"Men at Arms" is the fifteenth novel in Terry Pratchett's hugely popular Discworld series and the second to focus on Sam Vimes and Ankh-Morpork's City Guard. Although its reputation may have raised very slightly, having rescused the City from a large and angry dragon, it's still not the fine and noble profession it once was.
Sam is the Captain of the Night Watch, though he is on the verge of retiring and will soon marry Lady Ramkin, the noted dragon-fancier. It isn't entirely clear, however, whether or not he's entirely happy about either the retirement or his impending life of marital bliss. It's fair to say he's not your typical hero : he hates the Undead (some of my best friends are werewolves), Assassins (a perfectly respectable profession) and - in keeping with an old family tradition - Kings (not an ideal musketeer then). Sam's also trying to quit drinking and has taken up smoking cigars to soften the blow.
The Night Watch has had a couple of new recruits since "Guards! Guards!" - largely at the insistence if the Patrician, the city's ruler. The recruits - Lance-Constables Cuddy (a dwarf), Detritus (a troll) and Angua (a woman, for most of the month) - have been selected to reflect Ankh-Morpork's `ethnic makeup'. Although Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs are Sam's most experienced officers, the most capable is Carrot. Although born human, Carrot was raised as a dwarf and is an incredibly innocent character - he still hasn't figured out what seamstresses do for a living. He has, however, figured out how Ankh-Morpork works and has stopped trying to arrest the President of the Thieves Guild. The trouble begins when Edward d'Eath suspects that Carrot may be the rightful king of Ankh-Morpork.
Edward is the latest Lord d'Eath, albeit a very poor one, following the recent death of his father. He was educated at the Guild of Assassins, where he became the first student to gain full marks at postgraduate level. His suspicions about Carrot are a little worrying, given that he wants to restore the monarchy. This will, of course, see the Patrician `removed' from office - something that should be easier now that he has acquired a weapon that shouldn't exist.
Pratchett's books are always very funny and this one is no exception. Despite being the second book to focus on the Night Watch, there's no real requirement to have read the first - the newcomer won't feel 'left out'. (However, I would recommend reading it, all the same !). Another big plus is Gaspode, Ankh-Morporks finest talking dog. Like Carrot, he's also devoted to Angua - though he's a lot less innocent ! Definitely recommended.
on 8 December 2013
I don't often re-read books, but having recently been slightly disappointed with the latest Discworld offering, I decided to treat myself to one of the old classics and make sure my opinion of it hadn't changed. I'm pleased to say that it's as good as I remembered.
n the early books, Terry Pratchett tended to focus on relatively crude (though very funny) parodies of fantasy tropes, and in the later ones, they become more stories about real life issues that happen to feature dwarves, and that valued plot over puns. This book falls right in the middle and does both aspects very well.
On the one hand, it's playing with that staple of fantasy novels - the long-lost king returning. Only this book questions whether that's necessarily a good thing, even if the suspected heir happens to be a good man.
On the other, it deals with real world themes of racial tension and positive discrimination in the police, using battles between dwarves and trolls to make the point. The parallels are neatly drawn, and the author makes his points clearly, without getting preachy.
The two main aspects are played out via a murder mystery involving a mysterious new weapon, and in-between are all sorts of side plots, clever points and amusing asides.
The plot is compelling, the humour is strong (both clever one liners and elaborate set pieces)and the characters are memorable.
I wouldn't count this as one of the very, very best Discworld books - I suspect that Pratchett really hits his high point a few books after this - but in some ways it's the epitome of a Discworld novel, so it's a great one to start with if you're new to the series (it's the 15th, but they don't have to be read in order)and well worth a re-read if you're an old fan.
Captain Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is retiring and getting married in a few days. But an explosion at the Assassins' Guild attracts his interest, and soon a trail of bodies is forming. The Guilds don't want his help, the Patrician has ordered him to lay off and his fellow Watch members seem more concerned about the new intake of ethnic minorities (Lance-Corporal Cuddy of the dwarfs and Lance-Corporal Detritus of the trolls) than the mystery. But somewhere in Ankh-Morpork a killer is on the loose with a very powerful new weapon...
Men at Arms is the second Discworld novel to focus on the City Watch, introduced in the classic Guards! Guards! As told in that volume, the City Watch saved the city from a marauding dragon and at the end of the book the Watch gained fresh resources from a grateful city government. However, it is still regarded as a joke, as Men at Arms makes clear.
Pratchett once again uses the cliches and ideas of police procedurals to generate humour and satire, although this volume is much more of a hard-bitten (in some cases, literally) mystery novel. Sam Vimes is portrayed as the cynical, weathered old cop doggedly pursuing his case in the face of all opposition, whilst Corporal Carrot is his enthusiastic young sidekick. Of course, that would be a bit too cheesy, so Pratchett subverts this idea earlier on and takes the story in a more interesting and original direction.
The city of Ankh-Morpork comes to life in this book more successfully than in any prior volume, to the extent that Pratchett's playwright and friend Stephen Briggs was able to use information in this book (and the prior ones) to map the city so everything tracked and made sense (the results can be found in the spin-off product, The Streets of Ankh-Morpork). The city's ethnic make-up, the political structure of the guilds and the office of the Patrician are all portrayed convincingly. In addition, Pratchett aims high with his characterisation, with the most affecting death of a Discworld character to date and some brilliant development for Carrot and Vimes. There is even a reasonably well-portrayed romance and some (tastefully off-screen) sex, a first for the series. Men at Arms is Discworld aimed at a slightly maturer level than arguably any of the previous books bar Small Gods.
Which isn't to say that Pratchett doesn't bring the funny. The Colon/Nobbs double-act is excellent, the return of Gaspode the Wonder Dog (from Moving Pictures, but much better-utilised here) is genuinely funny and there is some fantastic material to be mined from the Cuddy/Detritus relationship.
Men at Arms (*****) is Pratchett yet again firing on all cylinders, delivering a novel that is by turns brilliantly funny, genuinely thought-provoking and consistently entertaining. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.
on 22 August 2016
This book is unputdownable. The characters develop well and the story goes steadily towards a showdown of putting a police force in good standing. This allows the Guilds to co exist with a Police Force using an inclusive recruitment even for the undead!
This is classical Terry Pratchett and if you like his other books you will like this one. It made me laugh quite a lot and he makes the characters stand out of the page. It might be fantasy but sometimes you just need to escape from reality. These books are well written and highly entertaining.
on 6 August 2014
Pratchett takes on guns, or rather the only gun in Ankh Morpork, as a lone Assassin decides to return monarchy to the city. This is the novel in which the Watch takes the shape it maintains in the later stories and Carrot meets Angua. I'll never look at a Clown the same way. Read it, and consider how guns warp their users.
on 5 May 2015
I'm reading my way through the Discworld novels, and just when I thought they couldn't get any better, along comes this one. It's got everything - an intriguing plot, lots of references it took a while to fathom out, bags of humour, and a very satisfying ending. Just brilliant!
on 6 February 2014
I love Terry Pratchett and I am so grateful to Stephen Briggs for adapting his plays, however I do find these scripts rather frustrating, with mis spelt character names, lines attributed to the wrong character and some lines shoved in for no real reason that don't suit the character nor the scene, but once you wade through the issues, it's good script, indeed better than many of the other adaptations and we are looking forward to performing it at the beginning of April.
In terms of acting, it's a fairly simple script that is easy to learn, but you may find you have to tweak some characters and their lines - for our production we doubled up a number of parts and took out the footnote altogether, choosing to either get someone in the scene to say the footnote lines or else to stick lines footnotes around the performance space if they are not relevant to the action on the stage.
on 13 April 2015
What can I say; the man himself was a genius with a wonderful view of the world who wrote it down & published it for our edification. He will be sorely missed. Purchased a number of his books for my Kindle as, although I have them in paper form, I like the convenience of access on Kindle as well. Money well spent I say.
on 19 March 2014
Another really good disc world offering definitely one of my favourites ,prat chest characters are always brilliant, every time iread one set of characters they are my favourite, til I read the next one