Saturday, February 18, 2012

Book Review: Guards! Guards!

I decided to reread Guards! Guards! this last week since I realized I could remember absolutely nothing about the plot except that it had Vimes as a character. In my defense, it was the first Terry Pratchett book I ever read, so I didn't fully appreciate it anyway and I had all 25+ that came after it to compete for memory space (plus it was approximately 5 years ago if my memory serves me correctly).

I am ashamed to admit that re-reading it did not jog any memories. None of the plot line seemed remotely familiar as I read it.

That being said, it is still a fantastic book. I believe I appreciate it infinitely more now that I have read the rest of the city watch books (this is the first in that story arc). It's really phenomenal how Pratchett manages to create a character like Vimes. He starts out completely incompetent - perpetually drunk and the captain of the relics of the night watch that nobody takes seriously. And yet... you still sympathize with him, and he grows a lot throughout the book. Great example of making someone sympathetic yet still very flawed, and showing them grow. But this book is only a tiny, tiny snippet of Vimes' character arc, and having read the later books, he stands in incredibly stark contrast to his future self as I re-read this book. Pratchett does a marvelous job at inching Vimes along the path of character development - first to competence in his job, and then competence in his life, and then actually excelling and being a genuinely good person in all areas. The funny thing is though, you can see the seeds of goodness in him in Guards! Guards! and you can see them begin to grow bit by bit. I just didn't realize how much they grew until I put beginning Vimes, drunk in a gutter, next to Vimes in Snuff. Two completely different people, and yet they both have the same dedication to answering to the Law.

If you ever need a good topic for an English paper on character development, I found you a perfect topic.

Anyway, that was what struck me most about this book on the re-read. It's a great book anyway, but I think that comparison between beginning and future Vimes is really what made it phenomenal for me. Now I need to re-read the rest of the story arc...

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