I should really be reading from my TBR Pile, but at the time I read Night Watch I was struggling with non-fiction and most of the books I could reach were non-fiction. In order to feed my need for a narrative I went to my bookshelf to find something I’d read before. And Terry Pratchett is great if you want narrative.
In Night Watch Commander Sam Vimes is dealing with a tricky customer. Carcer has killed Sargeant Stronginthearm, and doesn’t care that Commander Vimes is hot on his heels with some valued members of the Watch.
I quite like Carcer. I know he’s meant to be the bad guy in this book and he precipitates lots of events with this killing, but I happen to like him. We’re told that he kills easily and without remorse, and we’re led to believe that he will probably go to his death with the same ‘who me’ look of surprise that he gives when he’s confronted with his crimes. ‘He had a demon on both shoulders, urging one another on.’ this sentence from the book is the best summation I can find about Carcer, but I’d like to know why I like the man.
We’re faced with some confusions in this book. Both Vimes and Carcer end up travelling back through time to just before the Glorious Revolution of the 25th of May. At this point in time there are two parts to the Watch: the Night Watch and the Cable Street Particulars. Carcer ends up joining the Particulars, good for him as most of them are corrupt. Vimes ends up back at the Night Watch using a pseudonym of John Keel.
This is a very different time in Ankh-Morpork. A young Sam Vimes has just joined the Watch and is taken in charge by Commander Vimes in his guise as John Keel. He ends up teaching a younger version of himself some good policing techniques and survival strategies. And we get to ask the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did Vimes really learn all these things from John Keel or from a version of himself sent back in time.
In the earlier time period we find out about the Glorious Revolution of the 25th of May and why we wear Lilac on that day. You’ll find Discworld fans talking about ‘Truth, Justice, Freedom, Reasonably Priced Love, and a Hard-Boiled Egg!’ If you notice some resemblance between the barricade in Night Watch and the barricade in Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, then you’re not wrong. Pratchett has taken some ideas from Les Misérables and produced a totally different work. He celebrates some of the deceased in zombie form, such as Reg Shoe, and kept their memory alive by keeping them ‘alive’.
You’ll notice the art on the front cover is a nod to Rembrandt’s painting ‘Night Watch’. I’ve had people tell me that if you look carefully you can find Pratchett standing in the artwork. I haven’t managed to identify him, yet.
Anyway, I do recommend this book. It’s a great romp and there are nods to many things that I haven’t figured out yet. I think a re-re-read will be in order another time. If you’d like to look at the cover here is a link. Thanks to anyone who clicked on the link last week, muchly appreciated.