Book Review: Night Watch

What is it?

A thoughtful, fantasy, comedy about policing and time travel.

Who’s the writer?

The late, great Sir Terry Pratchett.

What’s it about?

Commander Vimes is the boss of Ankh-Morpork’s city watch. On the 25th May, the anniversary of a Glorious Revolution, he is caught up in a magical storm whilst chasing one of the city’s most psychotic criminals. He wakes up naked, in the back streets of the city, a mere 30 years from where he started, and its all about to kick off.

Terry Pratchett had an amazing talent for using his fantasy world to tell a story, whilst holding a mirror up to our own. Night Watch is no exception. A fantastically funny story about time travel, policing, oppressive regimes and revolution where the Discworld setting serves up its own brand of reflection and light relief. This story was made all the more poignant given the events of 2020.

Whilst it is a comedy, the story inevitably wonders into the darker aspects of human behaviour, which Pratchett does not shy away from or try to play down. He handles them exceptionally well, creating sombre, emotionally charged passages which reinforce his brilliance as a writer.

Is it any good?

I sometimes wonder if there is much point reviewing books that were written almost 20 years ago. Especially when they were so popular and widely read at the time of their launch. But rereading Night Watch has convinced me its as valid as reviewing any new publication. Once a book is out there its fixed. The story and sentiments will never change. Yes, they may be retold by others, in a range of different formats, but the book that started the story will stay the same. The world, however, moves on. Views and values iterate and evolve, we hope for the better. Rereading older books is a great way of checking in with our favourites and seeing how they, and to an extent we, are holding up.

I’ll always have a special love for the Ankh-Morpork Watch, it was this collection of individuals that really cemented my interest in, and enjoyment of, the Discworld. How much has changed since I last picked this book up? Turns out very little. Its easy to remember the Discworld novels as funny and thoughtful. Night Watch showcases Terry Pratchett’s range as a writer; equally able to tackle the dark and sombre as well observed witticisms. Night Watch is as good, if not in some ways better, today as it was when it first made its way to my bookshelf. What’s more it’s rekindled my love of the Discworld, and I have a feeling it won’t be long before I revisit the streets of Ankh-Morpork with my favourite local constabulary.

Published by Eddie Bar

Fantasy storyteller, reader and wargamer.

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