BOOK REVIEW: The Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

His movements could be called cat-like, except he did not stop to spray urine on things

A while ago I mentioned the idea of adding book reviews to the repertoire of this blog and there were a few interested parties… so voila… here’s the first of hopefully many reviews. I don’t read anywhere near as fast as I manage to get through movies so there aren’t likely to be more than a couple of these per month but hopefully there will be enough variation for hold everyone’s interest.

About three years ago I joined a book club started by my former flatmate, Emily (who now lives in Australia). The group meets about once a month, discusses the previous month’s book, chooses and new book and almost always drinks a whole bunch of wine.  We don’t limit ourselves to any particular genre and we’ve read all sorts from science fiction to murder mysteries, literary fiction, Young Adult and even this weird genre they call “women’s fiction”, which seems to be anything written by a female that can’t be easily classified into another genre. The book club has become one of the cornerstones of my social life and the members my closest friends.

This first review was the May book club pick chosen in honour of the great Terry Pratchett, who died on 12 March this year. We decided to read one of the Discworld novels, which are part of a series of forty books, which can be read independently and out of sequence. We chose the twenty-ninth novel, Night Watch.

Sam Vimes has a great life. He’s the commander of the Night’s Watch, a police force that keeps the peace in the city of Ankh-Morpork by night, his wife Sybil is pregnant and the city is as civilised as its ever been. On the eve of his child’s birth, Vimes, finds himself thrust back in time along with psychotic murder Carcer, while attempting to apprehend him. He finds himself back in an era he barely remembers and would rather forget. The city is terrorised by secret police who love a bit of torture, the Patrician couldn’t care less out the people, the Night Watch is a disorganised band of unethical semi-criminals and unrest is abrewing.

Vimes desperately wants to return home but he is informed by The Sweepers (who take care of timey-wimey things) that he has work to do because without him the city will fall. With no alternative but to comply Vimes takes on the identity of John Keel, the Watch sergeant who trained him and sets about trying to put things to right. Will he manage to turn The Night Watch into the respectable order of the future? Will he bring Carcer to book before he wreaks havoc? Will he stop the future from completely changing? And most importantly will he manage to put up with his annoying younger self?

I know I definitely read some Discworld novels in the past, the library in my home town had loads of them and I remember bits and pieces, especially of Interesting Times, but this is the first one I have read as an adult, which I think heightened my enjoyment of the story. While The Night Watch is a really fun adventure-comedy on the surface of it it’s also a brilliant political satire which pokes fun at every level of government, policing, revolution and political power with excellent effect. It never gets too heavy but the whole time you’re reading it it’s easy to relate to the kind of modern societal issues we face daily even though Ankh-Morkpork is mostly a medieval city.

Vimes is a great character – tough but kind, intelligent but practical and most of all, willing to kick ass and take names and the supporting characters are well enough developed for you to care about their fate. Pratchett does an amazing job of world-building and Ankh-Morpork feels like a living, breathing additional character… although possibly one you wouldn’t necessarily want to hang out with. #ratpie.

Whether you’re new to Discworld or ready to rediscover it then The Night Watch is an excellent place to start.

4/5

13 Comments

  1. Book clubs with the right people can be a great fun. I’ve only read one Terry Pratchett and it was so long ago I don’t remember the title or if I liked it. This sounds like fun and bit like Game of Thrones. I’m glad you are expanding to write book reviews. 🙂

    1. abbiosbiston

      I never thought my book club would end up becoming such an important part of my life but it really is an enjoyable activity and there’s always a healthy debate about the books.

      There is a lot more humour in Discworld than in Game of Thrones. Let’s just say there wouldn’t be a Red Wedding in a Terry Pratchett novel but the fantasy and medieval elements have some similarities.

  2. Book reviews now!!! Yay! I have such a hard time writing those. Great review, Abbi. I really really should give his books a try – I’ve never read one…

    1. abbiosbiston

      I have been nervous about writing them because it feels like there is a lot more to think about than a film a lot of the time but I read quite a lot and I often finish a book and think, I’d like to recommend that (or not) so I am branching out. I think you’d enjoy Terry Pratchett. Have you read any Neil Gaiman? They have some similarities.

      1. No – not read any of his stuff either. I really should try to read more than pretty much just Stephen King all the time. 🙂

        1. abbiosbiston

          Oh you would love Neil Gaiman. Start with Neverwhere. It will make you appreciate London in totally new ways.

          1. Okay – it’s added to my list! 🙂 But I read very slowly so it may be 2025… 😉

  3. I love Sam Vimes. He’s one of my very favourite literary creations. And I love this book. Sooooo glad you enjoyed it! I think of all of the Discworld books, any based on The Watch or The Witches never failed to deliver. Gods, I’m going to miss that man. 😦

    1. abbiosbiston

      It is such a loss to the literary world. I will definitely be reacquainting myself with the series now that I have remembered how much I like the books!

  4. Jay

    Love(d) Pratchett. So sad that he’s gone, but I know I still have a few more reads before he’s lost to me.

    1. abbiosbiston

      I am definitely going to hit up more Discworld novels now that I’ve been reintroduced.

  5. WOOHOOOOOOO! I am so glad to see this feature up and running lady, and great first review for it, if I might add! I have never actually read an entire Pratchett novel, though I do feel that I should get to it at some stage, I have piles of them. I always thought you had to read them in order, hence I never actually started.

  6. […] club agrees on two books, a main one and one for extra credit if we have time. As our May book was The Night Watch in honour of Terry Pratchett we decided to double up and also add Good Omens: The Nice and […]

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