on November 20, 2003
Pratchett's latest Discworld installment neatly ties in the time monks from the previous novel and with his overtly satirical mind he proceeds to delve into quantum physics with a sense of irony that is as subtle as it is brilliant. This time Sam Vimes is our protagonist, the brassed and reluctantly polished watch Commander sidetracked during a routine meeting with Lord Vetinari into a copper-roots level chase across the Unseen University rooftops after a murderer by the name of Carcer. During the storm-tossed chase he falls with Carcer into a rift in the time continuum and finds himself back in time with the villain in Ankh-Morpork just as hise younger self was making his first forays into the Watch. All of which gives Pratchett the perfect excuse to dredge up a whole lot of new characters and still remain in his glorious Discworld capital.
Once Lse-Tsu, the Sweeper, has explained the science behind the events Vimes (now known as John Keel) finds he has four days in which to educate his younger self and locate and take Carcer back with him, all before the revolution. However, he has the major advantage of a)being intelligent, b)knowing all about what should happen. So he inveigles his way into becoming a Nightwatch sergeant-at-arms, promptly shakes up the accepted corruption within its ranks and then sets off on his mission. Fairly quickly he manages to upset the course of history by ensuring the Morphic Street Conspiracy didn't end in a massacre before realising that Captain Swing of the Unmentionables has now recruited Carcer as a sergeant.
We plung headfirst into his efforts to ensure that the Treacle Mine Watch House doesn't get burned in the general looting and his struggle to create a sphere of normality in the revolution to prevent the amount of historical deaths his future self knows happened. He manages to gain revenge on the Unmentionables down in Cable Street, all the whilst keeping his younger self by his side gaining valuable experience. Eventually it all resolves itself in a manner that is truly remarkable and we see a side of an older and more anarchic Ankh-Morpork in the process.
We get to see glorious cameos from younger selves throughout. The ones that stick in the memory are: Vetinari's unfazable younger self as an assassin in training, the street urchin, Nobby Nobbs, Fred Colon and a superb pre-'Cut-Me-Own'Throat' Dibbler. All of which lends itself to a Discworld novel back to its very best. The previous offering tended to flounder a little in the sheer volume of irony and satire at Pratchett's potential disposal and ended up being a trifle blunt, but this volume returns our author to the safe Night Watch which have such brilliant characters. Given the next two also focus on them, it means the latest installments are a must read.
on October 14, 2003
This is the 27th Discworld novel (well, that is, if you don't count The Last Hero and The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents).
It is springtime in Ankh-Morpork, the lilac is in bloom. As his wife Sybil is about to give birth to their first child, Commander Samuel Vimes of the City Watch heads to the cemetary of Small Gods, to commemorate the day Sergeant John Keel, his mentor, and six other coppers died some thirty yeas ago.
Later, arriving at the Patrician's Palace, he hears that Carcer, a serial killer who's been wreaking havoc around town lately, has just been cornered. This might be his only chance to arrest the murderer.
Outside, there's a storm brewing. After a chase in the streets of the city, Vimes and Carcer end up in the tower of the wizards' University, a highly magical place. And as the Commander is about to catch his prey, lighting strikes, and both are transported back in time, some thirty years earlier... Soon Carcer commits another crime and kills John Keel.
Night Watch has a strong "Back to the Future" theme, where changing events in the past... well, the now, of course affects those in the now... well, the future. Many things have changed in thirty years, and Vimes struggles to put his own past back on the track. It won't be long until he encounters his younger self. Passing himself off as Sergeant John Keel, not only will he have to teach young Sam to be a good copper, but he must also survive the oncoming Revolution.
True to form, Terry Pratchett gives us yet another witty, intelligent, hilarious Discworld novel of the City Watch, with its traditional footnotes and tongue-in-cheek humour, and some cameo appearances of Death... what more could we possibly ask for?
on February 10, 2003
and that's saying something. The books just keep getting better and better, and after so many novels, Pratchett has yet to repeat himself or slip into the all-to-easy fantasy stand-by of ripping of Lord of the Rings (unless you count the cameo appearance of Golom in Witches Abroad.) Commander Sir Samuel Vimes, by far my favorite Discworld charactor, is the focus of this latest instilation of the Discworld series. He's mean, violent, tough and increadably endearing. A devoted husband, soon-to-be father and workaholic copper, Vimes finds himself in what seems to be a no-win situation when a magical experiment gone wrong sends him back in time to the world of his youth. He arrives to find that the same accident has caused the death of his childhood mentor, John Keel, and now, if he doesn't want his life to be destroyed, he must assume the mans identity and teach young Sam what it means to be a good copper. Unfortunatly, as Vimes recalls, Keel is destined to die in a few days time...
This book is a perfect example of Pratchett's trademark combination of action, witt and philosophy. Old fans will adore meeting Nobby Nobbs as a street urchin, Havelock Vetinari as a student assassin, and Reg Shoe as a young (and very much alive) rebel-without-a-cause. As for new readers, just read the first sentence and see if you don't like it. Go on, I dare you. Here it is:
"Sam Vimes sighed when he heard the scream, but he finished shaving before he did anything about it."
Curious? Interested? I hope so.
Terry Pratchett's writing style is so vivid and elegant that the reader is pulled right into the story. His writing is so good in fact that I think a reader would be justified in saying "I was there."
A comparison between a Discworld novel and the Star Trek TV series would not usually come to mind. However, in NIGHTWATCH, we are discovering something like the program's temporal prime directive. It is one thing to be transported 30 years back in time through some magical fluke. It something else to ensure that events there do/will not distort the present. What would you be coming back to?
Sir Samuel Vimes, the Commander of the City Watch in Ankh Morpork, is catapulted out of the present at a sensitive and important moment in his personal life. Together with the criminal Carcer, who he was about to arrest, he is transported into an earlier, smaller and much less organized city. It would not be true to his character if he just laid low while waiting and hoping to get back to the present/future. Disguised as another copper, he involves himself in the city's business. He meets a number of well-known Discworld luminaries in their earlier selves, from Nobby Nobbs and Fred Colon to a smart young Havelock Vetinari and learns how Reg Shoe becomes a zombie. And, of course, we encounter the young Sam Vimes who is still very naïve and trusting. He is in need of a role model and hero and Vimes, the older and still disguised, has to step into the part. Suffice to say, that the events are unfolding in good Pratchett fashion. Sam Vimes is in the thick of it - a rebellion to be precise.
As a result of Vimes and Carcer's presence, events happen not quite as they were suppose to have happened. That is where the temporal prime directive becomes an important aspect leading us to a more reflective and pondering Sam. He knows how history will report the past that he is reliving, but not as himself. Will he jeopardize his own future if he tweaks reality in the past? Will there be his wife, Sybil, and the child yet to be born?... Those familiar with Pratchett's Discworld will remember time shifts and alignments and those who tinker with them in THIEF OF TIME. Not surprising therefore that the Sweeper has to make an appearance, this time accompanied by a character similar to one in Star Trek - playing with time and space. To find out about the importance of lilac, you have to read the book.
NIGHTWATCH is a great book - rich in the story and the reflections on politics, power, violence and teamwork. And of course, Pratchett's famous and unsurpassed one-liners, such as, when referring to the old Watch "in the sea of adventure, you're bottom-feeders". It is one of those P'Terry books you want to read in one go. On reflection, it is also recommended to newcomers to the Discworld. You don't have to read all 28 Discworld novels first... you will certainly read more of them after you started with this one.
Terry Pratchett is a paragon among writers. While some authors achieve a peak and slide away, even if only temporarily, Pratchett climbs upward, one step [book] at a time, reaching new crests. This work is indisputably his finest endeavor. Unlike other "fantasy" [ugh!] writers, he is able to draw on scientific sources to support his stories. In this instance it's quantum physics, time travel and probability. Oh, yes, and people. Plot and environment are set gently aside in Pratchett's quest to portray folks. Real people in real circumstances. Or at least as real as living in Ankh-Morpork, the Discworld's major city, will allow. We are once again confronted with the puzzle of how much is Sam Vimes Pratchett's idol and how much is he Pratchett himself?
All Terry Pratchett's characters are fascinating in their own way. Rincewind, a spectacular coward, expresses a survivor's continuing agonies of fear and distrust. Esme Weatherwax dons a cape of firm self-assurance you could roof a shed with - until she's alone and surveying her frailties. In Sam Vimes, however, Pratchett produced someone special. In his own view Sam sometimes strides on feet of clay. Plagued by self-doubts, worrying about problems often not his, beset by hordes of enemies and unpredictable circumstances, Vimes manages to trot up to the finish line soiled but sturdy. We live in an era when "character" is a disreputable phrase. Still, Sam Vimes arrives at each finale by employing resolute self discipline, applying it to himself or imparting it to others. In this book, that example becomes bifurcated by Sam's knowledge that he's coaching his younger self. Maintaining his own standards while imparting them to young Lance-Constable Vimes is a challenging situation. He was pursuing a killer in his own time - he continues the pursuit in the past. He's also, once again, caught up in Ankh-Morpork politics.
Transported back in time, Vimes remains burdened with memories. Sybil, his wife, is about to produce their first born [promised in Fifth Elephant]. A Watch mainstay, Fred Colon, is an established Corporal, while Nobby Nobbs, a social stain, is a street urchin seeking the main chance. Sam encounters old friends and makes new ones. Some don't survive. Pratchett's ability to give life to each of his characters brings a sense of grief at their loss other authors fail to achieve. You cannot prevent a pause in your reading when you learn of their deaths. There is one character you're eager to see "pass on," but Pratchett denies you that comfort. Fantasy or no, reality is firmly established here. As always with Pratchett, the characters are your neighbours and family. You know them intimately, never mind their distance in time and place. You rejoice in their successes and mourn their losses. It's all part of Pratchett's ability to capture the reader - new or long- standing.
Back in an earlier Ankh-Morpork, Vimes assumes the identity of John Keel. In this role, he establishes new standards in the Watch - dress, behaviour, skills, attitudes. Those who can't conform are eased [at least] out. Inevitably, the role of the Watch in relation to the military arises. Pratchett has addressed this issue before, of course, and it remains unresolved. Especially in times of civil unrest and resentment over government and taxes. The old labour movement refrain "Which Side Are You On" might have replaced the tune running through this book.
Clearly, Pratchett is far more interested in helping his readers confront the world than in carving himself a comfortable niche among escapist fantasy writers. Those who bemoan the loss of "humour" in his recent works [although the asides in this book are among his best], are ignoring the message. He's a serious thinker imparting his ideas using the methods at his command. To pigeonhole him is to ignore his message or reject it. He deserves better. The next "critic" who labels Pratchett as a "humorous fantacist" can meet me in Sator Square. Bring your own weapons, but be advised my chosen second is the Commander of the Ankh-Morpork Watch . . .
on December 26, 2002
Forgive the corny joke. This is a marvelous book, the first that really focuses completely on Sam Vimes. As other reviewers have mentioned, it is somewhat more serious than previous Discworld books. There is still a lot of dark humour (and how can you not laugh when Nobby reflects upon Keel giving him a spoon?) and tonnes of laughs. At the same time Pratchett makes you think about the "might-have-beens" in life. It's a marvelous book; READ IT!
on January 4, 2014
We totally loved the time spent listening to Night watch! Terry Pratchett brings diskworld to life in so many amazing ways!
Vimes is fleshed out and becomes a beloved figure by the end of the story, and of course Death makes his always amusing Cameo's. Highly recommended for the disk world fan.
on October 6, 2003
Terry does it again with this tale of a time-travelling Samuel Vimes looking to keep his other self out of trouble during the Ankh-Morpork rebellion. With appearances from our favourite Watchmen, I guarantee you'll have lots of fun...
on October 8, 2015
A classic Terry Pratchett and probably one of my favourites along with Thud. All the humour, the whimsy, and the genius that goes with a classic Pratchett.
on September 16, 2015
Terry Pratchett He's the best I loved it