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Men At Arms

Updated on October 20, 2009

In Search of a King

"Cuddy had only been a guard for a few days, but already he had absorbed one important and basic fact: it is almost impossible for anyone to be in a street without breaking the law."

The great Discworld city of Ankh-Morpork is ruled with the velvet covered iron fist of the Patrician, Havelock Vetinari, but once upon a time it was ruler by a king, strong and wise. Okay, actually he may have been a bit of a bastard. But he was king! And the day will come when the citizens of Ankh-Morpork will rise up to restore their kingdom. All they need is the right man for the job.

Edward d'Eath is an Assassin and the last surviving son of a great family that has fallen into hard times. After long hours of research, he thinks he may have uncovered the lost heir to the throne. And when his attempts to rouse the nobility to action fail, He decides he has to take matters into his own hands, and so our story begins.

In Guards! Guards!, we found that the Ank-Morpork Night Watch wasn't what it once was. It's commander, Captain Samuel Vimes, had turned to the bottle, then the gutter. Sergent Fred Colon and Corporal Nobby Nobbs were doing their best to stay out of trouble. But the Carrot Ironfoundersson came along and shook them from their ennui. Now we find a Watch that is expanding, with three new recruits joining the ranks as part of the city's new affirmative action policies: Angua von √úberwald, Cuddy the dwarf, and Detritus the Troll. Yes, you remember Detritus, last time we saw him he was a big shot star in Moving Pictures. Once that crumbled, the love of his life, Ruby, insisted he get a real job, and the best he could find was the Watch. The recruits had better learn the ropes quickly, because somewhere in the city is a man with a weapon like nothing they've seen before.

It seems that someone has broken into the Assassin's guild and a weapon that should have been destroyed long ago has now been placed in the unstable hands of a man filled with grief. As the body count starts to rise, the Watch finds that modern policing in Ankh-Morpork is far more dangerous than ever.

Enter The Gonne.

Locked in the highest room of the tallest tower in the Patricians palace, a spot normally reserved for princesses, sits the most dangerous man on the Disc. Leonard of Quirm is a man for whom inspiration is anguish, the constant onslaught of ideas is enough to drive a man mad. Taken from our own Leonardo da Vinci, Leonard is constantly thinking of new inventions, and the Disc would be a very different place if he could follow a thought for longer than a few minutes without getting distrated by a new idea.

It's this man who develops the gonne which is now terrorizing the city. Starting as a drawing in the margin of his notebook, the gonne has taken on a life of it's own (perhaps literally). It found its way into the care of the Assassins who were supposed to destroy it. Now the city will regret that choice. The character, Leonard, is one that comes up periodically in future books. One aspect of the character is the lengths the Patrician has gone through to keep this room secure with any number of traps to keep the unwary away. But are the traps intended to keep people out or in? And can you truly imprison a man who lives inside his own head?

The Unusual Suspects

Artwork by Paul Kirby
Artwork by Paul Kirby

Some Thoughts

"Sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness."

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, the Night Watch stories are my favorites. And one of the great things has been to see the growth, not just of the Watch, but of the characters themselves. One of the major issues that arise in this story is race. In Witches Abroad, a side note is made that racism isn't much of an issue on the Disc, that human's tend to stick together against trolls and dwarfs instead. Indeed, the the color of a characters skin rarely come up because it's not generally relevant to the story. So discrimination is handled in a different way. Vimes, for instance, is very much against the undead. And dwarfs. And trolls. And most humans too, for that matter.

So when he finds himself having all these groups as members of his Watch, he knows that he has to change something. He knows he has to watch what he says, yet little comments always slip out. At the same time though, he treats every person on his squad with respect and will fight for each and every one of them. In this way, we watch as he grows beyond his prejudices.

To me, that's what makes this story great. While it's a fun story, with a bit of detective novel to it, the greater lesson is so skillfully interwoven that it provokes thoughts behind the scenes in your mind.

I finally got my hands on Unseen Academicals, the newest Discworld novel, but I'm going to show unprecedented restraint and not read it until my midterms are completed. I may go nuts! Have you read it yet? What did you think?


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