Night Watch by Terry Pratchett. ★★★★★
When I’m asked what my favorite book is, I say that it’s Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch. It’s hard for me to say why exactly this is. Possibly it’s because Night Watch is the darkest Discworld novel. Possibly it’s because Night Watch is so focused on my favorite character of all time, Sam Vimes. Possibly it’s because even at the darkest points, Night Watch retains a sense of humanity and warmth. Truly, this is an excellent book.
However, I would not go into Night Watch blind. It’s the sixth book following Vimes, and I think you really need to have read the others, particularly The Fifth Elephant, to follow along with Vimes character arc. Night Watch works best if you already know Vimes coming in. If you’re new to Discworld, I would point you towards Guards! Guards! to start with.
Samuel Vimes has been raised to the rank of Duke. He’s commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, and he’s shaped them into a modern and powerful police force. He’s married to a woman he loves, and she’s about to give birth to their first child. He has pretty much everything he could want from life.
Then the hot pursuit of a murder over the domed library of the Unseen University, the premier institute of magic on the Disc, and a freak lightening bolt sends Vimes thirty years into the past to the eve of a fabled street rebellion.
“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.”
However, he’s not alone. The murderer he was chasing, Carcer, was sent back too. And Carcer’s already changed history by killing Sergeant John Keel, the man who taught Vimes everything he knows about being a good policeman. Vimes will have to step into Keel’s place to make sure that history goes according to plan.
As the street rebellion draws closer, Vimes has a choice. He can keep to the track of history and ensure his own future, or he can try desperately to save the people around him even if it costs him everything.
One thing I love about Night Watch is the cynicism surrounding war and revolutions. It strips the glory from them and shows that sometimes people die and accomplish nothing at all.
“When he was a boy he’d read books about great military campaigns, and visited the museums and looked with patriotic pride at the paintings of famous cavalry charges, last stands and glorious victories. It had come as rather a shock, when he later began to participate in some of these, to find that the painters had unaccountably left out the intestines. Perhaps they just weren’t very good at them.”
Night Watch is a book of shadows, both on the streets and within ourselves. Yet what makes it so powerful is the idea that we can resist the darkness, that we can choose to go against it.
“But…well, Reg, tomorrow the sun will come up again, and I’m pretty sure that whatever happens we won’t have found Freedom, and there won’t be a whole lot of Justice, and I’m damn sure we won’t have found Truth. But it’s just possible that I might get a hard-boiled egg.”
I would recommend Night Watch to everyone.