Thursday, 14 February 2013

Guards! Guards!

Guards! Guards!

Terry Pratchett

"This is where the dragons went. They lie...not dead, not asleep, but...dormant. And although the space they occupy isn't like normal space, nevertheless they are packed in tightly. They could put you in mind of a can of sardines, if you thought sardines were huge and scaly. And presumably, somewhere, there's a key...

Guards! Guards! is the eighth Discworld novel - and after this, dragons will never be the same again!"

Guards! Guards! returns us to the regular discworld setting of Ankh-Morpork after the relocation of the previous book to more Egyptian settings.
It’s the first book  of the series to feature the City Watch, the less than reliable Ankh-Morpork police force led by new character Captain Vimes.
Vimes is an odd inclusion in the series in that he’s not too humorous, certainly there are jokes surrounding him but he’s a far less comedic character than the witches or Rincewind from previous instalments,

Perhaps it is because of this that the novel falls a little flat. In my journey through the series this has been my least favourite instalment so far, while still a very funny book I didn’t find myself laughing out loud like I had with the other books. All in all there’s a feeling that you’ve read all of this before, likethis is just a longer version of the other books with the names replaced, it just feels stale.

There are also a few problems with the structure of the book, for the first third of the book Vimes isn’t our main character, instead it is Carrot, a boy raised by dwarves in the mountains who is sent down to Ankh to join the watch by his father.
Carrot is a more expected lead for a discworld book, his childlike naivety juxtaposing his massive strength. He is presented as the only member of the watch to be doing a good job (actually going so far as to….*gasp* arrest criminals)
After he joins the watch and is introduced to Vimes he is slowly eased out of the novel. This happens far too late in the novel and it takes too much time for the readers to warm to Vimes while figuring out that Carrot is no longer the lead.

The novel is also too long, not by much but it could certainly stand a trim. Terry Pratchett manages to write comedy novels that remain funny and fresh while also maintaining the length of a regular novel. Comedy novels usually only work in short bursts if they work at all, this ability to write them full length is a real skill of Pratchett’s but even he struggles here.
There’s just a little too much padding and I found myself struggling to make my way through at times, almost to the point that I simply gave up.

It’s still a very entertaining novel and I’d recommend it. You’ll still have a chuckle or two to yourself but it’s simply not as good the previous seven books in the series.
Give it a read if you get the chance but I wouldn’t use it as your introduction to the series.

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