Terry Pratchett – Feet of Clay

Well, it’s official. The Night Watch will never be the Witches, but as Terry Pratchett goes, I’ll take whatever I can get. Commander Vimes and Captain Carrot are crime-solving again. And this time, golems are involved…

feet of clayFEET OF CLAY
by Terry Pratchett

Published by: Corgi, 2013 (1996)
Paperback: 416 pages
Series: Discworld #19
My rating: 6,5/10

First sentence: It was a warm spring night when a fist knocked at the door so hard that the hinges bent.

There’s a werewolf with pre-lunar tension in Ankh-Morpork. And a dwarf with attitude, and a Golem who’s begun to think for itself. But Commander Vimes is more concerned about the crime that’s happened. He’s got to find out not only whodunit, but howdunit too. He’s not even sure what they dun. But as soon as he knows what the questions are, he’s going to want some answers.

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Ankh-Morpork is in trouble again. Not one, but two murders have happened and Commander Vimes doesn’t have the slightest idea what’s going on. All he knows is that somehow the golems are involved. These giant clay figures can’t speak – nor, technically, think for themselves – all they do is serve and work. Their production has been prohibited but the ones that are already around are allowed to stay. Much to the chagrin of the general population…

As has been the case with the other City Watch novels, I was less intrigued with the murders and the crime-solving, and more with all the other stuff that goes on in Discworld’s capital city. This novel did some interesting things and, in the process, granted the characters an additional layer of credibility. As much as we love Carrot, for example, he is quite surprised and makes some truly idiotic remarks when he finds out one of the new Watch members (a dwarf) is female. Angua tells it to him how it is:

“Female? He told you he was female?”
“She,” Angua corrected. “This is Ankh-Morpork, you know. We’ve got extra pronouns here.”
She could smell his bewilderment. Of course, everyone knew that, somewhere down under all those layers of leather and chain mail, dwarfs came in enough different types to ensure the future production of more dwarfs, but it was not a subject that dwarfs discussed other than at those essential points in a courtship when embarrassment might otherwise arise.
“Well, I would have thought she’d have the decency to keep it to herself,” Carrot said finally. “I mean, I’ve nothing against females. I’m pretty certain my stepmother is one. But I don’t think it’s very clever, you know, to go around drawing attention to the fact.”
“Carrot, I think you’ve got something wrong with your head,” said Angua.

So even Carrot isn’t perfect. But then, neither is Angua. When it comes to golems, she is no fun at all. Being undead herself – even though I’m not sure yet how exactly werewolves work on Discworld – she has a lot of problems with the unalive. What ails her particularly is the fact that golems are just accepted for what they are, while she (and vampires or zombies) has to fight for her rights every day. And usually, it means leaving a place where people have found out about her “condition”.

Let me tell you, it was just lovely to see other sides of these characters. Especially Carrot, who was too good to be true anyway. It’s nice to see him blunder and just blurt out whatever comes to mind. But once his mistakes are pointed out, he goes back to being a Protector Of The People – including undead, unalive, and females.

Having fallen in love with the Discworld through the Tiffany Aching novels, I couldn’t help but grin when Wee Mad Arthur showed up in Feet of Clay. As a professional rat-catcher, no less. Although he is called a gnome, we all know he is a sort of Nac Mac Feegle. And, if you ask me, any book is automatically better if it has Feegles in it.

Despite the interesting social aspects, this book didn’t grab me as much as others. Sure, there were moments so funny that I could have sprayed juice from my nose, and Pratchett is as clever as always. But the plot left me hanging a little. I also think that the new additions to the City Watch spread the story out over too many viewpoints. Men at Arms was perfect in that respect, Feet of Clay felt all over the place and didn’t give some characters enough room to develop.

All things considered, it was a nice read. If you consider yourself a Discworld fan, it’s a no-brainer that you’re going to read them all anyway. And if you’re new to Discworld, I suggest starting either with one of the YA novels (The Amazing Maurice or the Tiffany Aching books) or Guards! Guards!. For me, it’s time for a little break from the Night Watch. I’ll got and see what Death has been up to…

divider1The City Watch novels (Discworld):

  1. Guards! Guards!
  2. Men at Arms
  3. Feet of Clay
  4. Jingo
  5. The Fifth Elephant
  6. Night Watch
  7. Thud!
  8. Snuff

Terry Pratchett – Men at Arms

Oh Carrot, how you’ve grown on me. Even though I read Guards! Guards! twice, once in paperback and once as an audiobook, it never left me as full of squee as the Witches books. But Captain Vimes and Constable Carrot were so likable that I decided to continue the Night Watch books (before reading about Death). And what I’ve learned about Terry Pratchett still holds true – he does get better with every book.

men at arms1MEN AT ARMS
by Terry Pratchett

Published by: Corgi, 2005 (1993)
Paperback: 432 pages
Series: Discworld #15
My rating: 8/10

First sentence: Cor­po­ral Car­rot, Ankh-Mor­pork City Guard (Night Watch), sat down in his night­shirt, took up his pen­cil, sucked the end for a mo­ment, and then wrote:
“Dear­est Mume and Dad,

What’s so hard about pulling a sword out of a stone? The real work’s already been done. You ought to make yourself useful and find the man who put the sword in the stone in the first place.’
Fate is a word that springs to the lips when to call something coincidence seems mealy mouthed. Destiny is another such. But the problem with destiny is, of course, that she is not always careful where she points her finger. One minute you might be minding your own business on a normal if not spectacular career path, the next you might be in the frame for the big job, like saving the world..

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If Guards! Guards! was enchanting because of Captain Vimes’ gruff but good-hearted ways, Men at Arms came alive through its characters, most lovable and endearing among them Corporal Carrot and the newly-recruited Lance Constable Angua. The Night Watch has grown considerably because of the Patrician’s order to recruit members of different species so they are represented in the Watch. This not only brings us hilarious banter between the troll, Detritus, and the dwarf, Cuddy – two races that generally hate each other, even though neither could tell you why. It also brings us Angua, who most people think has been recruited to represent women in the Watch. Well… she does that, but she also happens to be a werewolf.

The quick succession of point of view “chapters” (if you know Pratchett, you know only his YA novels have actual chapters) made for an engaging read. The last time I raced thorugh a novel this quickly was probably during the summer. The fact that I have been working full-time and spent some of my free time meeting friends really shows just how fantastic this book was. I never thought it would be over so fast.

I’m always most interested in characters. Worldbuilding is great, and plot is of course necessary to keep me interested, but the characters make or break a book for me. I already loved Vimes but Carrot seemed like too much of a goody-goody. He gets a lot of depth in this book, while still being the purest human being I could dream up. Reading about comic relief characters like Cuddy and the inimitable Detritus (who learns to count in the funniest way you can imagine), and especially Angua, was exactly the breath of fresh air the Watch books needed.

Angua’s story in particular appealed to me, not only because she’s a woman (although that’s great), but because she is torn between her two states of being. She is a practical woman who gets annoyed about always being naked when changing back into human form. But she also has a lot to offer as a Watchman. Having a keen sense of smell is the obvious contribution but, much to my amusement, she can also talk to dogs such as Gaspode. That little guy kept showing up and remarking on the affairs of humans and sniggered his way straight into my heart.

Plot-wise, this is a police procedural, complete with interrogating suspects, writing up police reports and figuring out whodunnit. The reports in question made me laugh so hard, I may have snorted a bit. Just warning you… don’t read this in public. And I’m not spoiling why they were so funny, but I’d read the book again just for those two reports!

The ending, in many ways, already shows the direction Terry Pratchett has taken in later books. The murders are resolved, the culprit is found, but there are certain things that have been hinted at in the first Watch book. These things concerning Carrot are never stated but instead subtly used to show character development. I cannot say how much I loved the ending. All of it. At this point, I’d still call the Witches my favorite Discworld sub-series, but even so, I couldn’t stop reading Watch books now if you put a gun to my head.

RATING: 8/10  –  Excellent

divider1The City Watch novels (Discworld):

  1. Guards! Guards!
  2. Men at Arms
  3. Feet of Clay
  4. Jingo
  5. The Fifth Elephant
  6. Night Watch
  7. Thud!
  8. Snuff

Terry Pratchett – Guards! Guards!

This was my first re-reads in a long, long time. I do have an accumulating pile of books that I desperately want to read again but you know how it is. So many new and shiny books come out every month that the old favorites get forgotten. To be fair, I read Guards! Guards! when I was about sixteen and didn’t remember a lot of it. This time, to change things up a bit, I didn’t read my old paperback copy but listened to the audiobook instead. As always, Nigel Planer does a fantastic job of bringing Pratchett’s characters to life.

guards guardsGUARDS! GUARDS!
by Terry Pratchett

Published by: Random House, 1990 (1989)
Paperback: 317 pages
Series: Discworld #8
My rating: 7/10

First sentence: This is where the dragons went.

Here there be dragons . . . and the denizens of Ankh-Morpork wish one huge firebreather would return from whence it came. Long believed extinct, a superb specimen of draco nobilis (“noble dragon” for those who don’t understand italics) has appeared in Discworld’s greatest city. Not only does this unwelcome visitor have a nasty habit of charbroiling everything in its path, in rather short order it is crowned King (it is a noble dragon, after all . . .).

Meanwhile, back at Unseen University, an ancient and long-forgotten volume–The Summoning of Dragons–is missing from the Library’s shelves. To the rescue come Captain Vimes, Constable Carrot, and the rest of the Night Watch who, along with other brave citizens, risk everything, including a good roasting, to dethrone the flying monarch and restore order to Ankh-Morpork (before it’s burned to a crisp). A rare tale, well done as only Terry Pratchett can.

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Guards! Guards!
is the first novel in the Night Watch sub-series of Discworld. If you’re new to thsi universe, this is a great starting point. It introduces Captain Vimes, a mostly drunk and depressed man who doesn’t really see much point in his job anymore, as well as his companions with all their quirks and eccentricities. Carrott is probably one of the most adorably pure-hearted characters I’ve ever read about and while I have a soft spot in my heart for grumpy old Vimes, Carrott is the anchor that helps the Watch remember why they exist.

Terry Pratchett often said that this was meant to be a book about Carrott, but Vimes just took over. It’s easy to see how. He is not exactly an anti-hero – he does want to do the right thing, he just doesn’t have the gumption. The dynamic between Vimes, Carrott, Sergeant Colon and “Nobby” Nobs is great fun to read and some of their dialogue made me laugh out loud.

As I’ve said many times before, it is wonderful to see how Terry Pratchett evolved as a writer, how his stories become better and better. Seeing as this is only the eight Discworld novel, you now probably expect me to say it lacks craft. It really doesn’t. Sure, Sir Terry’s newer work is snappier and better structured but Guards! Guards! still manages to juggle a mystery plot with several view points and keep it interesting. Whenever you’re not guessing who is behind the conspiracy to call a dragon in order to lure out the king of Ankh-Morpork, you can just enjoy the hilarious banter or Vimes’ amazing character development. And Errol, of course. That little swamp dragon stole my heart in no time, and him eating a tea kettle was just the cherry on top.

I am and will probably always be a Witch girl at heart. But the Night Watch show us a different aspect of Discworld. Their story lines give us police procedurals set in the capital. Politics, intrigue, the Patrician’s cleverness, crazy bar brawls and all. What’s not to love? Did I miss Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg? Sure! But Vimes’ story is interesting in that his personal life developes, as well as his character. While Granny will probably remain a virgin forever, Vimes may have family life ahead of him, and the same goes for Carrott, who is still young and – although raised by dwarves and believing himself to be one (a six foot tall specimen…) – discovering that the big city has a lot to offer.

I felt that this was very much a novel setting up a place and characters for future stories. It wasn’t my favorite Discworld novel but I loved it in that it offers so many possibilities for the ones that come after. And even though I’m tickled to start reading Death’s storyline, I will probably jump straight into another Watch adventure after this.

MY RATING:  7/10  –  Very good

divider1The City Watch novels (Discworld):

  1. Guards! Guards!
  2. Men at Arms
  3. Feet of Clay
  4. Jingo
  5. The Fifth Elephant
  6. Night Watch
  7. Thud!
  8. Snuff

guards guards cover art