Night Watch

By Terry Pratchett

Truth! Justice! Freedom! Reasonably Priced Love! A Hard-boiled Egg! What with one thing and another, I’m feeling a bit down, and possible out, too. So I went back to an old mainstay of mine. Something I can read when even Wodehouse is too demanding.

I’ve got all of Terry Pratchett’s novels (and the cat book, but I draw the line at the merchandising, like Science of Discworld. I’m not a fan). When you see our shelves, you can even determine when I first got a job; that’s when is started buying the books in hardback. And you can determine when I got fed-up with the series. That’s when the next book (Amazing Maurice) is a paperback again.

But I fell, I’m not ashamed to say, for the cover of Night Watch. A brilliant satire on Rembrandt’s Night Watch. I bought the book in November 2002, just before I started keeping track of what I read in Fading Memories. I really enjoyed the book, considered it one of the better Discworld novels of the recent crop. I rather liked The Truth, too, but I didn’t care at all for Thief of Time. And I’ve gone completely off the much-praised Jingo and especially Small Gods. And now I’ve re-read it for the first time. I still rather like it, but there were parts where I absolutely have to skim, because the moralizing gets too much. Terry Pratchett has a vaguely pessimistic, humanistic world view that I don’t share. and he will sometimes take more than a page to expound his views.

Anyway, the story of Night Watch is simple enough. Sam Vimes, the Duke of Ankh, is shunted into the past by one of those convenient thunderstorms that were so helpful in Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp, and can go back to sergeanting in the middle of a rather ill-organized devolution of power in Ankh Morpork.

Death makes a few short appearances, there’s a new villain with humorous speech habits, a psychopath, and a lot of ordinary people who get told what they should do by Vimes, who seems to act rather Carrotty, and therefore succeeds. The Time Monks are rather necessary for this kind of plot, too. And Sybil gives birth to a son.

A nice read, gave me a few hearty chuckles, and quite a lot better than the awful Discworld novel about that vampire family — I never can remember the title of that one. Things happen, go on happening and are exciting, But when I look back at what I’ve just read, I discover that there’s not really a whole lot to the book. Apart from the moralizing, the theme seems to be that teaching your younger self is pretty hard, and that government by an intelligent despot is better than government by a stupid despot. Well, well, well.

Currently reading:
Multatuli, Max Havelaar,
John M. Ford, The Dragon Waiting,
Dimitri Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth,
E.R. Eddison, A Fish Dinner in Memison,
P.C Hooft, Warenar,
E.R. Eddison, Mistress of Mistresses,
Hope Mirrlees, Lud in the Mist,
Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog),
Ignace Peckstadt, De sterkte van Gods aanwezigheid,
Athanasius van Alexandrië, Het leven van de heilige Antonius.