Men at Arms reunites us with the stalwart defenders of our beloved Ankh-Morpork: the Night Watch. Along the way we also meet up with some of the Discworld's most distinctive secondary characters (including Foul Ole Ron and Big Fido), get a glimpse of affirmative action Ankh-Morpork-style, discover the identity of the rightful king (if Ankh-Morpork still had a king, which it doesn't, which isn't the fault of the shady characters in this book trying to replace the Patrician with the aforementioned heir to the throne, who doesn't want the job anyway), converse once more with Gaspode the talking dog, and - if that's not enough - make ready for the wedding of the year between Captain Samuel Vimes of the Night Watch and Lady Sybil Ramkin, proprietor of the Sunshine Sanctuary for Sick Dragons and the richest woman in Ankh-Morpork. Captain Vimes is in fact retiring from the Watch, but his retirement involves much more than the traditional gift watch presentation from his men. A washed-up aristocrat named Edward D'eath takes it upon himself to restore the long-lost monarchy, a circumstance that can only come about over the Patrician's dead body. Even clowns aren't safe from this deadly conspiracy.
The trouble begins with an explosion and robbery at the Guild of Assassins. Someone has stolen nothing less than the only "gonne" on Discworld, and a series of murders shock the town. OK, nothing's really going to shock the people of Ankh-Morpork, but the fact that people keep turning up full of holes where guts should be definitely stirs up the Watchmen. The Patrician is also less than happy about things, so he makes sure the Watch gets to the bottom of things by forbidding Captain Vimes to investigate. The Watch itself is growing; thanks to some new laws pushed through by the Silicon Anti-Defamation League, it has ethnically balanced itself with the addition of a dwarf, a troll, and a woman to the force. The woman, Angua, also happens to be a werewolf, and I don't have to tell you that dwarfs and trolls are natural enemies. Luckily, Constable Carrot, the 6'6" dwarf (he was adopted, you know) who is just so doggoned nice that people will actually listen to him and do as he requests, is there to keep the Watch united and performing its duty the way Carrot (alone) thinks it should be done. After a dwarf is killed and a troll arrested by the Day Watch (on the basis that any troll is surely guilty of something), there's an ever-present danger that the city's trolls and dwarfs will have a go at each other (and it won't be like last time, when both groups somehow managed to ambush one another at the same time).
Constable Detritus really steals the show here. Watching a troll think is always entertaining, but Detritus really comes into his own as this story progresses. At first, he can't salute without knocking himself out, but by the end he's recruiting and training fellow trolls (in his own endearing way) and warming up quite well to his dwarf partner. He also manages to show us that, in the right conditions (such as the kind of very cold temperature you find in a pork futures market), trolls can be brilliant thinkers.
People always die in Discworld novels, but there was one death in Men at Arms that really took me by surprise. A bit sad, it was. Don't be sad about Captain Vimes leaving the Night Watch, though. Furthermore, don't worry about the future of the City Guard, as it does not fall into the hands of Sergeant Colon or Corporal Nobbs (who, as we all know, has already been disqualified from the human race for shoving). I'm sure the men and women and dwarfs and trolls and werewolf of the Night Watch will be as ready as ever for the next threat that rears its ugly head in Ankh-Morpork; after all, Carrot's still on the job.
on January 23, 2007
"Men at Arms" is the fifteenth novel in Terry Pratchett's hugely popular Discworld series and the second to focus on Sam Vimes and Ankh-Morpork's City Guard. Although its reputation may have raised very slightly, having rescused the City from a large and angry dragon, it's still not the fine and noble profession it once was.
Sam is the Captain of the Night Watch, though he is on the verge of retiring and will soon marry Lady Ramkin, the noted dragon-fancier. It isn't entirely clear, however, whether or not he's entirely happy about either the retirement or his impending life of marital bliss. It's fair to say he's not your typical hero : he hates the Undead (some of my best friends are werewolves), Assassins (a perfectly respectable profession) and - in keeping with an old family tradition - Kings (not an ideal musketeer then). Sam's also trying to quit drinking and has taken up smoking cigars to soften the blow.
The Night Watch has had a couple of new recruits since "Guards! Guards!" - largely at the insistence if the Patrician, the city's ruler. The recruits - Lance-Constables Cuddy (a dwarf), Detritus (a troll) and Angua (a woman, for most of the month) - have been selected to reflect Ankh-Morpork's `ethnic makeup'. Although Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs are Sam's most experienced officers, the most capable is Carrot. Although born human, Carrot was raised as a dwarf and is an incredibly innocent character - he still hasn't figured out what seamstresses do for a living. He has, however, figured out how Ankh-Morpork works and has stopped trying to arrest the President of the Thieves Guild. The trouble begins when Edward d'Eath suspects that Carrot may be the rightful king of Ankh-Morpork.
Edward is the latest Lord d'Eath, albeit a very poor one, following the recent death of his father. He was educated at the Guild of Assassins, where he became the first student to gain full marks at postgraduate level. His suspicions about Carrot are a little worrying, given that he wants to restore the monarchy. This will, of course, see the Patrician `removed' from office - something that should be easier now that he has acquired a weapon that shouldn't exist.
Pratchett's books are always very funny and this one is no exception. Despite being the second book to focus on the Night Watch, there's no real requirement to have read the first - the newcomer won't feel `left out'. (However, I would recommend reading it, all the same !). Another big plus is Gaspode, Ankh-Morporks finest talking dog. Like Carrot, he's also devoted to Angua - though he's a lot less innocent ! Definitely recommended.
on February 25, 2003
This book is one my favorite and, I believe, one of the best of Pratchett's Discworld Series. I can say it in one word: Carrot! He is one of my favorite heroes on the Discworld (only Rincewind and Nanny Ogg compare with Death a close third). As usual, Carrot comes through with flying colors. There are just so many interesting things in this book: the plot about the "gonne," Leonard de Quirm (and the way he acts with the Patrician), Cuddy the dwarf and Detritus the troll, the silly guildsand their ridiculous presidents, Carrot and Angua, I could just go on.
Especially good was the troll-dwarf issue, the way they had to work together to interview the guilds without making complete fools of themselves and just basically get along. Also, it is funny how intelligent trolls get in low temperatures.
The plot alos makes for a nice mystery story. Pratchett really worked on this one. We start out with a 4-man watch and end up with one over 60 people! The Watch really grows up and will add many laughs to future stories. One of the best: a must read.
on January 4, 2002
As can be seen from my review of it, I thought Guards Guards! was a marvelously funny book, and a great homage to the guards in most movies and books who have a very thankless job. Men at Arms, though, surpasses even that.
First of all, the ranks of the City Watch are expanded, with Detritus -DON'T SALUTE, the Troll, Cuddy, the Dwarf, and Angua, a woman who's not all she appears to be. Dwarves and Trolls don't get along, which provides the meat to some very funny scenes between Detritus and Cuddy, including a great scene where Cuddy is teaching Detritus how to count. There are even more jokes in this one then there were in Guards Guards (or at least, I laughed at more of them).
Captain Vimes is retiring in a few days, which doesn't give the watch much time to figure out who's responsible for all the strange murders happening. Never fear, though, Corporal Carrot is here! The character development in this book makes this so much more than just a funny fantasy. Vimes is really starting to second guess his life. Carrot is maturing greatly, even if he still is plain, simple Carrot. Even Nobbs and Colon grow as characters.
In Vimes, you see a character agonizing over who he is and what he is becoming. He's not sure he wants to live the life that's staring him in the face. Yet he's still the take-charge guy he became in the first book. He's the emotional centre of the book and while he's not always involved, his presence is always being felt.
All of this sounds dreadfully serious, but it's wrapped in a plot that goes from one hilarious event to another. There were three or four straight pages where I couldn't stop laughing as I read, and every other page had a treat (I just managed to stifle the laughter in order to not disturb my wife's sleep). The mix of comedy and character development is made perfectly. If you have no interest in serious stuff, you can ignore that aspect of the book and just revel in the jokes.
I'm moving on to Feet of Clay now, and I'm optimistic. Pratchett hasn't missed with me so far. Do yourself a favour and try this series.
on October 9, 2001
Although "Men at Arms" is a highly entertaining and humourous police story, it also deal with several social issue in an intellectually satirical way. This book deal with some very serious historical delima regarding the classic case of the stranger hero who is the long lost king of some kingdom.
This book is one of the latter in Terry Pratchett writing career when he has fully develop his Discworld story structure. All of Pratchett's latter books deal with some major social issue that exist in historical or modern time. He deal with them in a highly intellectual manner using extremely complex humourous satirical technique.
All of the latter books are very funny, and intellectually charllenging. To the reader with some historical knowledge of the jokes and anecdote provided by Pratchett, his book is intriging. I would advise anyone with interest in the real world as well as those looking for a great piece of literature to read Pratchett.
This is a great book about a young copdude who would be king, little dragons, and a world where science, magic, fantasy, and who know what else is mixed. The story line is interesting and funny, character very well developed. Books rarely come better than this. Pratchett is underappreciated because virtually no American (beside myself) know of his work, not even well read english professors!
on September 8, 2001
Okay. As a quick synopsis, the Ankh-Morpork City Guard (Night Watch) are having to deal with a very new and very, very nasty weapon. And this is a Bad Thing (TM) because the Night Watch in its entirety consists of a human who was raised as a dwarf, a dwarf with a nasty temper, a werewolf who holds long conversations with dogs, a really fat idiot, a recovering drunk, a troll who knocks himself unconscious whenever he tries to salute, and a.. well, we haven't quite worked out *what* Nobby is yet.
This isn't exactly a *mystery*, per se, not in the same way that, say, The Fifth Elephant or Feet of Clay are, because we have a fair idea pretty early on of what the weapon we're facing actually is, even if the Night Watch don't. My personal favorite scene is the one starting in the sewers where Vimes gets the.. um.. probably shouldn't say it here.. anyway. I also like the bits with Leonard, especially when Vetinari's talking to him about the Watch and starts comparing people to clockwork ("And sometimes you have to wind the spring as tight as it will go, and pray it doesn't break.") That was actually a bit creepy, really..
on July 18, 2001
Pratchett at his worst is light-years beyond Piers Anthony, Robert Asprin, or even the dearly departed Douglas Adams at their best. And this is hardly Pratchett's worst (that would probably be Soul Music or Maskerade). But, this book doesn't crackle and fizz with the subversive humor, satire, and insight into the human condition of his other books. This book is kind of, well, dull in parts.
I have to confess that much of that might be my fault... this is a cop's story, a mystery, beyond all else. And, try as I might, I just can't care about mystery stories.
However, Carrot and Vimes, two of the Night Watch's finest, are certainly engaging characters and Pratchett does manage to bring his wild humor into a rather mundane mystery story. He is still a sharp-eyed philosopher with a keen understanding of human nature. But I just can't help thinking that this could have been a better book. Maybe the Librarian wasn't in it enough... he can save even the WORST Pratchett book (as Soul Music demonstrates).
Of all Pratchett's brilliantly drawn characters, Samuel Vimes stands unique in providing a realistic role model for the rest of us. He's honest, forthright, deeply suspicious of aristocracy, and best of all, despises the idea of kings. The last is important here, for someone wishes the return of the Ankh-Morpork monarchy. And Sam Vimes' remote ancestor, Old Stoneface, executed the last one.
Edward d'Eath [how does PTerry come up with these names?!], an impoverished aristocrat, seeks fulfillment of his destiny by restoring the monarchy. Recruiting fellow lords to his cause proves difficult. It's been a long time since the last king, and the Patrician runs the city with commendable, if frightening, efficiency. So Edward embarks on a solitary campaign.
Pratchett's inventive mind takes us from the "fantasy" genre into the murder mystery domain. Murder isn't a common event on the Discworld, and its occurrence here creates an intensity of feeling rarely evoked by Pratchett's works. Vimes is particularly irritated by such abhorrent events as murder. Assassination is bad enough, although carefully regulated by its Guild. For Vimes, murder is too arbitrary. It reflects the one aspect of society he resents the most, the exercise of absolute power. He's affronted both as a copper and a man.
Partly inspired by Corporal Carrot, Vimes is no longer content having the Watch "let things lie anymore". Forces that used to push a drunken Vimes into the gutter are forces he now resists, even struggles to overcome. It's an inspiring read watching Pratchett give Vimes a new sense of dedication. Vimes has always sought justice, and his recent rise in society and the Watch has given him fresh impetus, and clout, to gain it. However, first he must survive. He's up against a new force. A force of absolute power, without soul or pity - the Gonne.
There are other aspects in this book beyond the new Old Stoneface trying to catch a murderer. Pratchett pays homage to the struggle for women's and immigrants' rights in Britain [and elsewhere]. The Watch has been compelled to recruit dwarves, trolls and, um, a woman. Sergeant Colon's attempts to reconcile size, attitudes and anatomy with a traditional human, male, role must bring tears to the eyes of all recruiting sergeants reading it. Pratchett's sympathetic view of Angua pays homage to the efforts of women striving to enter men's realms. But for a novel view of the world we all inhabit, there's few that can out-express Gaspode, one of Pratchett's finest creations.
Pratchett possesses a superior ability to create timeless works. Nestled in this library since its publication, this book is taken up as an old friend for repeated enjoyment. There's nothing lost in re-reading Men At Arms - the issues remain timely, the characters worth noting - sometimes emulating, and the wit undiminished. If you're new to Pratchett, this is a fine place to start. If you're coming along in the Discworld sequence, be prepared for an item of exceptional value, something beyond the humorous fantasy of wizards, witches and Mort's employer.
on October 29, 1997
Pratchett's Discworld novels are consistently amusing, often touching, and brilliantly creative. Men At Arms manages to be all these things and more . . .
The misfit Night Watch we met in Guards, Guards! Is in danger of becoming almost respectable. Carrot and Sgt. Colon have new recruits of all shapes and sizes. Captain Vimes is retiring to become a respectable gentleman as Sybil Ramkin's husband. What could go wrong . . .
Well, this IS Ankh-Morpork, a city so corrupt that if the gods took vengeance on it, no one would notice. Things get complicated when an exploding swamp dragon, a mysterious invention, warring guilds, and an assasin who is NOT killing for pay send the city into more turmoil than usual. Who can save the day? It's up to the flattest of flatfoots in the Night Watch, and their new recruits to set the city right, or at least not so wrong.
There is the usual Pratchett wordplay and humor, as well as the thoughtful emotional interplays he has developed over the years. There's also an interesting mystery at the center of the whole piece, and some of his most interesting characters trying to deal with it. There are also some scenes of real poignance and heart that will make you think, and make you feel.
If you haven't read Discworld, read Guards, Guards!, and then this novel. You'll be glad you did!
on May 13, 1996
Men At Arms, another installment in the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett, is a wonderful continuation of the characters from Guards Guards and a fuller look at the famed city of Ankh-Morpork. Not only is there a continuation of characters, but new ones are added, and further developed. Terry Pratchett shows he is a REAL writer by his ability to interweave a funny, uplifting book, with true drama, a plot, and a mystery type story, of whodunnit? If you like "buddy flicks" and enjoy excellent humor, this is a must read. Even though it is a continuation from a previous book, the reader does not need to read Guards Guards! to fully understand the characters, for Pratchett's writing style allows the new reader to become comfortable with the characters within a few pages. The only warning i give to the reader is, not all books are completely happy go lucky, for drama is truly woven in with surprising occurences. Enjoy this book! If you are a fan of Pratchett in the least sense, you will love Men At Arms