Night Watch is number twenty nine in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and my son, Oscar has just finished reading it to me as part of our self appointed task of him reading the entire series to me. It both saddens and amazes me that we have made it this far in what seems such a short time. How can we be over half way through already?
Night Watch was a book I never particularly enjoyed when I read the series for the first time, but it is one which I have learned to love with new passion on re-reading. Oscar has loved it right from the get go. The Watch books are his favourites in the series and he loves Commander Vimes.
We read ten pages every day, and this is one of the few books in the series where he has begged to read on to me, and on occasion I’ve had to ask him to stop because I’ve had other things that needed doing, and he has moaned at me about it. Maybe that’s what has made me love it even more this time round. His enthusiasm is infectious.
This is a momentous book in many ways. It’s Pratchett’s take on the classic, time slip novel, and he does it flawlessly, and adds a lot to the genre, which is pleasing. In terms of moving things on in Discworld, we have the momentous moment of Vimes becoming a parent, and the equally momentous moment of discovering how Vimes parented his young self as he goes back to the days of the infamous Cable Street riots with a little help from the Monks of Time.
There are so many wonderful cameos here from characters minor, like Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler, and Reg Shoe, to major ones like Vetinari, that you cannot help but be amazed and impressed at Pratchett’s utter mastery of the universe he so lovingly created. I found myself thinking of him as the writer so often during this reading of the novel. It added a certain poignancy to proceedings.
This is one of his darker novels. There’s always humour, but so often here it is black and laced with menace, and a particular vicious cynicism at the corruption of power in both police and government. It really is a novel of our time, and as ever an object lesson in how to be humane.