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a Book Review of the Novel by Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett is beloved, but, unfortunately, not by me. Pratchett is most well known for his Discworld series, which contains 41 novels (an insane quantity). Discworld is a unique series in the sense that the novels can be read in any order. Night Watch is the 29th novel and is one of the most well known in the series. There is a lot of disagreement about which Pratchett book to start with; some fans recommend new readers start with the Night Watch, Hogwatch, or Guards, Guards! as their first Pratchett novel. Many fans agree that new readers should start somewhere later in the series, as it took Pratchett a while to settle into his distinctive style.
The Night Watch is about a police officer, Sam Vimes, who is accidentally sent back in time with the serial killer he is attempting to arrest. To fix the break in time, Sam has to impersonate his mentor, Sergeant Keel, to train a younger version of himself and survive a civil war in the city of Ankh-Morpork.
Because Vimes is from the future, he is essentially omniscient. He is able to outwit his enemies by using tricks he knows will work. Although Vimes has insider information about the progression of events, there is doubt that everything will play out exactly as it did in his past. The reader is left completely in the dark; Vimes does not reveal his insider information to the reader until the relevant events occur in the narrative. Despite this attempt to build tension, there is a sense that everything is predetermined, and is consequently meaningless.
I enjoyed Night Watch in retrospect, except that I didn’t actually enjoy reading it. There is something about Pratchett’s writing style that just isn’t for me. One interesting stylistic choice is that Pratchett does not use chapter breaks, instead he uses section breaks to delineate changes in narrator. This makes it feel like the story never takes a breath, but rushes forward like a runner in a race (who trips right before the finish line). Consequently, it is hard to delineate themes and significant plot points. Also, it is really hard to choose a stopping point when reading before bed.
I didn’t actually laugh out loud while reading Terry Pratchett, some might say that’s because I have no soul, but I think its because the jokes are too on the nose. The humor alternates between sarcastic and sometimes witty plot twists, and physical humor (eg. someone is dumb, speaks funny, or smells). Theoretically, there should be a style of humor that tickles everyone’s funny bone and a lot of people think Pratchett is hilarious, so there is obviously something wrong with my sense of humor (I love puns, that says it all).
Pratchett is beloved because he combines fantasy and comedy in a carefully crafted universe. Discworld and the city Ankh-Morpork are extremely detailed and the novels explore many characters from many different fantasy species (vampires, dwarves, death, etc.). All the books are unique, so maybe I just haven’t yet read my “favorite” Pratchett novel.
The Don’t Call Me Ishmael Official Book Rating, Sponsored by Knights of the Whale Republic (KWR):
2.5/5 Whales. Readable.