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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Guards! Guards!

Guards! Guards!
by Terry Pratchett
(4/5 stars)

Well this is the third of Pratchett's "Discworld" books I've read and probably the last one I'll read for a bit as I have some other stuff to do. Anyway, "Guards! Guards!" was another entertaining and quick read, though I couldn't help thinking it bore a lot of similarities to the later "Going Postal" which I read first. It wouldn't surprise me if many of Pratchett's nearly 40 Discworld books are very similar because in my experience authors develop a certain way of doing things and so do I, although I don't consider myself a true "author" at this point, just a hack writer.

But enough about me and vague generalizations. "Guards! Guards!" is about the laughably inept City Watch, who work the graveyard shift ringing a bell, shouting "all is well," and trying to stay out of the way. This is because the Machiavellian head of the metropolis of Ankh-Morpork, Lord Vetinari, has essentially legalized crime by unionizing thieves and assassins and giving them strict quotas. The head of the City Watch's night shift, Captain Sam Vimes, comes from that Bruce Willis mode of cops in that you can usually find him in a bar or in the gutter afterwards, stinking like a bar.

Things begin to change when a "dwarf" named Carrot arrives from the mountains. Carrot really isn't a dwarf, he's a human taken in by the dwarves since he was a baby and his parents were murdered. When he arrives in Ankh-Morpork he starts throwing the book (figuratively and literally) at the criminal element in the city despite Vimes and his lieutenants telling him to chill out. Meanwhile, a real crime is being purpotrated by a secret society trying to take control of the city by summoning a dragon. They get a lot more than they bargained for and now the only ones who can stop it are the City Watch with the help of the Lady Raskin, one of her pet swamp dragons, and an orangutan librarian.

I think the good thing about this off the bat is that while the book is funny and the cops are inept, they aren't really "Keystone Cops" so much as guys who really don't have an important job and are well aware of this so they just don't care. Some of the plot is predictable but the main twist at the end I didn't really see coming. Like the other two Discworld books I've read (and I'll bet it is the same for most) it features a lot of subtle comedy that makes it laugh out loud funny. As I said earlier, at some point I'll get around to reading more of these because they are high-quality reads that are fun and cover serious topics as well.

Also, as far as comparing this to "Going Postal" they both start off with the "hero" who isn't a hero by any stretch (drunken cop vs. con man) who is embroiled in a much larger game and somewhat reforms, in the process meeting a lady who isn't necessarily a "lady" in terms of decorum. Like I said, I'll bet a lot of the other books in the series follow a similar pattern, but it's a good pattern so that's not really a bad thing.

That is all.

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