Posted by: Gregg | March 23, 2007

Night Watch – Terry Pratchett

I haven’t been reading for pleasure all that much recently – dense journal articles on organizational theory certainly don’t count on that score, and when I’m not hitting the books I’m catching up on programs on the TiVo. (Since Wisconsin and Texas cratered in the NCAA tournament, my bracket is completely shot, so I can’t even enjoy college basketball anymore.)

However, I pick up some books on my lunch hour at work to give my mind a break. I recently reread Terry Pratchett’s “Night Watch“, the only book of his that I’ve ever read. Pratchett is a British author who writes novels set in an absurd fantasy universe called Discworld that’s full of sly absurdities, satire, and occasional outright goofiness. He’s been writing these books for over twenty-five years, and his novels are full of in-jokes and recurring characters. Not exactly an easy series to jump in the middle of, but “Night Watch” somehow struck a chord with me.

The commander of the Night Watch (the city’s police force, essentially,) is Samuel Vimes, getting rich and getting old, and who longs for the old days when life was simpler. While chasing a criminal, Vimes and the killer get involved in a mystical accident that transports them back in time to Vimes’ rookie days on the force. He now must assume the role of his mentor, the man who taught his younger self all he knew about being a good cop, track down the killer who’s on the loose, and protect his neighborhood from a political revolution, all the while knowing that the mentor who trained him will soon die.

Not knowing any of the background of Discworld, roughly a third of the novel went completely over my head, as we meet younger versions of characters we’re already supposed to be familiar with. Still, the book has heart, and underneath the workings of the plot are meditations on law, order, and politics.  Anybody read the rest of the series? Worth getting into?


  1. Julie is a huge Discworld fan. She’s read every book in the series, and some of the peripheral books (like Nanny Ogg’s cookbook) numerous times. I resisted at first, but she got me hooked. I’ve read some of the books. My favorites are the books in the Witches series (Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, Maskerade, and Carpe Jugulum, which I’m reading right now.) Really great stuff. Also, his YA Discworld novels, the Tiffany Aching series are some of the best books I’ve ever read. I’ve read the first two, The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky. A third book, Wintersmith, came out last year, and Julie said it’s the best yet. You don’t need to know anything about Discworld to enjoy the Tiffany Aching books, so I usually recommend those to start with.

    Also, as a former college student and current librarian, you might enjoy the Wizard novels, too, like Sourcery, Interesting Times, and The Last Continent.

  2. Oh my god you have have have have to read the whole series especially the once with Rincewind and oh my god Death is the best character ever except maybe Luggage who is arguably a character since it has no lines but lots of personality and though I don’t like the police ones or the witch ones as much they’re still mostly all good… *pant pant pant*

    Seriously, it’s one of the best fantasy series out there. I’d start from the beginning, you’ll get hooked.

  3. Short answer: Yes.

    Longer answer: Yes . Read them all. I will read them to you. You will definitely like them.

    Pratchett fans have cultlike devotion. I haven’t met anyone yet who has read one and said, “Ehhhh, nah.” You read one, you want to keep going.

    From “Night Watch,” in the same arc, go backwards and read Guards, Guards!, Feet of Clay, Jingo, to start.

    I am a walking/talking encyclopedia on this topic.

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