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Worth staying up all night to read
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.