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From Barnes & NobleThe 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