Mar 16, 2010

[Books] Men At Arms

Men At ArmsI'm quite proud of the near-completeness of my Discworld novel collection. Apart from a few of the "kiddie" books in the series, I'm pretty sure I have most of them all lined up neatly on my shelf.

Then again. I happen to have a LOT of books lined up on my shelf. Well, our shelves I mean. Um, our shelves and a few boxes leftover from when I moved here. Or more precisely on our shelves, in some boxes, scattered on a few table and some still in plastic bags waiting to be shelved.

Okay, so maybe I have a significant number of books. A lot more books. A very generous amount of books.

So naturally I haven't read all of them and it's been too long since I read a Discworld novel.

And so I did.

Men At Arms is the 15th book in the Discworld series of novels written by Terry Pratchett. It is the third story about the City Watch but really only the second novel to feature them in the spotlight (there was a short story before this one, you see...)

Samuel Vimes as he appears in The Pratchett Po...Image via Wikipedia

Captain Samuel Vimes is about to get married to Sybil Ramkin and at the same time retire from the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. He's been a watchman all his life and now he has to learn to get along with the rest of high society and learn to be a civilian. In the meantime, the rest of the City Watch are breaking in some new recruits selected to represent the city's ethnic minorities. They have Lance-contable Cuddy, a dwarf, Lance-constable Detritus, a troll and Lance-constable Angua von Überwald, who is...something else.

Add into the mix a mysterious theft at the Guild of Assassins and a dangerous new weapon set lose in the city that may totally change the way things are done around there. Oh, and there are still rumors of a the last known heir to the throne hiding somewhere in the city.

I have to admit that the City Watch line of stories in Discworld have grown on me over the years. They're not the most amazing tales and they're pretty much just rip-offs of popular detective / police stories, but that mix of the familiar, the novel and the humorous is what makes Discworld novels just...work. There's a certain chemistry about the Watch that makes them especially funny and thus the reason why they're my second most favorite sub-arch of Discworld novels behind those about the Witches.

This particular story was clearly an earlier work for Pratchett since you can tell he's still growing into his style of writing when it comes to how he characterizes the Watch plus the general sense of him still getting used to the characters that he's introduced here. The world of Discworld gets insanely big over time and novels like this one lay the groundwork for some rather interesting characters that become more and more pivotal to the plot over time.

It's not the funniest Discworld novel that I've ever read, but it is certainly a pivotal one that becomes very important to later novels. Of course the joy of Discworld is the fact that you can practically pick up any book from the series and enjoy it on its own. Sure, it becomes even more entertaining once you've read the others before it and understand the developing back story behind the characters, but it's not absolutely essential either.

Men At Arms gets 3.5 volatile swamp dragons out of 5.

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