Kindlelicious: Guards! Guards! Review

I’m re-reading Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! for the nth time in celebration of the upcoming release of Snuff, likely the last of the City Watch Discworld sub-series. And as both a writer and reader, I’m enjoying his craft even at so early a stage in his career. Let me count the ways:

  • Pratchett very rarely uses cliches. He almost always comes up with new ways of description, of dialogue, of action, that still read fresh years later.

  • A lot of this stems mostly from his creative and wry humor (itself a difficult feat to pull off in writing), as well from having unique characters sweeping across the stage—even his secondary characters have had attention paid to them, even tertiary roles as well. I swear, some of these scenes must have written themselves.

  • For a humorous fantasy action piece, Pratchett spends a lot of time deconstructing various tropes, from both the fantasy genre and literature in general, such as the hero/protaganist (that’d be both Carrot, who might have starred in any other work), the ruling tyrant/villain (Vetinari could even be considered an odd kind of anti-hero, especially as the City Watch books develop), nature’s adversary (the dragon), dragons in general… and, of course, background stereotypes such as guards.

  • Pratchett also spends time philosophising on the darker side of human nature—mundane darkness at that, rather than black-and-white morality—as well as government in relation to this, adding a depth that’s at the same time subtle and doesn’t get in the way of the rollicking story.

  • One of Pratchett’s main characters, Lady Ramkin, is fat. But her body shape is never put in a bad light (again, creative description comes to the forefront, such as comparing her to an inspiring galleon), she herself is not portrayed as lazy and, indeed, has total agency and is morally outstanding. In so many other books she would have been shunted off from main character status, certainly never becoming a love interest.

  • Lady Ramkin’s role as love interest is not wholly her role either, and the romance between her and Vimes develops naturally throughout the book. It’s an imperfect love, such as might be found in real life, rather than an utterly romantic one, and it doesn’t progress to asking for her hand in marriage or whatnot (unlike other books I could mention). It’s human, it’s not a fairytale; it’s realistic.

While Guards! Guards! is very re-readable in nature (like many Pratchett books, because of the humor and additional depths), this may be the last time I ever read it. It’s been once a year for over 10 years now, more mileage than 99% of the books out there.

The audio book will either grate on you or not, depending on whether you like Nigel Planer or prefer Stephen Briggs. I prefer Briggs, but Planer is passable for me, at least.