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City Watch Trilogy
Terry Pratchett
Gollancz Books, 759 pages


Josh Kirby
City Watch Trilogy
Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett lives in Somerset, England, where he spends all his time, and more, writing his rigorously naturalistic, curiously entertaining, shamelessly popular Discworld novels which have earned him extravagant acclaim and puzzled stares from millions of readers around the world.

SF Site Reading List: Terry Pratchett
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SF Site Review: The Fifth Elephant
SF Site Review: The Discworld Assassins' Guild Yearbook and Diary 2000
SF Site Review: The Science of Discworld
SF Site Review: The Last Continent
SF Site Review: Hogfather
SF Site Review: Jingo
SF Site Review: Feet of Clay
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Charlene Brusso

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For the uninitiated, the Discworld is a platter-shaped planet spinning through its celestial courses on the broad backs of four great elephants, which in turn perch upon the immense shell of Great A'Tuin the star turtle, whose journey through space and time none may predict. The greatest city on the Discworld is ancient, grubby Ankh-Morpork, City of One Thousand Surprises, composed of a little bit of everything under the sun. From the dusty magic-haunted corridors of the Library at Unseen University to the most dangerous dwarf bar in town, from the gothic and uncomfortable splendour of the Patrician's home to the cozy kennel of the head of the Beggar's Guild, this is a city full of hope and schemes, heroes, villains, and well-meaning cowards, as well as slapstick and sly, ironic humour.

The City Watch is composed of stout (and not so stout), skilled (and not so skilled)... umm... 'professionals' whose job is to protect Ankh-Morpork's citizens from Barbarians, miscellaneous Marauders, unlicensed Thieves, and other social riff-raff. Leader of the Night Watch is Captain Samuel Vimes, a good man but apparently doomed to a less-than-successful life because

"Every time he seemed to be getting anywhere he spoke his mind, or said the wrong thing. Usually at the same time."
Worse yet, things seem to have reached the point where the Thieve's Guild and their enforcers have far more control over crime and punishment in Ankh-Morpork than any official Watch. So we find in Guards! Guards!

Just when Vimes is ready to give up and drown himself along with his sorrows, however, along comes a threat no one could possibly have expected. After all, dragons -- real dragons, big, house-sized fire-breathing burn-you-to-a-cinder dragons -- have been extinct for centuries. But if that's the case, then what's destroying good brick buildings and leaving little piles of charcoal in its wake? Worse still, what happens when that self-same dragon overthrows the Patrician and claims the long-lost Throne of Ankh-Morpork -- and the minor sacrifice of a comely virgin just once a month?

Vimes' stubborn sense of duty draws him smack into the middle of the dangerous investigation, but after all, what has he got to lose? By gods, somebody has to do something, even if the only men he has to work with are cowardly Sergeant Colon, the decidedly odd Corporal Nobby, and Lance-Corporal Carrot, a strapping young human raised by dwarves who's actually volunteered to join the Watch. With the help of brave Lady Sybil Ramkin, local dragon expert and philanthropist, Vimes and crew risk everything to save a city which never cared a whit about them before. Dragons, usurpers, secret societies, and magic gone out of control... it's all in a day's work for the Watch.

The second book in the omnibus, Men At Arms, finds political correctness overtaking the City Watch and Captain Vimes less than enthusiastic about his forthcoming retirement. But after all, when a man weds a Lady, even the earthy and honest Lady Sybil Ramkin, Society has certain expectations. For one thing, he certainly can't continue to spend his evenings pounding the cobbles of Ankh-Morpork like any common man of the Watch. Besides, Corporal Carrot is turning into a real leader of men -- and women, and dwarfs, and trolls, and werewolves, as the Watch reluctantly mounts the PC bandwagon and hires on more recruits to better "reflect the ethnic makeup of the city."

But the theft of a mysterious weapon from the Assassins' Guild followed by a string of bizarre murders just might force Captain Vimes to postpone his retirement; with civil war brewing and more murders a distinct possibility, it's up to Vimes, the charismatic Carrot, and the rest of their motley watch to bring the villains to justice.

By the third book in the set, Feet of Clay, Vimes has satisfactorily resolved his questions about career and home, Carrot has risen to the post of Captain himself, and most of his fellow guards seem to have settled in. But then the head of the Dwarf Bread Museum (one of Carrot's favourite places in the city) is found beaten to death by one of his own loaves! And that's just the first in a series of mysterious murders. Even the Patrician finds himself poisoned -- though with the Patrician, you never can tell if he did it himself just to keep his enemies on their toes. Something strange is happening with the city's golems but getting them to talk about it will be difficult, considering they've started committing suicide. Talking dogs, superconducting trolls, crackpot inventors... the only thing certain here is that Pratchett will keep things moving with plenty of slapstick and fine fantasy parody.

Copyright © 2000 Charlene Brusso

Charlene's sixth grade teacher told her she would burn her eyes out before she was 30 if she kept reading and writing so much. Fortunately he was wrong. Her work has also appeared in Aboriginal SF, Amazing Stories, Dark Regions, MZB's Fantasy Magazine, and other genre magazines.


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