Saturday, January 31, 2009

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

First published in 2002.

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 hat Vimes rememb
ers 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 no 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 younger copper named Sam Vimes. (book back blurb)

While it had its moments, I have to say I struggled to get through this one. I just didn’t find it all that interesting. I did, however, pull some excellent lines from the text–

“Old Tom, the University’s venerable clock, tolled not sounds but silences. Not simple ordinary silences, but intervals of noise-absorbing nonsound, which filled the world with loud soundlessness.”–Footnote

“The Watchmen turned and stared. A large blob of foam, which up until that point had been performing sterling service in the cause of the essential decencies, slipped slowly to the floor.”–Ridcully exposing himself

“Because of pressures of space, bones in the crypt were stored by size, not by owner. There were rooms of ribs. There were avenues of femurs. And shelf after shelf of skulls up near the entrance, of course, because a crypt without a lot of skulls wasn’t a proper crypt at all. If some of the religious were right and there really was bodily resurrection one day, Fred mused, there was going to be an awful lot of confusion and general milling about.”–Fred Colon

“He just wished she was a bit more sensible about cats. He felt instinctively that if you were going to fondle a cat while discussing matters of intrigue, then it should be a long-haired white one. It shouldn’t be an elderly street tom with irregular bouts of flatulence.”–Havelock

“”You can take our lives but you’ll never take our freedom!” he [Reg Shoe] screamed.

Carcer’s men looked at one another, puzzled by what sounded like the most badly thought-out war cry in the history of the universe. Vimes could see their lips moving as they tried to work it out.”–Vimes

As you can see, some quite funny lines. I’m fondest of the last one with the Mel Gibson taunt. That was great! But other than that, I found the book rather, well, pointless.

Vimes went back in time to relive this lilac battle of theirs where he encounters himself. There’s one suspension of disbelief that came crashing down. I know Vimes was wearing an eye patch but really, did no one, including Young Sam, not make the connection that the two looked remarkably alike? I know 25 years can make a decent difference in a man’s looks but the way I’ve pictured Vimes, he isn’t someone that let himself go to hell over the years. While he might not be as virile as he was then, I don’t think it’s too far out there to say that there would have been a resemblance.

He went back in time because of some monks wanting to correct something. That something passed straight over my head, especially since we hardly see the monks at all in this book. Then again I glossed over some of the parts when I was reading so I could have rightly missed it. But from what I saw, the battle was played out exactly as it was before, the only difference was Vimes as Keel and future Carcer on the opposing side. Everything else the monks “took care of.”

Which leads me into the whole time warp thing. Time’s a tricky thing to play with but I guess if your younger self doesn’t even recognize his older self when he’s right smack in front of him, anything can happen. Nothing is identical. Nothing. So when Vimes goes back in time, things are played out, especially before he takes Keel’s position, that didn’t happen the last time which would cause a ripple effect into the future. Things would change, however slightly, but they could rightly be detrimental to Vimes’s own future, which they weren’t. He went back in the end and everything was the same. That irked me that nothing was different even though nothing could have been exactly the same the second time around, even when you factor in the whole “it repeats in history” notion. He found out that Vetinari knew about the weirdness but that didn’t change anything. He always knew.

The biggest thing that I had issues with was the monks “taking care of everything” off the page. Any rift that could have appeared due to inconsistencies like I said above was “handled.” Everything ended up la-dee-da because I said so and just believe it. This could rightly be called taking the easy way out but I guess your characters don't have to deal with the consequences of time travel if you don't want them to.

In that same vein, there was quite a lot of head-hopping going on, even outside of the section breaks, not to mention POV shifts mid-sentence, at the least. And then the one lone chapter that spanned the entire book. I'm still kind of baffled by what actually constitutes he-hopping because it seems to vary by author. What I may see as head-hopping someone else might see as an easy and elegant transition from one character to another on the same page. I guess it's like lilac. My mom loves the smell of it. To me is smells like dog shit. Literally. To each their own, I guess, and even better if it smells nice to the right people.

I wasn’t fond of this book, mainly for the reasons I listed above. The whole “we’ll take care of it” off the page thing really put me in a damper about it. It just seemed too easy. In the end, though, what was the point of Vimes going back in time? So he could relive the same battle again? So he could play a different roll in it? I didn’t see any drastic changes in him so, really, why?


Life After Jane said...

Let me first say that Pratchett is my favorite author, hands down so all of my comments on him are biased.

I love all the books about the Watch. His books about the guards and oddly enough his books about Death best show case the love of people he has. He's books on surface are witty and imaginative but I'm always amazed to see that I've learned a little bit more about humanity at the end of them. I adore Vimes. I want to hand him an advil and tell him good job.

How much have you read of Pratchett? Small Gods is my favorite. Pratchett tackles, pokes fun at and tears up organized religion. Reaper Man made me cry. And if you haven't read Nation, which isn't a Discworld novel, please don't die before you do- you'll go on to the next life with a bit of your soul missing.

=Tamar said...

The thing the monks are trying to fix actually happened in a previous book, Thief of Time. The situation in Night Watch was a side effect.

rohit said...

Must be an enjoyable read Night Watch by Terry Pratchett. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and orignal, this book is going in by "to read" list.

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