Night Watch (Discworld Series #29)

Night Watch (Discworld Series #29)

4.6 85
by Terry Pratchett

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Sam Vimes can't tell what kind of day he's having. One moment he's fighting a ruthless murderer on top of the library of the Unseen University. The next, he's thrown back in time.

He meets his younger self, and sees a lot of people who, last time he saw them, were, well, older. To top it all off, he's been mistaken for his former commander, the man who taught him


Sam Vimes can't tell what kind of day he's having. One moment he's fighting a ruthless murderer on top of the library of the Unseen University. The next, he's thrown back in time.

He meets his younger self, and sees a lot of people who, last time he saw them, were, well, older. To top it all off, he's been mistaken for his former commander, the man who taught him all about being a good Watchman. But the city's on the brink of revolt, there's a curfew, the police are corrupt, and that killer he was after in the future is with him here in the past, which is now the present...sort of. Now all Vimes has to do is figure out how to get back home—but first he has to change the outcome of a bloody revolution.

There's a problem, though: if he wins, he's got no wife, no child, no future...

Editorial Reviews

Fantasy & Science Fiction
“Masterful and brilliant.”
The Barnes & Noble Review
Night Watch is the 28th entry in Terry Pratchett's endlessly inventive Discworld series. As longtime readers will doubtless intuit from the title, it belongs to that subset of Discworld novels featuring the irascible, supremely competent Samuel Vimes, Commander of the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork, a metropolis populated by a quarrelsome combination of humans, vampires, trolls, werewolves, zombies, gargoyles, and imps.

As the narrative begins, a psychopathic cop-killer named Carcer has been cornered on a rooftop at Unseen University. Vimes -- a hands-on sort of commander --sets off in hot pursuit. Before he can make an arrest, a number of magical forces come together, and Vimes and Carcer fall through a rupture in the fabric of time itself. The rupture seals itself immediately, trapping the two in the Ankh-Morpork of 30 years before, a powder keg of a city on the verge of revolution. Adrift in the familiar setting of his own past, Vimes assumes the identity of the late, legendary policeman John Keel, joins a local Watch House as Sergeant-at-Arms, mans the revolutionary barricades, and struggles to return to the relative sanity of the world he left behind.

It's all great fun, and it ranks among the strongest entries in the entire series. One of the book's most consistent pleasures is its presentation of familiar characters at earlier stages of their lives. Readers of Night Watch will learn exactly how Constable Reg Shoe became a zombie, witness the origins of "Cut-Me-Own-Throat" Dibbler's entrepreneurial career, and discover some surprising facts about the background of Lord Havelock Vetenari, the reigning Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. Most significantly, we encounter the teenage Sam Vimes, a fledgling member of the City Watch, and witness his development under the rigorous tutelage of his own future self.

Night Watch is, of course, a very funny book. But it is also, like the best of its predecessors, a cumulatively gripping novel filled with serious, if satirical, commentary on a wide variety of subjects. In this particular case, the glue that holds the narrative together is Vimes himself, a decent, pragmatic street cop determined to "do the job in front of him" the best way he can. Vimes, the hero of numerous Discworld adventures, has always been a strikingly effective character. In Night Watch, however, he comes into his own, lending the novel a rude wit and moral weight that blend perfectly into the surrounding atmosphere of headlong, high-spirited comedy. The result, as expected, is a first-rate comic fantasy by the leading practitioner of the form. Bill Sheehan

Publishers Weekly
British author Pratchett's storytelling, a clever blend of Monty Pythonesque humor and Big Questions about morality and the workings of the universe, is in top form in his 28th novel in the phenomenally bestselling Discworld series (The Last Hero, etc.). Pragmatic Sam Vimes, Commander of Ankh-Morpork's City Watch, can't complain. He has a title, his wife is due to give birth to their first child any moment and he hasn't had to pound a beat in ages but that doesn't stop him from missing certain bits of his old life. Thank goodness there's work to be done. Vimes manages to corner a murderer, Carcer, on the library dome at Unseen University during a tremendous storm, only to be zapped back in time 30 years, to an Ankh-Morpork where the Watch is a joke, the ruling Patrician mad and the city on the verge of rebellion. Three decades earlier, a man named John Keel took over the Night Watch and taught young Sam Vimes how to be a good cop before dying in that rebellion. Unfortunately, in this version of the past, Carcer has killed Keel. The only way Vimes can hope to return home and ensure he has a future to return home to is to take on Keel's role. The author lightens Vimes's decidedly dark situation with glimpses into the origins of several of the more unique denizens of Ankh-Morpork. One comes away, as always, with the feeling that if Ankh-Morpork isn't a real place, it bloody well ought to be. (Nov. 12) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Traveling back in time is often a dangerous proposition, not only for the characters who make the journey but also for the authors who plot the heroes' progress. Pratchett is, however, more than up to the game. His penchant for twisting conventional plots receives ample room for exercise in this latest addition to the chronicles of Discworld. Unwillingly transported about thirty years back to the days of his own youth, Sam Vimes, commander of the Ankh-Morpork Watch, faces a series of difficult dilemmas. He must impersonate the man he once looked up to, educate and preserve his own youthful self, stop or at least control a citywide rebellion, and dismantle various forms of official injustice-all without disturbing history too much. If he fails, his own future life and beloved wife will never come to exist! As in his previous novels, Pratchett's witty verbal style demands a thoughtful reader, but he never fails to reward attention with a clever pun, sly innuendo, or ironic guffaw. He also loves to poke fun at any authority that takes itself too seriously. In Pratchett's Discworld, ordinary gumption counts for a lot more than a title or education. What is perhaps funniest and most refreshing about Pratchett's wickedly wonderful world is that common sense and good humor always prevail, no matter how long the odds or how odd the tale. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2002, HarperCollins, 352p,
— Megan Isaac
Library Journal
A freak accident hurls Commander Sam Vines back into his own past, where he must assume a new identity and watch his younger self struggle to rise in the ranks of the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork while tracking down a dangerous criminal and finding a way to return to his own time. The 28th addition to Pratchett's "Discworld" series explores time travel and historical inevitability with cleverness and humor. The author's talent for comedy does not falter as he continues to set the standard for comic fantasy. A good choice, particularly where the series is popular. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Samuel Vimes, Commander of Ankh-Morpork's City Watch, starts the morning fishing a would-be assassin out of his cesspool and writing a letter to the parents of a watch-dwarf murdered by Carcer, a homicidal maniac. By the end of the day, thanks to a freak, magical accident, he is transported back more than 30 years in the city's less-than-glorious past. Unfortunately, Carcer is taken with him. Revolution is brewing and though Vimes and Carcer know what is supposed to happen, both are determined to change it. Readers familiar with the characters from other "Discworld" tales will be fascinated by the glimpse into their pasts. Tension is generated as Vimes, a good man in a corrupt world, struggles to find the right path through the morass of history. He has to stop Carcer, but success in the past may mean losses in the future. In addition, Vimes is in charge of training a new recruit, young lance constable Vimes, and must teach himself to be a good copper, so the Watch as it is known can exist. The stakes are high, yet Pratchett injects humor into the mix. This gripping novel is essential for fans of the series, and is also recommended for those who haven't had the pleasure of traveling there yet.-Susan Salpini, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another Discworld yarn—#28 if you're counting (The Last Hero, 2001, etc.). Commander Sam Vimes of Ankh-Morpork's City Watch has it made: he's a duke, rich, respected, and his wife Sybil is about to give birth. But then Vimes is called away to deal with a notorious and ruthless murderer, Carcer, now trapped on the roof of the university library. Amid a furious storm, lightning and magic hurl Sam and Carcer 20 years back in time. Sam's younger self is a rookie Night Watch cop. History, and Sam's memory, tells that Sam learned his street smarts from a skillful, straight-arrow cop named John Keel. But Carcer's arrived in the past, too—and he's murdered Keel. In the same fight (coincidentally?), Sam received an injury he remembers Keel having. Must he somehow impersonate Keel, and teach young Sam how to survive? What will the History Monks—the holy men who ensure that what's supposed to happen, happens—do? Adding further complications, Sam knows that the current ruler of the city, Lord Winder, is both mad and utterly corrupt: revolution's a-brewing, with riots, street barricades, cavalry charges, and thousands dead. And the horrid Unmentionables, Winder's secret torturers and jailers, must be curbed—especially when Carcer turns up in charge of them.

Not a side-splitter this time, though broadly amusing and bubbling with wit and wisdom: both an excellent story and a tribute to beat cops everywhere, doing their hair-raising jobs with quiet courage and determination.

From the Publisher
“He is a satirist of enormous talent . . . His jokes slide under your skin as swiftly as a hypodermic syringe, leaving you giggling helplessly.”
The Times

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Discworld Series, #29
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.08(d)
720L (what's this?)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Sam Vimes sighed when he heard the scream, but he finished shaving before he did anything about it.

Then he put his jacket on and strolled out into the wonderful late spring morning. Birds sang in the trees, bees buzzed in the blossom. The sky was hazy though, and thunderheads on the horizon threatened rain later. But for now, the air was hot and heavy. And in the old cesspit behind the gardener's shed, a young man was treading water.

Well ... treading, anyway.

Vimes stood back a little way and lit a cigar. It probably wouldn't be a good idea to employ a naked flame any nearer to the pit. The fall from the shed roof had broken the crust.

"Good morning!" he said cheerfully.

"Good morning, Your Grace," said the industrious treadler.

The voice was higher pitched that Vimes expected and he realized that, most unusually, the young man in the pit was in fact a young woman. It wasn't entirely unexpected -- the Assassins' Guild was aware that women were at least equal to their brothers when it came to inventive killing -- but it nevertheless changed the situation somewhat.

"I don't believe we've met?" said Vimes. "Although I see you know who I am. You are ... ?"

"Wiggs, sir," said the swimmer. "Jocasta Wiggs. Honored to meet you, Your Grace."

"Wiggs, eh?" said Vimes. "Famous family in the Guild. 'Sir' will do, by the way. I think I once broke your father's leg?"

"Yes, sir. He asked to be remembered to you," said Jocasta.

"You're a bit young to be sent on this contract, aren't you?" said Vimes.

"Not a contract, sir," said Jocasta, still paddling.

"Come now, Miss Wiggs. Theprice on my head is at least -- "

"The Guild council put it in abeyance, sir," said the patient swimmer. "You're off the register. They're not accepting contracts on you at present."

"Good grief, why not?"

"Couldn't say, sir," said Miss Wiggs. Her patient struggles had brought her to the edge of the pit, and now she was finding that the brickwork was in very good repair, quite slippery, and offered no handholds. Vimes knew this, because he'd spent several hours one afternoon carefully arranging that this should be so.

"So why were you sent, then?"

"Miss Band sent me as an exercise," said Jocasta. "I say, these bricks really are jolly tricky, aren't they?"

"Yes," said Vimes, "they are. Have you been rude to Miss Band lately? Upset her in any way?"

"Oh, no, Your Grace. But she did say I was getting overconfident and would benefit from some advanced field work."

"Ah. I see." Vimes tried to recall Miss Alice Band, one of the Assassins' Guild's stricter teachers. She was, he'd heard, very hot on practical lessons.

"So ... she sent you to kill me, then?" he said.

"No, sir! It's an exercise! I don't even have any crossbow bolts! I just had to find a spot where I could get you in my sights and then report back!"

"She'd believe you?"

"Of course, sir," said Jocasta, looking rather hurt. "Guild honor, sir."

Vimes took a deep breath. "You see, Miss Wiggs, quite a few of your chums have tried to kill me at home in recent years. As you might expect, I take a dim view of this."

"Easy to see why, sir," said Jocasta, in the voice of one who knows that their only hope of escaping from their present predicament is reliant on the goodwill of another person, who has no pressing reason to have any.

"And so you'd be amazed at the booby traps there are around the place," Vimes went on. "Some of them are pretty cunning, even if I say so myself."

"I certainly never expected the tiles on the shed to shift like that, sir."

"They're on greased rails," said Vimes.

"Well done, sir!"

"And quite a few of the traps drop you into something deadly," said Vimes.

"Lucky for me that I fell into this one, eh, sir?"

"Oh, that one's deadly too," said Vimes. "Eventually deadly." He sighed. He really wanted to discourage this sort of thing but ... they'd put him off the register? It wasn't that he'd liked being shot at by hooded figures in the temporary employ of his many and varied enemies, but he'd always looked at it as some kind of vote of confidence. It showed that he was annoying the rich and arrogant people who ought to be annoyed.

Besides, the Assassins' Guild was easy to outwit. They had strict rules, which they followed quite honorably, and this was fine by Vimes, who, in certain practical areas, had no rules whatsoever.

Off the register, eh? The only other person not on it any more, it was rumored, was Lord Vetinari, the Patrician. The Assassins understood the political game in the city better than anyone, and if they took you off the register it was because they felt your departure would not only spoil the game but also smash the board ...

"I'd be jolly grateful if you could pull me out, sir," said Jocasta.

"What? Oh, yes. Sorry, got clean clothes on," said Vimes.

"But when I get back to the house I'll tell the butler to come down here with a ladder. How about that?"

"Thank you very much, sir. Nice to have met you, sir."Vimes strolled back to the house. Off the register? Was he allowed to appeal? Perhaps they thought --

The scent rolled over him.

He looked up.

Overhead, a lilac tree was in bloom.

He stared.

Damn! Damn! Damn! Every year he forgot. Well, no. He never forgot. He just put the memories away, like old silverware that you didn't want to tarnish. And every year they came back, sharp and sparkling, and stabbed him in the heart. And today, of all days ...

Night Watch. Copyright © by Terry Pratchett. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Terry Pratchett is one of the most popular authors writing today. He lives behind a keyboard in Wiltshire and says he “doesn’t want to get a life, because it feels as though he’s trying to lead three already.” He was appointed OBE in 1998. He is the author of the phenomenally successful Discworld series and his trilogy for young readers, The Bromeliad, is scheduled to be adapted into a spectacular animated movie. His first Discworld novel for children, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, was awarded the 2001 Carnegie Medal.

Brief Biography

Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
Date of Birth:
April 28, 1948
Place of Birth:
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England
Four honorary degrees in literature from the universities of Portsmouth, Bristol, Bath and Warwick

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Night Watch 4.6 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 85 reviews.
yossarian_lives More than 1 year ago
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS. Few avid book-readers can actually say that they've come across a book they can truthfully call their favorite, but I am privileged to claim Night Watch as my personal favorite. Terry Pratchett is a genius. Night Watch is a story of a copper who's based his career on all that he learned from a rigid and right-minded sergeant when he was just a lance-constable. Sam Vimes, the copper-in-question, grew up to become Sir Samuel Vimes Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, and a hard, yet honest watchman, at that. When our story begins he's having a bit of trouble with the fact that as you rise in rank, you fall in actual street-work. Priding himself on the ability to know where he is by "the feel of the cobbles through the soles of his boots", he misses just being a copper. This conflict between the dangerous life of a cop and the boring life of being a diplomat is intensified by the fact that Vimes' wife, Lady Sybil, is giving birth to Vimes' firstborn. Vimes is following what Pratchett terms as "the call of the chase" when a freak storm (mixed with a bit of Discworld magic) transports him and a psychopathic killer, Carcer, back to the days of his youth. Upon arrival, Carcer kills Sergeant-at-Arms John Keel (the aforementioned "rigid and right-minded.) This leaves young Sam with no mentor to keep him from following the corrupt ways of policemen in Times Past. So, Vimes, caught between the joy of being in the Night Watch again and the longing to be back home with his wife in the future, adopts the name John Keel in order to teach his young self how to be a copper. During this period Vimes-as-Keel leads a ragtag bunch of men through the Glorious Revolution, commemorating Keel as a hero. At the end of this battle, Time snaps back in place taking Vimes and Carcer with it, leaving History to believe that the hero died in battle. Once back in the future, Carcer is incarcerated and dealt with according to the law by Commander Vimes, just as Sergeant Keel would have wanted. The 25th of May (the day of the fateful battle) is from thenceforth known as The Glorious 25th of May, and in the future the graves and names of the men that died there are honored. Having saved the day once again, Vimes returns to his home and his wife and his newborn son, Young Sam. All of that being said, I do not, however, recommend Night Watch as a starting point for newcomers to the Disc. Terry Pratchett has a unique writing style, and I fear you will not fully appreciate the book without a good knowledge of this style and of the disc. Should you be looking to start this series, Guards! Guards! is a fantastic place to begin.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first Terry Pratchett book I've read and although I'm only about a third of the way through, I am almost giddy with tears that not only do I have two thirds of this book left to read, but apparently many, many others in the land of 'Discworld'. I love the humor and appreciate that some of it actually poses remarkable insight into human nature and other reality. Character development is superb and I very much want to see what happens to them. I must have been living right lately for God to hook me up with so many books to look forward to. Thank you, Mr. Pratchett!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had resisted reading Terry Pratchett until I had to pick this book up at B&N for a friend. Pratchett's books had always seemed a little too cute to be taken seriously - and I always foundered over the description of Ankh-Morpork. This book, however, does not describe Ankh-Morpork and starts off at a gallop and never lets up. Sam Vimes is a very successful man - Duke, commander of the night watch, happily married, expecting his first child. Then he is zapped back in time while chasing a nefarious criminal. Now he confronts himself as an earnest young man just joining the night watch. And the twist to this confrontation is that in this past he is not himself, he is a sergeant who greatly influenced the earnest young Vimes and died in ....well, I won't tell you that since it will spoil the book and not really add anything to the review. So the older, wiser Sam Vimes has to carefully work his way through events he already knows happened to arrive at the result that will allow him to go back to his comfortable life in the future. Pratchett throws in the usual run of fools, assassins, petty lords and ladies, prostitutes, amd assorted hangers-on. Each character is drawn with great skill and the writing is priceless. Pratchett's asides are worth the cost of the book by themselves. Example: "As soon as you saw people as things to be measured, they didn't measure up" and "People are content to wait a long time for salvation, but prefer dinner to turn up inside an hour." So longtime Pratchett readers will already have devoured this book, but you new potential readers should start here to discover a funny, thoughtful and at times moving book about life and doing right instead of doing the expedient thing.
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An enjoyable and a very T.P. book, I enjoy the Diskworld series and although not the best IMnHO, for that read anything with Dead and Susan, or the Free Wee Men, it is still good. The best part was to read the past of different characters, knowing what or where they are later in the world.
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This book goes a long way towards explaining why so many great authors proclaim Pratchett as the best.
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love you, man, especially your watch books!
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