The Top 5: Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

“Sam Vimes sighed when he heard the scream, but he finished shaving before he did anything about it.”


 I am a self-confessed Discworld fangirl, and I go back and forth over which Discworld novel is my favourite. There are probably a few different titles I could have put in this coveted ‘top 5’ spot, but for the sake of diversity, I shall use Night Watch as a placeholder for the entire series.

Night Watch, published in 1992, is the 29th Discworld novel, and the 6th in the city watch story arc. The novel follows protagonist Sir Samuel Vimes, commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, as a magical catastrophe hurls him backwards through time into the murky waters of his own past. Vimes must oversee the induction of his young self into the world of urban policing, whilst attempting to stay one step ahead of a dangerous criminal who was also caught up in the temporal anomaly. If this wasn’t enough, Ankh-Morpork is in the midst of an increasingly violent revolution. Can Vimes hold it together long enough to ensure that he has a future to return to? Will the murderous Carcer gain the upper hand? And will Vimes ever get his hard boiled egg?

“But the helmet had gold decoration, and the bespoke armorers had made a new gleaming breastplate with useless gold ornamentation on it. Sam Vimes felt like a class traitor every time he wore it. He hated being thought of as one of those people that wore stupid ornamental armor. It was gilt by association.”

The reason I would tend to lean towards Night Watch as my favourite of the Discworld novels is the moving and insightful humanity of the story. It’s all too easy to relate to the loss, confusion and at times sheer exhaustion of the protagonist as he clings desperately onto the hope that he will see his pregnant wife again. Despite this increasing desperation, Vimes is determined to do the job before he goes home. This is very much a character driven story, and you fight with Vimes and his ungainly gang of watchmen every step of the way.

The story is delivered with Pratchett’s usual brand of unending wit and sparkling wordplay, and has made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion. Whilst I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to just about anyone, it is not perhaps the best entry point into Discworld. If you want to begin the city watch story from the beginning, start with the similarly hilarious Guards!Guards!, or, to begin at the very beginning, go with The Colour of Magic and follow the development of this magical universe through a wide variety of story arcs including witches, wizards and DEATH himself.

“But here’s some advice, boy. Don’t put your trust in revolutions. They always come around again. That’s why they’re called revolutions.”

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