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August 31st, 2010


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11:01 pm - Tales from the Watch
I have been a fan of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series for many years (my first book was Lords and Ladies, and my favorite is Thief of Time), but I had avoided reading any of the books focusing on the City Watch because I had heard it was best to read them in order. Three months ago, I borrowed all seven from Jess and Colin, and I have been mired in Ankh-Morpork ever since.

In Guards! Guards! we meet the Watch, comprising very few members at this point. Each book adds more and more members, which is one reason it's nice to read them in order. Another is that various characters move up the ranks over the course of the books. And another is, of course, Samuel Vimes, many people's favorite character in all of Discworld. It's hard to believe when we're first introduced to him in a drunken stupor, but he cleans himself up, dammit, and proves himself to be a great copper. The current Vimes has come a long way from the man lying in a gutter. In any case, Our Heroes have to protect the city from a dragon, but it gets...complicated.

Men at Arms, as its name suggests, focuses on a weapon: there's an assassin on the loose! There are murders to be solved! One reason I really like the Watch books is that they are by their very nature mysteries, and this book in particularly features some clever detective work, both by Vimes and one of my favorite characters, Carrot, a human raised by dwarfs whose sincerity is only matched by your disbelief that he's sincere.

Feet of Clay is probably my least favorite of the seven. The Watch has to deal with a potentially murderous golem. I don't remember quite why I wasn't as fond of this book now, but I wasn't as drawn into the mystery and the golems, I guess, even though I still enjoyed the stuff going on with the Watch characters.

Jingo is the longest of the seven, and it really opens up the story and begins to introduce more politics into the mix, as Vimes has to stop a potential war between Ankh-Morpork and the Klatchian city of Al-Khali. This book is the one that ensured Vetinari a spot in my list of favorite characters as well. The most brilliant thing about what Vetinari does in this book is that it is completely between the lines and never stated outright.

The Fifth Elephant continues the theme of politics as Vimes travels to Uberwald and faces werewolves and vampires and dwarf kings. And of course he has to solve a mystery before there's an international incident. This is one of the more complicated plots, but it also has a strong focus on character and character relationships.

Night Watch is unusual in that it does not feature most of the Watch besides Vimes. Well, at least not the version we know...because Vimes is transported thirty years back in time. Yes, my friends, this book features time travel mayhem. (I didn't lurve it as much as I would have expected, given that, however, I think because I missed most of the characters I had been reading about, although it was neat to see younger versions of some of them. One especially.) Vimes has the misfortune of landing during a very important but violent time in Ankh-Morpork's history, which he has to become a part of if he's going to make it back home.

Thud! focuses on the contentious relationship between trolls and dwarves that goes all the way back to the Battle of Koom Valley, when the trolls ambushed the dwarves. Or the dwarves ambushed the trolls. No one is certain of the details, but everyone knows that doesn't stop hate and prejudice! Once again, Vimes must solve a politically charged crime to keep Ankh-Morpork from exploding in violence.

I've already touched on some of the things that make the Watch books stand out, like the mystery aspect and the character development. Pretty much all the major Watch characters are likable and entertaining, though I never really warmed up to Colon (I've taken care not to name Watchmen past the first book, as part of the fun and surprise lies in the identities of new recruits: there are a lot of non-human members, I'll tell you what). The relationship between Vimes and Vetinari is a thing of beauty, as they're both shrewd in their own ways. They need and respect each other, but they also wouldn't mind if the other ended up in a ditch somewhere. I also liked some of the recurring minor characters like Leonard of Quirm, the kooky inventor.

But I think the biggest reason these books are so lauded and recommended, specifically, is that Ankh-Morpork is a character. Through the Watch, we get a real taste of what the city is like. We meet its inhabitants, individually and collectively. Through Vimes and Vetinari, we see how the city is run. They both love the city in their own way and serve it to the best of their abilities. Even when the characters travel to other cities and countries, Ankh-Morpork has such a reputation that we get a picture of how it fits into the larger world.

So if you're a Discworld fan but haven't read the Watch books yet, I do endorse reading them in order! If you're not a Discworld fan, what the hell is wrong with you, there are like thirty books, just pick one up.
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[User Picture]
From:sdwolfpup
Date:September 1st, 2010 06:06 am (UTC)
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The Watch books are my favorites by far in the Discworld series because, yes, of Vimes. But also because of Vetinari, and their very complicated relationship. I can't recall which one is the one where Vimes has to return home to read the story (I *think* it's The Fifth Elephant), but that one is my favorite.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:September 1st, 2010 06:34 am (UTC)
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That's Thud!

Vimes and Vetinari have one of those complicated hero/villain relationships...except Vetinari's not a villain, even though he is sometimes an antagonist of sorts.

I think Carrot is highly underrated, though. He's so awesome in the early books, although there's less focus on him later.
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From:sabra_n
Date:September 1st, 2010 09:42 am (UTC)
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Carrot was intended to be the hero when Pratchett started writing Guards! Guards!, but Vimes sort of...took over.

As much as I adore Vimes, I do miss the more ensemble feel of the early books sometimes. Except in Night Watch, which is so epically awesome it doesn't matter. (What is it about time-travelling cops named Sam?)
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From:spectralbovine
Date:September 1st, 2010 03:08 pm (UTC)
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Carrot was intended to be the hero when Pratchett started writing Guards! Guards!, but Vimes sort of...took over.
Really?? Iiiinteresting.

As much as I adore Vimes, I do miss the more ensemble feel of the early books sometimes.
Yeah, I agree.

Except in Night Watch, which is so epically awesome it doesn't matter. (What is it about time-travelling cops named Sam?)
HA!!
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From:spectralbovine
Date:September 1st, 2010 03:10 pm (UTC)
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Ooh, wow, that's an even more ambitious project. I've read about half the books so far (but it's been so long that I could stand to re-read a lot of them!), and I want to read the rest, but right now, I may have overdosed on Pratchett. I need a break!
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From:darlingviolenta
Date:September 1st, 2010 12:38 pm (UTC)
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I just reread the Watch books in order myself, in honor of having finally completed my collection of Discworld novels. It was my first time reading the first five of them in order, and holy crap are they so much better that way!

I can't say that Vimes is my favorite Discworld character (Death or Granny Weatherwax would take that honor depending on my mood) but he is my Discworld crush.

Man, I love Discworld. Now I need to figure out whether to reread the Death books or the Witches books next.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:September 1st, 2010 03:15 pm (UTC)
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I just reread the Watch books in order myself, in honor of having finally completed my collection of Discworld novels.
Congrats! That is a goal of mine as well. When I have more shelf space.

It was my first time reading the first five of them in order, and holy crap are they so much better that way!
They really are! They flow so well with the expanding roster and the constant references to needing a new dartboard.

I can't say that Vimes is my favorite Discworld character (Death or Granny Weatherwax would take that honor depending on my mood) but he is my Discworld crush.
I'm not sure who my Favorite character would be, but Death is definitely up there, of course. Granny Weatherwax is badass, and I have a fondness for the Witches since they were my first book, although I haven't liked another Witches book as much (Equal Rites was one of the really early ones and vastly subpar, as those are, and I can't remember why I didn't like Carpe Jugulum as much as I wanted to).

I think my Discworld crush may be Susan. Especially after the Hogfather movie.

Man, I love Discworld.
Me tooooooooo.

Edited at 2010-09-01 03:22 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:jeeperstseepers
Date:September 1st, 2010 12:58 pm (UTC)
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I guess I'll be the minority voice and say that the Watchcentric books are my least favorite. I don't think I ever made it through Guards! Guards! or Men at Arms.

I think I've mentioned that the book that made me suddenly be interested in Vimes and appreciate the Watch is Night Watch. That's also the first Discworld novel I read that I consciously noticed a darkness and seriousness in. All the "How do they rise up" stuff and the poppy--er, sprigs of lilac. It was beautiful and touching.

Favorite Discworld characters: Tiffany, Susan, Death, and Granny Weatherwax. Runner-up because I love him as a character but wouldn't want to meet him in real life: Vetinari.

Dammit, I never renewed my extra-icons add-on, and this icon is the only Discworld icon that's left in my list of available icons right now.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:September 1st, 2010 03:22 pm (UTC)
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I guess I'll be the minority voice and say that the Watchcentric books are my least favorite.
SHOCK HORROR.

I don't think I ever made it through Guards! Guards! or Men at Arms.
Maybe you don't like mysteries? One thing I enjoy about the mysteries is that we always get scenes from the perspective of the villain, even if we don't know what or who he is.

I think I've mentioned that the book that made me suddenly be interested in Vimes and appreciate the Watch is Night Watch.
I don't think you have. But that makes sense since it's so Vimes-centric and shows the Watch playing a very important role in the city.

That's also the first Discworld novel I read that I consciously noticed a darkness and seriousness in. All the "How do they rise up" stuff and the poppy--er, sprigs of lilac. It was beautiful and touching.
Yeah, it's great how Pratchett is able to add those aspects to such broadly comedic novels.

Favorite Discworld characters: Tiffany, Susan, Death, and Granny Weatherwax.
I haven't read any of the Tiffany Aching books, and I think the only Susan book I've read is Thief of Time, but I really like her in that one, so...wait, duh, I've also read Hogfather, which is my second-favorite. So I like her indeed.

Runner-up because I love him as a character but wouldn't want to meet him in real life: Vetinari.
For reals.
[User Picture]
From:hecubot
Date:September 1st, 2010 03:35 pm (UTC)
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I introduced Emmett to Discworld via The Wee Free Men which is very funny as read by Stephen Briggs in audiobook. I mean, I'm sure it's a funny read, but he does Scottish voices particularly well. Which is why you'd want an icony saying "Waily, waily!"
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From:ashfae
Date:September 1st, 2010 03:24 pm (UTC)
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Love the Watch books. Love love love. Feet of Clay was actually the first Pratchett I read, and I loved it so much I started back at the beginning and read every single book in order (not just Watch, but all of 'em!). It's still a favorite of mine; I really like the golems.

You're right about the city being a character. I love how Vimes progresses as a character, too; it's stunning how much he changes over the books.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:September 1st, 2010 03:34 pm (UTC)
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Feet of Clay was actually the first Pratchett I read, and I loved it so much I started back at the beginning and read every single book in order (not just Watch, but all of 'em!). It's still a favorite of mine; I really like the golems.
Ha! Well, to each her own. I guess I'm not into golems as much. I'd love to own them all and read them all in order one day; that would be fun. I haven't read about half of them.

You're right about the city being a character.
Yay, I like when I'm right.

I love how Vimes progresses as a character, too; it's stunning how much he changes over the books.
Seriously! In the first book, I couldn't understand why he was so beloved, but as he got better, I saw why he was awesome.
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From:ashfae
Date:September 1st, 2010 07:09 pm (UTC)
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Ha! Well, to each her own. I guess I'm not into golems as much. I'd love to own them all and read them all in order one day; that would be fun. I haven't read about half of them.

Fair enough! And heh, I attacked the library that summer. Got allllll the ones I could, read them, brought them back, repeat until all Pratchett books the library owned had been read. Got job theoretically for rent but mostly so I could start buying them myself. Whee! (and then ironically married another PRatchett addict so now we have two mostly-full sets. Er, whups)

You're right about the city being a character.
Yay, I like when I'm right.


Sorry, that came out more pretentious than I meant it to, I think! It hadn't occurred to me to think of Ankh-Morpork as a character, but the more I think about it the more it works. =) And she changes and develops over the series too. Whee!

Seriously! In the first book, I couldn't understand why he was so beloved, but as he got better, I saw why he was awesome.

Oh yeah. Having read the third one first helped there for me, because I already believed he was awesome; was very startled by what he was like in the first book. But pleasantly delighted by Sybil, who continues to rock my world; she wasn't in the third one at all, remember, and really wasn't what I expected (but much more awesome! I love Sybil)


Edited at 2010-09-01 07:10 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:September 1st, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC)
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Sorry, that came out more pretentious than I meant it to, I think! It hadn't occurred to me to think of Ankh-Morpork as a character, but the more I think about it the more it works. =) And she changes and develops over the series too. Whee!
Ha, I didn't think it was pretentious at all! I mean, I started it. I like when setting is a character.
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From:riani1
Date:September 1st, 2010 05:38 pm (UTC)
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Carrot is intriguing, because he's the only character in the Watch books--that I'm aware of--who we never see the interior world of. Everyone else has scenes from their point of view, but we only ever see the exterior of Carrot. Perhaps, like the throne of Ankh Porpork itself, his interior is just some bracing on an impressive shell. Also, I have reservations about Carrot's level of innocence/naivete. I don't trust him.

Vimes. Ah, Vimes. The Vimesness of him is wonderful. But Vimes without Vetinari is ham without the cheese. What's best is that they know they use each other, but they have utter respect for the usefulness of the other.

My favorite of the Watch books is possibly Jingo, because I got such a thrill when I realized that Vetinari had turned Leonard of Quirm loose.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:September 1st, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC)
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Carrot is intriguing, because he's the only character in the Watch books--that I'm aware of--who we never see the interior world of. Everyone else has scenes from their point of view, but we only ever see the exterior of Carrot.
Huh! That's really interesting. I don't think I ever noticed that, but you may be right. We get his letters in the first book, but we don't get Carrot's inner monologue, his thoughts. Only his actions. Huh. Can that be for real?

Also, I have reservations about Carrot's level of innocence/naivete. I don't trust him.
Ha! He's quite badass at times, which definitely makes me think that he's not nearly as innocent as he comes across, but he understands that the persona is useful. There are so many conversations he has with Vimes and various criminals where it's clear that he does know how and what they're thinking and is able to steer the conversation in the direction he wants. I do like to think that he is generally a good guy, however, and in those moments when he's being really sweet, he is sincere. It's just that he has a more threatening side that comes out in ways you're not used to.

What's best is that they know they use each other, but they have utter respect for the usefulness of the other.
Yes!

My favorite of the Watch books is possibly Jingo, because I got such a thrill when I realized that Vetinari had turned Leonard of Quirm loose.
That was great, but when I got to the end and realized what his plan had been, I couldn't believe he was so entirely badass. Best reversion to status quo ever. It's one of my favorites as well. Nobby getting in touch with his feminine side is...frightening.
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From:riani1
Date:September 1st, 2010 06:50 pm (UTC)
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There's a line Vetinari uses, after his assistant comments on how Vimes is so upsetting to the nobles of the city: "If Vimes didn't exist I would have to invent him. In fact, I rather think I did."

I was initially uncertain about Night Watch, until I got to watch Vimes realize how far he himself has come and the Seamstresses commenting that he was a man who was used to serious command. I felt so proud of Sam.
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From:chrismarlowe
Date:September 2nd, 2010 03:28 am (UTC)
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I enjoy the Watch Books. I loved the latest discworld book, Unseen Academicals.
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From:the_narration
Date:September 3rd, 2010 04:56 pm (UTC)
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I love the City Watch books. They're probably my favorite Discworld stories, and Vimes is one of my favorite characters. (Not that I don't also love Death & Susan. And the Witches. And especially Tiffany Aching. And I like Moist von Lipwig. Rincewind I'm not very fond of.) Actually, all the characters in the Watch books are pretty awesome. It's also where Vetinari really established himself as the Magnificent Bastard who keeps the city running by being ten steps ahead of everybody.

(Pratchett has said that it's hard to set any book in Anhk-Morpork without it inevitably turning into a Watch story. They keep sticking their nose into everything.)

The original plan, as I think somebody else mentioned, was for the series to center on Carrot, but somehow, without Pratchett meaning to, Vimes just sort of took over. I think Jingo was where he finally quit fighting it and accepted the fact that Vimes had become the protagonist. (It's also the first time that the secret plot behind the murder mystery doesn't revolve around unseating Vetinari in place of a monarch.) I think that kind of goes hand in hand with Discworld as a whole changing from a parody of the fantasy genre to a genuine fantasy setting with a healthy dose of satire. Carrot was larger than life: a play on the idea of the once and future king, the lost heir to the throne who's unfailingly honest, great at everything, loved by all ("bags of krisma") and comes in to set everything aright. (Although Carrot is his own sort of devious, the way only the utterly honest can be. "You have to be very complicated to be as simple as Carrot," indeed. It's true that we almost never get inside his head, at least not anymore.) As the tone shifts, a more down-to-earth protagonist emerges: Vimes the old copper, a normal guy from the poor streets, cynical veteran of the city's horrors who fights dirty to survive, but still driven by a need for justice.

(Night Watch is my favorite Discworld book, even though it is in many ways not at all what one would think of as a Discworld book and so many of the great Watch characters have only cameos. It's just such a great story, and a great examination of Vimes, stripped to the essentials. Anyone who thinks Discworld or Pratchett is just silliness, that's the book I point them at.)
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:September 3rd, 2010 05:17 pm (UTC)
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And especially Tiffany Aching.
Looks like I do need to check out those books!

And I like Moist von Lipwig.
Yeah, people were mentioning him.

Rincewind I'm not very fond of.
I love Rincewind. He's such a doof.

I think Jingo was where he finally quit fighting it and accepted the fact that Vimes had become the protagonist. (It's also the first time that the secret plot behind the murder mystery doesn't revolve around unseating Vetinari in place of a monarch.)
Huh! You're right! That makes a lot of sense now, even though I feel like Vimes is still front-and-center in the first three books.

I think that kind of goes hand in hand with Discworld as a whole changing from a parody of the fantasy genre to a genuine fantasy setting with a healthy dose of satire.
Curse that Pratchett for being so good.

(Night Watch is my favorite Discworld book, even though it is in many ways not at all what one would think of as a Discworld book and so many of the great Watch characters have only cameos. It's just such a great story, and a great examination of Vimes, stripped to the essentials. Anyone who thinks Discworld or Pratchett is just silliness, that's the book I point them at.)
Yeah, it's fairly serious and psychological at times. I love the bit where he thinks about the reasons he needs to get home, and I immediately noticed that Sybil was, like, third on the list, and then Vimes noticed, so good for him. I think my problem with the book was that I just got completely lost during the actual riots and couldn't follow what the hell was going on with all the barricades, and I felt like the plot stalled for a hundred pages. But, yeah, it's definitely a good example of how Discworld is not just silliness.

In case you missed it, there's a JL/JLU post you might be interested in.
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From:the_narration
Date:September 4th, 2010 04:46 am (UTC)
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Looks like I do need to check out those books!
The Tiffany Aching books are pretty awesome. I'm looking forward to I Shall Wear Midnight coming out later this month quite a bit.

Yeah, people were mentioning [Moist].
Going Postal and Making Money were both quite good. The miniseries of Going Postal was fun, but got a few things really wrong. I think the director thinks that Discworld is a children's story or something... there's a real lack of subtlety.

I love Rincewind. He's such a doof.
I've just always found the books where he was the lead, like "Colour of Magic", "Light Fantastick" and "Sourcery", less entertaining than the others.

That makes a lot of sense now, even though I feel like Vimes is still front-and-center in the first three books.
He's got this habit of taking over a story, even if the writer doesn't mean for him to. Pratchett just decided to stop fighting it.

I think my problem with the book was that I just got completely lost during the actual riots and couldn't follow what the hell was going on with all the barricades, and I felt like the plot stalled for a hundred pages.
Can't say that I ever got that feeling. I didn't really try to plot out all the barricades on the map or anything, tho.

In case you missed it, there's a JL/JLU post you might be interested in.
I saw that, but at the time I didn't really have the time to comment in any significant way. Seems like I'm constantly busy of late.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:September 4th, 2010 08:48 am (UTC)
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The miniseries of Going Postal was fun, but got a few things really wrong. I think the director thinks that Discworld is a children's story or something... there's a real lack of subtlety.
Yeah, I wasn't really a fan of Hogfather (except for Susan, who was great and pretty), so I haven't bothered with any of the others.
[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:September 5th, 2010 11:28 am (UTC)
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I liked the Hogfather miniseries myself, and thought it stayed really close to the book, except for cutting a few scenes for time and showing us what Teatime was up to sooner. But the Going Postal adaptation really mucked about with events--which rather messed up the meaning of some things--cut some really good parts, and was really anvillicious in places. Lots of scenery-chewing and card-carrying villainy from adversaries who were supposed to be villains with good PR, that sort of thing. On the up side, the new actor for Vetinari was really spot on and underplayed the menace nicely. And Angua (who wasn't even in that book much) make some appearances, and is scary as fuck. (Also hot. But mostly scary. Especially those eyes!)

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