Reviewed: June 22, 2006
By: Terry Pratchett
Publisher: Corgi Books
474 pages, $11.99
Discworld is a sprawling, adventurous
place that resides somewhere in the mind of its creator, Terry Pratchett.
Though it began as a pun riddled satire (with footnotes) of the fantasy genre
known as sword and sorcery, it has mutated over the decades into something
much more complicated than that. Pratchett has used his creation to muse on
the works of William Shakespeare the effect of the media on the functioning
of reality, and all sorts of other topics. His central characters have included
witches, swaggering barbarians, dukes, DEATH, and journalists.
Night Watch (with its lovely cover parody of the Rembrandt painting), is a sort
of NYPD Blue goes Medieval. The central character in this outing is Sam Vines,
the commander of the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork. The Watch has often been
a minor feature in the other two dozen or so novels in this series, and Vines
has been the force behind the Watch.
While leading the hunt for a noted
villain name Carcer, Vines and his quarry are struck by a sort of mystic lightning
and translated into Vineís own past. There, he meets himself as a raw recruit
to the force and sets himself on the path to his eventual elevation to the
rank of Duke of Ankh, Commander of the City Watch.
Along the way he becomes involved in
the events which lead to the installation of the current rulers of the city
and takes part in a sort of parody of the European uprisings of 1848, as his
precinct erects barricades to keep out the lawlessness that is sweeping the
In order to keep the peace in his precinct,
Vines, operating under the name of John Keel, has to find a way to deal with
the corrupt and duplicitous secret police known as the Unmentionables, an
insane city administrator, the radical fringes of the revolutionary movement
and a strange group of monks who seem to have the power to suspend time, and
might just be able to get him back to his own time.
All this is told in a prose style which
parodies the best fantasy has to offer, and always manages to find and skewer
the silly bits.
ďThe Assassin moved quietly from roof
to roof until he was well away from the excitement around the Watch House.
His movements could have been called cat-like, except that he did not stop
to spray urine up against things.Ē (p. 232)
There is also quite a bit of wisdom
in the satire.
ďOne of the hardest lessons of young
Samís life had been finding out that the people in charge werenít in charge.
It had been finding out that governments were not, on the whole, staffed by
people who had a grip, and that plans were what people made instead of thinking.Ē
Thatís a nicely subversive note on
which to end this review. Iíve never been disappointed by Pratchett, other
than by the fact that heís even more prolific than Stephen King (by title,
not by word count) and I canít keep up with him.