December 11, 2023

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Discworld Read-Along #29: Night Watch


Continuing my occasional read through of the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, one novel at a time.

Today’s entry is the 29th book, Night Watch.

First Appearance:  Young Sam…on multiple levels.

Introduced to Discworld: time paradoxes

Plot:  Sir Samuel Vimes, Duke and Commander of the City Watch, is missing the good old days.  Life was less complicated, but right now he’s going to be a father and a psychotic cop killer is on the loose.

Then word comes, as Sybil is going into rough labor, that Carcer the killer has been found, and a rooftop chase along the Unseen University Library during a thunderstorm blowing magic up from the Hub blows both Vimes and Carcer about thirty years into the past.  Vimes knows what’s coming:  a street revolution that will kill a few Watchmen.

Bad news:  the Watch Sergeant who would train Sam was killed by Carcer.  Vimes now has to be his own mentor.

Can he survive and get back to his home time?

Commentary:  I sometimes wonder what Pratchett’s take on changing times is.  Depending on the novel, he either suggests the old ways are best left behind, or the right way to do things.  Generally, if it’s a Watch book, the old ways don’t work.  If it’s the Witches, then tradition is more important.

This is a Watch book, and Vimes has to learn that the old days weren’t that good, and he sees that in his younger self.  Young Sam is idealistic, still believes in good Patricians (old Sam knows better), and has been a copper for maybe a week and a half.  Vimes also keeps meeting people he will know very well when he’s older (personal favorite was street urchin Nobby Nobbs).  He keeps having to figure out how to get by with things he knows that no one else knows.

That comes out when when he asks Fred Colon how long they’ve known each other, and Colon replies with a bit of confusion only two or three days.

And while Sam tries his best not to change things, Carcer has no such compunctions.

It will work out in the end.  Lu-Tze and the History Monks are on hand to fix things.  The Sweeper insists that history will fix itself.  He isn’t wrong there.

In many ways, the novel seems to be mostly here to show what Ankh-Morpork was like before the series started.  It has clearly become a better place.  Vetinari may be a cold man, but he’s actually a good ruler, and his teenage self is hanging around here as well.

I’m not sure there’s much else to talk about here, actually.  Fun book, but not overly consequential in the grand scheme of things, perhaps because I’ve seen Pratchett say it many times before.

NEXT BOOK:  We’re back into the world of the YA Discworld book, when young Tiffany Aching figures out she’s a witch.  Be back soon for The Wee Free Men.

Previous entries:

The Color of Magic

The Light Fantastic

Equal Rites



Wyrd Sisters


Guards! Guards!


Moving Pictures

Reaper Man

Witches Abroad

Small Gods

Lords and Ladies

Men at Arms

Soul Music

Interesting Times


Feet of Clay



The Last Continent

Carpe Jugulum

The Fifth Elephant

The Truth

Thief of Time

The Last Hero

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents