Night Watch by Sir Terry Pratchett is my favorite book. However I’ve been asked couple times why? And that is a very hard question and after finishing a reread of it just today I decided to try to think about that and answer that question.
First a quick summary. The book is … well let’s call it fantasy. It is part of Discworld series and inside of it it is also series about the City Watch and how it grew from just couple people into a force to be reckon with. But however the book is about Vimes, the Commander Of The City Watch. The basic summary of this book is how the Commander of already successful City Watch is getting stuck by a lightning together with one of the best villains of Discworld and are sent back into time, where… he has the unique chance to be in the place and time that turned him into what he is – again.
“That was always the dream, wasn’t it? ‘I wish I’d known then what I know now’? But when you got older you found out that you NOW wasn’t YOU then. You then was a twerp. You then was what you had to be to start out on the rocky road of becoming you now, and one of the rocky patches on that road was being a twerp.”Sir Terry Pratchett, Night Watch
I hate this answer, because I am not sure if it is the right one… but it is unique in all of Discworld and it just hits different emotionally. It felt actually real. It felt like something that can happen to you. It felt like those people in pages of the books are real. You feel like you are part of it all, like in the middle of it, if you just check the rooftops you will see the assassins or if you look in the dark, you will see Vimes there.
All of Discworld have parts of books where everything goes pretty intense, usually at the end of it. However “Night Watch” is unique in the sense that this book starts intense and it never let’s the intensity go down. And everything is written and shown in a way where it does not feel forced. Brilliant storytelling, Deep and Nuanced morale lessons and sheer humanity on display.
Because this is a book combination of Les Miserables and Back to Future?
Because this is the Vimesiest Discworld book? It’s all about Vimes. And Vimes is great. Vimes has a great life. He is the richest man in the city. He is married to a great women, pregnant with his baby. He is his job. He is a true copper. He has no idea what he did to deserve it all. And yet… once he is back in time, having the second chance in leading the Glorious Revolution of 25th May he does the Vimesiest decision ever. He is ready to lose the future he loves, but he cannot be Vimes if he didn’t try his damnest to save the lives of his people. And he has a job in front of him to do. And he is going to do it.
“He wanted to go home. He wanted it so much that he trembled at the thought. But if the price of that was selling good men to the night, if the price was filling those graves, if the price was not fighting with every trick he knew…then it was too high.”
Every word soaks of Pratchett’s Rage. Everything hurts. It’s easily one of the darkest books together with Thud. It shows Pratchett’s rage of the world. Of the Revolutions. Of the “Private Law”. Of how People never measure up. Of how there are always new bastards. Of the Past. Of the Future. While most of Discworld have some themes around this, this is the first time when it was the whole book. While most books made me laugh. This made me laugh and think.
“Genuine anger was one of the world’s great creative forces. But you had to learn how to control it. That didn’t mean you let it trickle away. It meant you dammed it, carefully, let it develop a working head, let it drown whole valleys of the mind and then, just when the whole structure was about to collapse, opened a tiny pipeline at the base and let the iron-hard stream of wrath power the turbines of revenge.”
And well the real answer is because of all of this. Because of the first time I read this book I was absolutely impressed with it. Because these series are probably one of my Holy Books. I’ve caught myself so many times when put in a position of choice or responsibility I always thought about “What Would Vimes Do”. Because If there is one book that made me who I am today – it’s this book and this series.