I read them, let's start with Guards, Guards.

This is the frst in the ongoing subseries of Discworld books known as the "Watch "novels.  Unlike the "Lancre" novels and the "Death" novels, the Watch novels sprang forth pretty much fully formed, and although they've evolve to become one of the cornerstones of the Discworld series (as members of The Watch now appear in virtually every Discworld novel set in Ankh Morpock) at the same time has changed the least.

The Night Watch are the joke of Ankh Morpock--sort of the Discworld equivalent  Police Academy.  Under the direction of Captian Vimes, a bitter, alcoholic cynical idealist, the Watch serves as a collecting point for the venal, the lazy, the uneducated and the uncouth--all in the form of Sergeant Colon and Coporal Nobby.  And those are their best qualities! As the story gets underway it's clear that this state of affairs has been going on for quite some time.

All this changes with the arrival of Carrot--the 6' dwarf (by adoption).  Carrot is honest, upright, keen and an eternal optimist--in other words, a real pain in the ass.  In Ankh Morpock terms, he has the life expectancy of a whelk in a grinder.  And yet....somehow Carrot weaves a special magic all his own.  Things that would get anyone else severely insulted before being even more severely killed actually work for Carrot.

This dynamic pretty much exists through all the Watch novels, but this is where it began.

As for the story, it's a very clever little detective story well-disguised as a fantasy novel.  The reason why Guards, Guards works (and it works so well) is because Pratchett approached it as a mystery novel that was funny, rather than a funny novel with a mystery. A dastardly, if unlikely, plot involves a secret society employing a dragon to usurp the Patrician and crown a puppet king on the throne of the City.  I'm not going to give a blow-by-flame account of the plot--suffice to say it not only packs a lot of laughs, but it does manage to elicit genuine suspense throughout.

As mentioned before, the characters are so well written and developed that Pratchett has had to do very little beyong the occasional  tweaking in subsequent novels.  It's not the best Watch Novel, but the distance between it and the best is trifling at most.

For details on the Terry Pratchett Challenge 2010 click on the following link:

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