21 January 2010

Guards Guards

We all know the drill, right? Every fantasy city, at some point, is oppressed by a vile dictator , and the people need to be rescued by a hero, preferably an impoverished man of noble but secret birth brandishing a fancy sword to slay a dragon to prove his mettle. (If only politics were that much fun now..) Well, the problem in Ankh-Morpork is everyone does know the drill. So much so that the sinister, mysterious, and most incompetent Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night decide to overthrow benevolent dictator Havelock Vetinari by conjuring up a dragon and staging its "slaying" by their own handpicked "heir" to the throne. Only problem is that these sorry excuses for conspirators didn't consult the dragon on its wishes. Soon, the scaly, gigantic beast declares itself king and spends its free time burning streets (and its former handlers) to ashes. The dragon must be stopped! Alas, there is no hero in sight. Unless you count the City Watch. Between pathetic drunken Captain Sam Vimes, gigantic dwarf Carrot, stolid Sergeant Colon, and crafty kleptomaniac Nobby, most wouldn't, but they're all Ankh Morpork has.

I fell in love with Terry Pratchett's Discworld series late last year when I read Going Postal. Since then, I have read eight of the series novels (with more to come) and have enjoyed every single one. That's saying something, because it's easy for me to get burnt out with a series. Not with Discworld. Pratchett's uproarious sense of humor and irreverent take on high fantasy is a treat to read. I can only describe it as Monty Python meets Tolkien...with lots and lots of zaniness, puns, satires, and allusions to classic literature and current events.

Guards! Guards! is no exception. This comic crime fantasy had me laughing out loud all the way through. I like Pratchett's work because it is funny in so many different ways. I especially enjoy his witty third person narration, which is frequently as hilarious as the characters and plot. His characters are also unique, realistic, and endearing. This is the first time I had read about Vimes and Carrot, though I had come to know and love Colon and Nobby (especially the scrappy, roguish Nobby) in previous books. I look forward to meeting all of these characters down the road in future Discworld novels. I also enjoyed seeing how Pratchett takes crime fiction cliches that have been beaten to death and makes them fresh by transferring them to a fantasy setting. I adore crime fiction, but his satire of the genre was excellent. There are some hilarious allusions to Casablanca, Dirty Harry, and Dragnet if you pay attention.

Even if you're not a Discworld fan, this novel is fun to read. The pacing is breakneck, with twists and turns throughout. The mystery is a pretty good one, too. Rather than keeping the villains in the dark until the end, Pratchett traces the Watch and the Brotherhood throughout (only keeping the latter's identity secret) until the climactic point when their interests collide and everything falls to pieces. Fortunately, Discworld novels are accessible, even if you're not a fan. The series is broken into smaller series focusing on individual characters; I have read those smaller series in order, but have not read the series in general in order. So far, I have found that Pratchett does a magnificent job of not overwhelming a newbie with old references or boring a veteran reader by rehashing old stories.

Guards! Guards! is a delightful mix of high fantasy, sharp satire, and crime fiction. If you're an old Discworld fan, I am preaching to the choir, but if you're unfamiliar with the series, this fun, fast paced book is a great start.


Official Apology: I had this blog ready on time, but tech trouble threw me off schedule! ARGGGGGH! I am so sorry. I was only late two times last semester. Two weeks into this semester I have been late every week. I pride myself on punctuality, so this angers me, especially when it's not due to my own laziness. I will try my best to have next week's up on time. *glares at computer*

Next Week: I will review either Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 or George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Depends on if I feel like book burnings or anthropomorphic dictators…


  1. You're right, Pratchett is a hoot. I've only read Mort so far but like you I never felt lost in his world -- just sore from laughing so hard. This book is definitely on my reading list thanks to you and Scotty, who introduced me to Mr. P. Can you see the resemblance? :)

  2. I mean of Scotty and Mr. P., by the way. Oh, and I liked your comment about if only politics were that much fun now. Good one!

  3. Thanks, Eric! Hehe Scott was behind my Discworld conversion, too. If I didn't know better, I'd think he was involved in some sort of conspiracy to convert everyone to Pratchettism. *gasp* Maybe he is! Not that it's a bad thing. The world could use more Pratchett. B-)

  4. I'm glad the tech trouble threw you off, actually, Zella, because this is what I needed today. To remember a great book and grin as I do it.
    And yes, I did convert Eric. ;) But I don't see much of a resemblance between me and TP except...well maybe if you switched his head, so his beard was on the top and his bald crown below, then perhaps...

    Thanks for this, Zella! TEAM ANGUA!
    (Have you met Angua yet? I think she's introduced in the next Vimes book, Men At Arms...)

  5. Scott, I reverse my opinion of my late blog. I am happy for the tech trouble now and glad the review helped you out. :)

    You're welcome! I vaguely recall the name, but just in passing. I look forward to meeting Angua. :D

  6. I am almost ashamed to admit that I haven't picked up any of Terry Pratchett's books yet. Any suggestions on a good starting point?

  7. Well, I have only read eight of his books, so I can only speak for the ones I have read, but Guards! Guards! is really good and enjoyable. It would be a nice start. I would also highly recommend Going Postal - the first Discworld book I read. It is hysterical! Unseen Academicals, Pratchett's newest book, was great and fairly easy to keep up with, best I recall. I hope those help! Let me know what you think when you read one! :)

  8. About to sound really stupid here- but what exactly is discworld? The series? Hmmm... To google!

  9. Laura, Don't feel bad! I didn't know what Discworld was until last year. Discworld is the zany fantasy universe that Terry Pratchett sets his Discworld series on. They're like high fantasies (like LOTR) but they're also comedies, in which he pokes fun at traditional fantasy (and everything else). I bet you'd like them! :)

  10. I loved that book! Great post, Zella. But I would never go so far as to call Lord Vetinari benevolent ;)

  11. Thanks, Spammy! :)

    Well, it's probably not the best description for him, but he isn't a total dictator. How about practical dictator? :D