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on 24 October 2012
This is just an FYI that the "School & Library Binding" edition is a very poor quality publication. Extremely cheap fragile paper, and binding. I'd recommend you pick up the standard paperback instead.

A fantastic book, ruined by poor presentation.
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on 22 May 2015
This is a re-read review. Originally published here:


They lie…

Not dead, not asleep. Not waiting, because waiting implies expectation. Possibly the word we’re looking for here is…


Insurrection is afoot in Ankh-Morpork. A secret society have formed under the watchful, and diabolically manipulative eye of The Supreme Grand Master and they’ve got their minds set on new leadership.* Everything’s in place, they’ve got a book on how to summon dragons, they’ve got their plethora of stolen magical items, and they’ve got a king.† Once their plan’s in motion they’ll be able to oust the Patrician (the City’s benign dictator) and take over.

Meanwhile Ankh-Morpork’s broken and ineffective City Watch has grown by a quarter with the arrival of Carrot, a six foot six inch Dwarf whose world has been turned upside down at the revelation of his heritage (he’s not really a dwarf.)

The new Corporal doesn’t quite understand the city ways of Thieves Guilds, The Shades, Dwarf Bars, or his superior officer being drunk most of the day; but under the watchful tutelage of the shabbiest Policemen of all time, he’ll go far. That along with an Orang-utan Librarian reporting the loss of a very important book (aren’t they all) and a spate of mysterious burnings, the Night Watch are going to have to work hard for it to be “12 O’clock and all’s well!”

Can Captain Samuel Vimes pull himself out of a bottle to solve the Crime of the Century? Can Carrot stop arresting everyone he meets? Can Nobby pass an unlocked house without taking anything? Can Corporal Colon get up the stairs without having to pause for breath? And more importantly, can this ragtag group of coppers (plus one formidable high class Lady) save the city from a creature that shouldn’t really exist?

When Abaddon started putting together the re-read I very quickly asked to do Guards! Guards! It wasn’t my first Discworld book (I actually think it was my fourth) but it’s always been a special book to me – all because my Dad made a mistake.

If we shoot back to 1999 (ten years after the book was first published) I asked my Dad to get me Guards! Guards! as I’d just devoured Mort in two days. Instead of the novel, he came home with the stage adaptation by Stephen Briggs. What happened next made my final year of fifth form the only non-Sixth Form school year I enjoyed.

Together with a group of some of the most amazing creative cohorts possible, we petitioned the school to let us put on our own production (up until this point the school only allowed student-led productions in the Sixth form, there was an Avant Guards Guards joke made at the time: no one laughed then either.) We came up against some resistance (and to be fair if you’re a teacher in charge of fifth form productions and a group of precocious little buggers have taken your show as their own, you’d be irked) but after months of hard work and Terry’s blessing, we put it on.

It was the most fun I had at school. I didn’t lead the group (an exceedingly talented young man called Andrew spearheaded all the hard work and directed) but I loved seeing my idea coming to life, and other people being as enthused as I was about the play. I cherry picked C.M.O.T. Dibbler (WITH ONIONS!) for myself and I still have a TY beanie dragon in my office.

After this the Watch books became my go-to Pratchetts. Jingo had come out a couple of years before and the Fifth Elephant was round the corner. I already knew I loved his books, but the mix of satire, engaging plots and an eclectic mix of characters made my heart sing.

So, to the re-read. I went into this with a mix of trepidation and buoying nostalgia. On one hand I’d not read this for 16 years, could it possibly be as amazing as I remembered? When you’re 15 pretty much everything you read that’s smarter than you are (most things) is amazing, but what if it wasn’t? On the other, this story is a defining part of my adolescence. I’m a father now, I have a house and grown up things; wouldn’t it be nice to step back?

In the end of course, I had nothing to be afraid of. I’ve been told The Colour of Magic has dated somewhat but by Discworld book seven Pratchett was fully in his stride. The parody is more subtle (or as subtle as he gets) and every aspect of the book symbiotically works to produce an engaging and hilarious read.

Looking back I know I missed a lot of the nuance of his work. The main example being that I hadn’t clocked that Poor Old Gaskin’s death had been the thing that had driven Vimes into his alcoholic malaise. Because Vimes grows so much along the novels, it’s hard to remember the way he was as Guards! Guards! opens.

It’s also nice to see the introduction of people and places that are so important later on. It had the feeling of re-watching a TV series with someone who’s never seen it, I kept wanting to turn around and tell myself the importance of Detritus, Sybil and Pseudopolis Yard.

Even knowing what comes next, the book is a super hook for the run of Watch tales. It’s a redemption story, which manages to parody your regular fantasy tropes like dragons and palace guards, but also the good old fashioned police story.

Getting back into Discworld made me wonder how much of my love for it is how it influenced who am I now (I started reading these at 14), or is it speaking to my core as a person. Two pages in a footnote got me:

The relevant equation is: Knowledge = power = energy = matter = mass; a good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.

As my wife can attest, I spend a massive amount of time in bookshops being caught in these black holes. He describes just before this an ‘old-fashioned second-hand bookshop, one of those that look as though they were designed by M. Escher on a bad day” which essentially is my watermark if a town is any good. Funnily enough I left my kids with my parents yesterday to browse in one in Barmouth.

I’m sure it’s a fair mix of who I am anyway and how Terry’s writing was, that made me a devotee. I was lucky enough to meet him twice (he referred to the teacher who was resisting our show as “a horse’s arse.”‡)

As much as I’ve enjoyed the re-read, and writing this, it was by no means easy. Look, I’m not saying I’ve felt a loss anywhere near to his friends or family, but I do have a Pratchett shaped hole in my life. Every year I had a book to look forward to like meeting a friend you only see once a year. Now I have but one to come. I’m lucky as I haven’t read every Discworld yet, but I know a day will come when I’ve read everything new to me.

When you’re a 15 year old overweight bullied dreamer, having books that speak to you and make you smile are your lifeblood. I would escape to the Discworld when it all became too much, and I wish I’d had a chance to put that into words for the man himself while he was still with us. We are all supremely lucky to have enjoyed his work, and I intend now to watch my kids enjoy it.


*And the disposal of a brother-in-law’s fancy new carriage, and a hated Green Grocer’s.

†At the very least they have someone who’ll do.

‡For the record the teacher in question was brilliant in the end. He helped us massively with the production, and he was a lovely teacher.
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on 2 January 2017
I have been a huge Pratchett fan for quite some time and I can confess that I know some of my favourite Discworld novels (mainly the City Watch sub-series) very nearly by heart. The strongest point of the series is, in my opinion, the penmanship - the way sir Terry played with words was truly amazing. Being very familiar with the full-length novels and audiobooks, I decided to venture a bit further to the world that has been spun around the disc carried on the back of the turtle... I admit I am not much of a comic book connoisseur but nevertheless, I decided to give this product a go.

My opinion is mainly positive - the graphic novel tells the story quite faithfully (there are some minor changes to the plot but that was to be expected). Yes, the richness of Pratchett's eloquence is slightly diminished, but I can understand this as well - obviously, a graphic novel has to be relatively "economic" with written descriptions and speech. The only thing that has disappointed me a bit is the style of the illustrations - yes, Graham Higgins is certainly a skilled artist, I do not wish to criticise his abilities, yet I get this feeling that this particular style does not entirely capture the spirit of the original novel. Why? Well, I guess that many comic book fans actually appreciate this but I was not entirely impressed by the fact that most characters are drawn in that "bulky, muscled superhero" way. When it comes to Lance Constable Carrot, the tallest dwarf (by adoption) on the Disc, I obviously don't mind he has been made to look like a six foot six wall of solid muscle - that was the way he was described as in the novel, after all. But why make Captain Vimes look like a member of the Expendables, that I cannot comprehend. His Grace the Blackboard Monitor Sir Samuel Vimes, the Duke of Ankh, has always been my favourite character, and the way he looks in this graphic novel just does not feel right.

That's just one Discworld fan's opinion, though, get your copy of this (otherwise pretty good) comic book and make up your own mind.
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on 16 April 2016
Guards! Guards! is, despite the vaguely annoying punctuation in the title, one of Terry Pratchett’s finest works, in my opinion. Of course, it’s set on the Discworld and features starring roles for the founding members of the Ankh Morpork City Watch, or at least the Watch as we know it, and so it has a lot of stuff going for it.

In this book, the Watch has to deal with what must surely be every watchman’s nightmare – a dragon, and a pretty deadly one at that. There’s some hocus pocus going on, and a plot to overthrow the government as we know it, and so there are all of the hallmarks of a great story to begin with.

The problem with this book in particular is that the plot relies on so many little twists and turns that it’s impossible to go into any real detail about what happens. What I can tell you, though, is that Pratchett’s writing was at its finest here, and that it’s one of several Discworld novels in which some serious character development happens within that very novel – with his later work, he tended to avoid that because he had such a body of work that it would confuse people if he packed loads of development into one of his books and they happened to miss it.

One of the interesting things about Guards! Guards!, at least in my mind, is that it’s only the eighth novel in the series, and yet it feels as fully developed as anything else that Pratchett ever wrote. In fact, some of the characters – Vimes and the Patrician in particular – don’t really change much from this point onwards, which is saying something. Sure, their circumstances might change, but their characters don’t.

It’s especially satisfying to see Pratchett playing with dragons again – after this point, we only really hear of them in the form of swamp dragons, because the dragon that the Watch is dealing with here is one of the old, powerful beasts of yore. Swamp dragons are easy to deal with, if you know which protective gear you need to wear. Not so with the dragon of Guards! Guards! – if that thing comes after you, you’ve got no chance. There’s no point even running, just get yourself into whichever shape you want your silhouette to make when you’re burned into the wall. Have fun, kids!
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on 21 January 2018
The first of the City Watch stories in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series introduces readers to Ankh-Morpork's police force led by Captain Vimes. This is the first time that I've re-read a Discworld novel, and so I wasn’t sure how I'd feel. My memories of the early Watch stories are patchy, mainly because of when in my life I first read them, so I couldn't remember in any great detail what was going to happen.

The plot focusses on an obscure cult that's arisen in the city, with a number of motivations, who are plotting to overthrow the Patrician with a fairly complex plan that relies on tradition, magic and a fair amount of obfuscation. Meanwhile Carrot, a human raised by dwarves, has arrived in the city to join what he thinks of as the honourable profession of watchman.

As with all Discworld novels, it's full of cultural references and humorous moments that poke fun, but it definitively has the feeling of one of the earlier Discworld novels - a lot of the lore that later books rely on has yet to be in place, and some of the characterisations don't quite match with what we see in the later watch novels. The humour relies a lot on a satirical approach to the genre rather than being in the storytelling, and feels much more likely to elicit a knowing nod than a laugh out loud.

I enjoyed re-reading this and certainly expect to remember more of the plot in another ten years than I did this time, but I suspect I will enjoy the later Watch novels more when I return to re-read those.
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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 August 2009
Captain Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is not a happy man. He has a thankless job, a bunch of incompetent subordinates and he doesn't get no respect or, more accurately, actually gets no respect. The arrival of a fresh, eager-eyed new recruit (a six-foot-tall dwarf named Carrot - long story) whose relaxed and literal approach to policing (such arresting the head of the Thieves' Guild for being a thief) is another headache for Vimes to deal with. At the same time, the Unseen University Librarian is upset over the theft of a book that could be used to summon dragons and, in an almost certainly unrelated incident, people over the city are vanishing, leaving behind only fine traces of ash and scorched brickwork. Yes, things are definitely afoot...

Guards! Guards! is Terry Pratchett's tribute to detective novels and all those hapless extras dressed in chainmail who's only job in films is to run into the grand hall and get cut down by the hero. No-one ever seems to ask them if they want to or not. Oh yeah, and possibly dissatisfied with the imaginary dragons of The Colour of Magic, Pratchett cuts loose here with the real deal, a fire-breathing behemoth of a creature who is permanently in a bad mood. The book's real success is bringing the great city of Ankh-Morpork to life as never before seen in the series, giving the city a real sense of life (and frequent, screaming death) and community. In various polls over the years, Ankh-Morpork usually tops out as the most detailed and convincing fantasy city ever created, and Guards! Guards! is really where the city starts getting its character and identity.

On the cast side of things, a whole slew of major Discworld characters are introduced, most notably the complex Captain Vimes (almost certainly Pratchett's most fully-realised character), Nobby Nobbs (the missing link between man and rat), Sergeant Colon, recruit Carrott, the formidable Lady Ramkin, Detritus the troll and, of course, Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler, purveyor of dubious sausage-in-a-bun products to crowds and/or rioters. Established characters like the Patrician also get a lot more screen-time and characterisation than previously established, and the revelation of how the Patrician ensures he can survive any palace coup launched against him is simultaneously hilarious and deeply disturbing. Despite temporal evidence to the contrary, I am convinced Machiavelli was one of the Patrician's students who didn't quite measure up.

Pratchett's writing takes another significant upward swing with this volume, exuding a greater level of confidence than ever before. He's funny when he wants to be, dramatic when he needs to be, even touching when it is required. The story threads are laid out, developed and then resolved with impressive efficiency and maximum impact. The way the last few paragraphs hilariously resolve very minor story points from a hundred pages previously is very clever. Particularly nicely done are Carrot's letters back home. Read them one after the other and you can see how his attitude to the Big City changes over the course of the book in a very well-done manner.

Guards! Guards! (*****) is not the best Discworld book, but it's certainly right up there. Funny, dramatic and just brilliantly entertaining from start to finish. The book is available now in the UK and USA.
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on 27 May 2015
The quality of the Discworld books tends to wax and wane, I find - but Guards! Guards! is riding the first real peak of the books. I don't know how many times I've read it, but each time has been an absolute joy. I can't help but reflect when reading it just how important Terry Pratchett has been to me. Reading Guards! Guards! is like coming back to an old friend in many ways - I grew up with these characters, in may respects, and it's slightly surreal to go back to the beginning with Vimes and see how far he's come through the series. I won't say he's a great character himself in Guards! Guards!, because he's really a kind of extended tribute to various film noir fallen men. But even in Guards! Guards! you can see the bones of a great character emerging. More than that though, Guards! Guards! introduces a whole spectrum of truly excellent characters that work so well together as a troupe. Terry Pratchett has never really been an author that excelled in plot, in my view - but his characters really are first rate.

What's also first rate in Guards! Guards! is the choice of language - there's very rarely a word out of place, and he takes an obvious delight in playing with the sound, shape and form of words.

I wouldn't say Guards! Guards! is my favourite DW book. It's likely not even in my top five - but even so, having finished it for the god knows how many time, I still wouldn't blink about reading it (and enjoying it) again.
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on 6 August 2017
Magnificent from start to finish. Sir Terry writes wonderfully, readable without being simple, with a hefty dose of charm and wit to ensure a frenzied turning of pages until the tale has been consumed rather than finished. As a decidedly non-fantasy reader, Guards! Guards! forced me to make an exception for PTerry's work and I've never been happier.

The first of the discworld novels to introduce readers to Sam Vimes and the motley few that initially comprise the City Watch. Vimes is an utterly compelling, likeable wretch of a man who is about to, unknowingly, embark on an absorbing journey of self-discovery and reinvention while trying to keep his beloved city from being burnt to the ground, assisted only by the amiably useless Sergeant Colon, petty thief extraordinaire Corporoal 'Nobby' Nobbs and innocent, dutiful, not-quite-a-Dwarf Lance Corporal Carrot.

A remarkable story of humour-infused derring-do that gleefully satirises the fantasy-adventure cliches it inhabits as it rattles along, establishing an excellent blueprint for the City Watch Discworld novels that follow.

This particular edition's glorious cover art and hardback make it the definitive version of one of Pratchett's best.
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on 26 August 2000
'Guards! Guards!' was not the first City Watch book I read. But after reading, and LOVING, 'Men at Arms', I just knew I had to get this one. From the start of the book, when the plot was established, and the characters introduced, I knew I was onto something good. I enjoyed the range of characters involved, particularly the obvious differences between Vimes and Carrot. The plot, basically the idea of a dragon ruling a city after being conjured up by a mad secretary, is absurd, but thoroughly Discworld. There is a lot of good humour in here to, much of it is darkly hilarious, but this is a good thing as it contrasts with the crime/mystery atmosphere that surrounds this, and indeed all of the City Watch books. The villain in this is Lupine Wonse, secretary to Lord Vetinari. Apparently from the same background as Sam Vimes, he is a strangely clever, if quite insane character. The way, in which Pratchett shows the whole situation to be getting first out of Wonse's hands, and then spiralling out of control, portrays two things. First it shows, brilliantly in my opinion, Wonse turning from disillusioned and power-crazy, to the maniac he is by the end. This also shows how Pratchett can build up the drama up to the very end of his books. From reading all of Pratchett's City Watch books I can see then is a similar pattern in all of them. They each have a dark and mysterious atmosphere and defiantly the nastiest jokes in any of the Discworld books. Here, 'Guards Guards!' is no exception. My favourite joke in 'Guards! Guards!' is from an incautious Vimes, "Throw the book at him, Carrot ....." Overall ,this is a excellent City Watch book, and probably my favourite Discworld book so far.
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on 22 May 2000
I laughed so much at one joke that I was nearly thrown off the train. The watch and the witches are my favourite - their humour is so real.
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