Night Watch (Discworld Series #29)

Night Watch (Discworld Series #29)

4.6 85
by Terry Pratchett

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One moment, Sir Sam Vimes is in his old patrolman form, chasing a sweet-talking psychopath across the rooftops of Ankh-Morpork. The next, he's lying naked in the street, having been sent back thirty years courtesy of a group of time-manipulating monks who won't leave well enough alone. This Discworld is a darker place that Vimes remembers too well, three decades

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One moment, Sir Sam Vimes is in his old patrolman form, chasing a sweet-talking psychopath across the rooftops of Ankh-Morpork. The next, he's lying naked in the street, having been sent back thirty years courtesy of a group of time-manipulating monks who won't leave well enough alone. This Discworld is a darker place that Vimes remembers too well, three decades before his title, fortune, beloved wife, and impending first child. Worse still, the murderer he's pursuing has been transported back also. Worst of all, it's the eve of a fabled street rebellion that needlessly destroyed more than a few good (and not so good) men. Sam Vimes knows his duty, and by changing history he might just save some worthwhile necks—though it could cost him his own personal future. Plus there's a chance to steer a novice watchman straight and teach him a valuable thing or three about policing, an impressionable young copper named Sam Vimes.

Editorial Reviews
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

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HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Discworld Series , #29
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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.

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Meet the Author

Sir Terry Pratchett, OBE, was the author of more than 70 books, including the internationally bestselling Discworld series of novels. His books have been adapted for stage and screen, and he was the winner of multiple prizes, including the Carnegie Medal. In January 2009, Pratchett was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his services to literature. Sir Terry, who lived in England, died in March 2015 at the age of 66.

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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