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439 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 2005
"What kind of creature defines itself by hatred?"That is the overarching theme of Terry Pratchett's Thud! which is indisputably one of his best works - in content and execution and the amount of serious thinking it makes me do after seeing the usual 'mundane' things through the prism of Pratchett's writing.
"No excuses. No excuses at all. Once you had a good excuse, you opened the door to bad excuses."Commander of Ankh Morpork City Watch (and also the Duke of Ankh and former Blackboard Monitor), Sam Vimes is a straight-as-an-arrow copper who may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer (so they say, but *they* may not always be right) but who is your go-to man when manure hits the windmill. After all, "When people are trying to kill you, it means you’re doing something right. It was a rule Sam had lived by." He has been through a lot since his days as a cynical disillusioned drunk in the once-dysfunctional Ankh-Morpork Watch. As time went by, he gained a lot - a city that miraculously functions and manages to remain stable, loyal colleagues who became dear friends, and family that provides him the blessing he is afraid he does not deserve. But all things gained can be lost, and that's something that would worry him quite a bit.
"Vimes had never got on with any game much more complex than darts. Chess in particular had always annoyed him. It was the dumb way the pawns went off and slaughtered their fellow pawns while the kings lounged about doing nothing that always got to him; if only the pawns united, maybe talked the rooks round, the whole board could've been a republic in a dozen moves."And this time Sam Vimes has enough to worry about.
The no-idea-who-ambushed-whom Battle of Koom Valley seemed like a throwaway joke in the earlier Discworld books. But here Pratchett takes full advantage of it, turning the funny on its head, making it serious and even tragic at times. Because Koom Valley still lives on in the minds of people despite hundreds of miles and hundreds of years, and still claims its victims as the dead bodies pile up and hatred is sparked by those who think they see the light (or rather, the darkness), and riots are about to tear the city apart and turn it into another battle of Koom Valley, and Sam Vimes is not having it, and not even ancient supernatural entities can stop him.
‘Given, then, a contest between an invisible and very powerful quasi-demonic thing of pure vengeance on the one hand, and the commander on the other, where would you wager, say…one dollar?’Pratchett's Ankh-Morpork world by the time of Thud! has become incredibly complex and developed - to the point where the portrait of the city in my mind is as vivid as though I have really lived there. The characters are unbelievably alive, complex, multilayered, evolving, developing, growing, and very real (yes, real - despite this being a fantasy world, it's firmly grounded in sometimes whacky reality). Pratchett excels at so seamlessly combining the comedy and suspense and drama and tragedy (often within a single page) that the effect is mesmerizing and undeniably incredibly memorable.
‘I wouldn’t, sir. That looks like one that would go to the judges.’
“The important thing is not to shout at this point, Vimes told himself. Do not…what do they call it…go postal? Treat this as a learning exercise. Find out why the world is not as you thought it was. Assemble the facts, digest the information, consider the implications. THEN go postal. But with precision.”
'Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Your grace.'Terry Pratchett is an amazing writer, an excellent storyteller. The craft of writing in his hands is precisely that - not a nebulous semi-magical art (after all, it's got no urns in it, just ask Fred Colon and Nobby!) but a true well-honed masterful craft. And that in my opinion is the sheer awesome greatness. And I love it.
'I know that one,' said Vimes. 'Who watches the watchmen? Me, Mr. Pessimal.'
'Ah, but who watches you, your grace?' said the inspector, with a brief smile.
'I do that, too. All the time,' said Vimes. 'Believe me.'
“I am the Summoning Dark.” It was not, in fact, a sound, but had it been, it would have been a hiss. “Who are you?”————————
“I am the Watchman.”
“They would have killed his family!” The darkness lunged, and met resistance. “Think of the deaths they have caused! Who are you to stop me?”
“He created me. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who watches the watchmen? Me. I watch him. Always. You will not force him to murder for you.”
“What kind of human creates his own policeman?”
“One who fears the dark.”
“And so he should,” said the entity, with satisfaction.
“Indeed. But I think you misunderstand. I am not here to keep the darkness out. I am here to keep it in.” There was a clink of metal as the shadowy watchman lifted a dark lantern and opened its little door. Orange light cut through the blackness. “Call me… the Guarding Dark. Imagine how strong I must be.”
The Summoning Dark backed desperately into the alley, but the light followed it, burning it.
“And now,” said the watchman, “get out of town.”
Young dwarves listened to him, because he talked about history and destiny and all the other words that always got trotted out to put a gloss on slaughter. It was heady stuff, except that brains were not involved.Sam doesn’t consider himself a hero. Here he disagrees with the majority of Discworld, as well as with the devoted fans of the series, but his contemplation of police work, while a bit self-derisive, has some truth in it.
Coppers stayed alive by trickery. That’s how it worked. You had your Watch Houses with the big blue lights outside, and you made certain there were always burly watchmen visible in the big public places, and you swanked around like you own the place. But you didn’t own it. It was all smoke and mirrors. You magicked a little policeman into everyone’s head. You relied on people giving in, knowing the rules. But in truth, a hundred well-armed people could wipe-out the Watch, if they knew what they were doing.I’m shivery just thinking about it, about all those terrorists and suicide bombers who effectively killed the little watchmen in their heads. I guess I’m not very optimistic, and neither is Sam Vimes, but he is an honest copper and he has my deepest admiration and utmost respect. I salute you, Sam Vimes, and I bow to your creator.