My son finished reading Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett to me today, and as he deftly polished off the last few pages I found myself sadly thinking; ‘Goodness me. I do miss Terry Pratchett.’ By now I would already have his latest book in hardback, smuggled into my Christmas present pile for my dad, knowing that I would get it as soon as he’d finished with it.
It is not to be. Alas.
Luckily, the books people write do not die with them, and we can enjoy our favourite authors, even when they’re gone.
When I first read Guards! Guards! way back when it originally came out (I’ve been hooked on Pratchett from the start), I didn’t enjoy it that much. Having re-read it with Oscar, I have to say that it has risen hugely in my estimation, and I enjoyed it much more this time around.
Partly this was due to my son’s affection for it. We tolerated Pyramids together, and Guards! Guards! is such a breath of fresh air after it that I think we were both predisposed to love it. Partly it is due to the fact that knowing what happens to Vimes and the rest of the Watch in the future, I am able to appreciate their origins that bit more.
The story focuses on the shambolic City Watch and their fall into disrepute as the Patrician shapes the city, legalising crime through the Thieves and Assassins’ guild and not leaving Vimes and his men much to do.
Vimes is slowly drinking himself to death. He is the classic down beaten, sullen cop who drinks to forget and has a heart of gold. Yet he has, even here, flashes of the true original he will become as he progresses through his life and the volumes that depict it. I love the way Pratchett mines a stereotype and makes it his own, and Vimes is a fantastic example of that.
Vimes and his men are saved by two things, the arrival from the Dwarf mines of Captain Carrot, a true hero in every sense of the word, and the almost simultaneous arrival of an enormous, supposedly extinct and possibly mythical dragon in Ankh Morpork.
This is beautifully written with some fantastic set pieces. The relationship between Vimes and Sybil Ramkin is a treat, and I have much affection for Carrot’s letters home to his parents. It was with great glee that we also saw the fleshing out of Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler, who Oscar and I both love.
A fantastic example of Pratchett at his finest. Suitable for teens and YA readers, and me. And Oscar.