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
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,
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.
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.”
Fantasy & Science Fiction
“Masterful and brilliant.”
Read an Excerpt
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.
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.