Review: Guards Guards!

Vimes! Vimes!

I’ve had a bit of an enforced break from my Discworld readthrough due to Library availability, but finally got my hands on Guards Guards!

For me personally this one is a bit of a classic, while not the first Discworld I’ve read, it is probably the first Discworld I read that I found myself really getting sucked into the world and the characters, I loved Carrot and while my young self didn’t 100% get Vimes I enjoyed his growth too. I have to confess (spoilers sort of) my younger self also didn’t realize that Pratchett was going to subvert many expectations and fully expected Carrot to finish the story king of AnkhMorpork!

Guards Guards is the first ‘Night Watch’ or ‘Vimes’ book one of the recurring characters which in my opinion is the most popular of all the Discworld series, I think there is just so much character within these stories that its hard not to get attached and drawn into the tale. Guards Guards is also set entirely within Ankh-Morpork and its very fun getting to know the city and the world a bit better.

Something which hits a bit harder nowadays is the interplay of politics in Discworld. In my youth I largely took the world as a joke, but now much of Pratchett’s writing seems like a scathing critique of the world. That said I was intrigued by interactions with Vimes and the Patrician. As I’ve mentioned earlier the Patrician is actually in many of the early Discworld novels but is somewhat less developed, he is initially presented as a haughty placeholder ruler, however in Guard’s Guards we get a bit more development. And to be honest its quite strange. On the one hand the Patrician is depicted as fairly cold and more than willing to do evil (perhaps for good ends?) and also a master 4D chess manipulator, yet he also obviously has some sort of good or honorable streak in that his ends seem to be relative peace.

There is a highly unusual speech at the end of Guards Guards, much in the same format of dystopian novels where the ruler/authority explains the ethos of the dystopian world. The Patrician explains that humanity is basically a wave of evil, with islands of idealistic goodness among it. He sees his role as keeping the population organized enough to prevent chaos.

I would love to pick Pratchett’s brain about what his thoughts were behind this interaction. Obviously Vimes is our MC and thusly would be the favoured point of view (e.g. gritty honour) although through sheer competence and control its not clear whether Pratchett thinks the Patrician is a monster, necessary monster, or ultimately good. I do feel as the series continues that the Patrician largely is portrayed as ‘good’ but that doesn’t mean that his speech is the be all end of.

Probably my favourite thing about rereading Guards Guards is the anticipation of some of the upcoming amazing Guards books. Feet of Clay has always been a favourite, and Men at Arms is great too.

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