A pair of worn leather boots.

Revisiting Discworld | The Watch #2 | Men At Arms

“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money. Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles. But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while a poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet. This was the Captain Samuel Vimes Boots Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness.” —Sam Vimes, Men At Arms! by Sir Terry Pratchett

No other quote could begin this book, if for no reason than it’s probably one of the most famous Pratchett-isms of all time. It routinely goes viral around the internet, and it is also regularly discussed in lengthier articles and forums. As Vimes climbs the social ladder via his impending marriage with Sybil, he ruminates on the impossibility of pulling oneself up by their, well, bootstraps, which he himself has circumvented by marrying into a much nicer pair of boots by sheer, dumb luck. Will he accept himself as a man with more pairs of $50 dollar boots than he could wear in a hundred lifetimes? Is that the kind of man he wants to be?

This article contains SPOILERS from this point forward.

There are a lot of interesting things about this book that make it a truly unique read. First, there are two equivalent protagonists. Vimes, of course, is the soul of the Watch, and man whose journey drives the plot and themes. But Corporal Carrot Ironfoundersson actually has more on-page time, and ends up ultimately as the hero of the tale.

So, let’s talk about:

CORPORAL CARROT

Image for post
Fairy tale fan art of Carrot and Angua by Chechula on tumblr.

It’s hard to get Carrot right in one picture. If fan art is any indication, readers tend to imagine his appearance very differently. He is certainly a huge individual, very upright, and covered in endless cords of muscle. He has a strong jaw, an honest face, and bright red hair. Despite his size, he was raised by dwarves, and thus grew up ducking or crawling through mineshafts until at last his family sent him off to join the Watch, somewhat out of embarrassment.

He says he’s a dwarf, though, and because he says it, he is. Pretty much anything he says goes. And that’s because Carrot is a force a nature. He has nearly perfect memory recall, as his mind is unencumbered by such clutter as doubt, fear, or second-guessing. He somehow knows the name of literally every person in Ankh-Morpork, and has every article of the city’s book of law memorized, even though most people weren’t even aware they wrote them down.

In a different fantasy series called Wheel of Time, the fabric of creation itself weaves around the three male protagonists, guiding them with threads of fate, bending reality to ensure their destiny is fulfilled at the end of all things. Carrot is like that. The world molds around him, shapes itself to accommodate his word. When he tells bar brawlers to calm down, they actually do. When he tells them to follow him into battle, they do that to — and that last bit is sort of the scary part.

Carrot also happens to be the rightful heir to the throne of Ankh-Morpork. He’s got the whole fairy tale origin story backing him up on it. His parents were killed by bandits, he was raised a poor orphan in odd circumstances, and he’s even got an interesting sword and probably a birthmark. By merely arriving in the city, he sets into motion various plots and plans to re-seat him as the rightful king, because, well, Vetinari had his run and certain families want to gain more power by befriending the future king and so on.

And that’s where the idea of the gonne comes in. The gonne is a small handheld device that fires a little pellet at incredible speeds through the body of another person. It works at a distance. It is impersonal, powerful, and extremely effective. And, unfortunately, it drives men mad who hold it in their hands. In this device, Pratchett has recreated the Ring, right down to the evil whispers in the holder’s mind. Except, one imagines he said to himself, “Rings aren’t evil, okay? They’re just jewelry. The embodiment of evil in the Disc is the only gun in existence, plain and simple.”

So, we have the scene set: Carrot, heir to the throne. Vimes, about to become heir to more money than any other noble in the city. And the gonne, whose sole purpose involves the reason people have heirs in the first place.

LOOK THIS ISN’T SOME TIDY FAIRY TALE, OKAY?

Men At Arms is hands-down written as a procedural crime novel, at least for the first half, give or take, more or less, in a sense, definitely. We begin with a dramatic inciting event: the Assassin’s Guild explodes, and something has been stolen, though the Watch doesn’t know what, yet. The rising racial tensions of the city are mirrored in the Night Watch’s new recruits: a dwarf, a troll, and a werewolf. Vimes, to his credit, doesn’t like any of them, lumping them all into the same “generally bad” bucket into which he has also placed humans. Dwarves and trolls don’t get along at all, and no one gets along with werewolves, even really attractive, kind, and capable ones.

The first murder occurs soon after: a dwarven blacksmith known for a unique genius when working with complex mechanisms. The corpse’s wound is cruel, gruesome, and utterly baffling. Here, Vimes first learns of the gonne by name, if not yet its purpose. Shortly after this, Vetinari plays his dutiful role as the irate police captain, the crooked politician, etc. He is the authority figure who knows more than he lets on, and has expressly forbidden our hero to investigate the gonne any further.

In the first pinch, the killer fires at Vimes and misses. The chase ensues, and it even happens through alleyways! True danger here, Vimes. Follow the clues at your own peril!

Anyway, it sort of goes on like that — and then it sort of doesn’t. Rather than have Vimes go around questioning people until he puts it all together, the thread of “clues” only unravels further. The wielder of the gonne turns out to, well, not really matter all that much. If someone gets their hands on it, all they want to do is use it. And if they show it to someone else, well… The first thing the new person does is kill the last guy. The gonne speaks to you, makes you feel empty if you don’t point it at people and pull the trigger.

Image for post
If I believe this was the inspiration for the gonne, does that make it my head cannon? Eh? Eh?

CORPORALS CUDDY & DETRITUS

As fear of the murders stokes the fires of racial tension, a bad call by the inept Day Watch nearly starts a race war between trolls and dwarves. At the center of this are Constable Detritus and Constable Cuddy, the new troll and dwarf recruits, respectively. At first, Cuddy takes every chance to call his partner stupid, in part because he thinks Detritus can’t count.

Cuddy said: “I just want you to know that I don’t like being teamed up with you any more than you like being teamed up with me.”

“Right!”

“But if we’re going to have to make the best of it, there’d better be some changes, OK?”

“Like what?”

“Like it’s ridiculous you not even being able to count. I know trolls can count. Why can’t you?”

“Can count!”

“How many fingers am I holding up, then?”

Detritus squinted. “Two?”

“OK. Now how many fingers am I holding up?”

“Two.. .and one more…”

“So two and one more is…?”

Detritus looked panicky. This was calculus territory.

“Two and one more is three.”

“Two and one more is three.”

“Now how many?”

“Two and two.”

“That’s four.”

“Four-er.”

“Now how many?” Cuddy tried eight fingers.

“A twofour.”

Cuddy looked surprised. He’d expected “many”, or possibly “lots”. “What’s a twofour?”

“A two and a two and a two and a two.”

Cuddy put his head on one side.

“Hmm,” he said. “OK. A twofour is what we call an eight”

“Ate.”

“You know,” said Cuddy, subjecting the troll to a long critical stare, “you
might not be as stupid as you look. This is not hard. Let’s think about this. I
mean… I’ll think about this, and you can join in when you know the words.”

I’m sharing this entire dialogue not only because it’s great, and also not only because it’s cool that trolls have silicon brains, apparently. But it sets up one of the most beautiful scenes in the series. As the story becomes less about sorting out clues and more about confusion and raw emotion and madness, what Cuddy and Detritus learn is that they are no longer dwarf and troll, but two coppers attempting to stave off the chaos.

In one scene, as they flee from a pair of mobs waving sharp things at each other, Cuddy and Detritus take shelter in a cold storage warehouse, where Detritus suddenly gains multi-syllabic vocabulary and excellent reasoning skills. His silicon brain, it turns out, wasn’t dense, but instead mostly just overheating. The now-intelligent troll selflessly helps Cuddy escape, but he must wait for the dwarf to return to free him. As he waits in the cold, he grows increasingly smarter, until he begins to invent new maths even as he begins to freeze to death.

The scene in which they at last free Detritus makes me tear up every damn time. The whole scene is wonderful, but I’ll share the important bits below.

There was quite a crowd around them when they finally got the main door open. Lumps of ice clinked on the stones, and there was a rush of supercold air.

Frost covered the floor and the rows of hanging carcasses on their backward journey through time. It also covered a Detritus-shaped lump squatting in the middle of the floor.

They carried it out into the sunlight.

“Should his eyes be flashing on and off like that?” said Dibbler.

“Can you hear me?” shouted Cuddy. “Detritus?”

Detritus blinked. Ice slid off him in the day’s heat. He could feel the cracking up of the marvelous universe of numbers. The rising temperature hit his thoughts like a flame-thrower caressing a snowflake.

“Say something!” said Cuddy.

Towers of intellect collapsed as the fire roared through Detritus’ brain.

“Hey, look at this,” said one of the apprentices.

The inner walls of the warehouse were covered with numbers. Equations as complex as a neural network had been scraped in the frost. At some point in the calculation the mathematician had changed from using numbers to using letters, and then letters themselves hadn’t been sufficient; brackets like cages enclosed expressions which were to normal mathematics what a city is to a map.

They got simpler as the goal neared — simpler, yet containing in the flowing lines of their simplicity a spartan and wonderful complexity.

Cuddy stared at them. He knew he’d never be able to understand them in a hundred years.

The frost crumbled in the warmer air.

The equations narrowed as they were carried on down the wall and across the floor to where the troll had been sitting, until they became just a few expressions that appeared to move and sparkle with a life of their own. This was maths without numbers, pure as lightning.

They narrowed to a point, and at the point was just the very simple symbol: =

“Equals what?” said Cuddy. “Equals what?”

The frost collapsed.

Cuddy went outside. Detritus was now sitting in a puddle of water,
surrounded by a crowd of human onlookers…

…Cuddy draped the coat over the troll’s shoulders.

“Come on, on your feet,” he said. “Let’s get you home.”

The troll lumbered upright.

“How many fingers am I holding up?” said Cuddy.

Detritus peered.

“Two and one?” he suggested.

“It’ll do,” said Cuddy. “For a start.”

I’m spending so much time on this one because it really hits home the general theme that people have whole universes inside of them if you look hard enough. No one is ever what they seem. And the real kicker of it is, the really, really hard thing about that is, is that that’s why it’s so hard to say who or what a person is, ever, at all.

PEOPLE ARE COMPLICATED

Every single main character in Men At Arms is, well, first of all, statistically unlikely to be a human man. Secondly, they are someone who presents as one thing, but is actually another, entirely different thing depending on the circumstances.

  1. Carrot has decided he is a copper, subordinate to his hero Captain Vimes. Fate and all the gods and ta’veren strings pull him toward the rags-to-riches King story, except he rejects that destiny with all his heart.
  2. Angua lives life as an attractive blond human female, except that, unbeknownst to most (including her new lover, Carrot), she is one of the most hated, feared, and powerful beings in the city. In nearly every scene, she muses on whether she will run away tonight, or tomorrow, once Carrot learns the truth.
  3. Detritus is a genius in heat’s clothing, one Pork Futures refrigerator away from unlocking the secrets of the universe. And no one in the watch knows it but Cuddy, who also knows that reaching such heights (or lows, temperaturely speaking) might kill him.

All of this comes together show the really deep nature of the question inherent in this book. What makes a person good, or bad, other than the context we find them in? What makes them smart or dumb? What makes them friends or enemies?

And what makes them a murderer?

Can someone be a murderer? Or merely another regular person who commits murder? Because murders really do happen out here the real world. A person you know from work goes home one day and kills their family. It happens. And in Men At Arms, someone who was once a human suddenly becomes a monster the moment you place a loaded gun into their palm. Were they always a murderer? Or was it the context of that moment?

People are complex. They do things for strange, wild, passionate, complicated, impulsive reasons even they don’t understand. They are born rich or they are born poor, to parents who love them or parents who don’t, and none of it has anything to do with what sort of person they are. Life is chaos and all you can do try to be on the side of the helpers.

Because helping is doing. Maybe there’s no such thing as identity. Maybe that’s all just a big mess of trauma and best intentions. And who we are is what we do with all that.

THE HORROR OF “DESTINY” AS A CONCEPT

So, yes, Carrot could be King Carrot. Maybe the reason he’s so good at not being king is precisely because he says he isn’t. I mean he’s a king, right? If he says he’s not one, it has to be true.

Carrot is the one who saves the day, too. It isn’t Vimes. Oh sure, Vimes does a lot of the sleuthing early on, but it’s Carrot who goes down in the muck and discovers the answer. When all hell breaks loose by way of race war in the city, Carrot uses his encyclopedic knowledge to form a legal militia of fired watchmen and take back the streets. All he has to do is show up and start recruiting people, and they can’t help but agree. Because it’s Carrot. In mere minutes, Carrot has an army behind him.

When the killer is at last cornered, it’s Carrot, not Vimes, who runs him through. As this happens, Carrot accidentally skewers the stone wall behind the villain, too, hardly even noticing he’s put his ancestral sword in the stone, then pulled it out again. It harkens back to this earlier, seemingly throwaway dialogue between nobles:

“My nurse told me,” said Viscount Skater, “that a true king could pull a sword from a stone.”

“Hah, yes, and cure dandruff,” said Lord Rust. “That’s just a legend. That’s not real. Anyway, I’ve always been a bit puzzled about that story. What’s so hard about pulling a sword out of a stone? The real work’s already been done. You ought to make yourself useful and find the man who put the sword in the stone in the first place, eh?”

When Carrot does save the day, and the Patrician, the conversation between the two at the novel’s end is, frankly, poetry. Vetinari, possibly for the first time in his life, is just a little bit afraid. It doesn’t manifest in any real way — the Patrician is humanly incapable of quaking in fear — but it’s there in the subtext. I won’t share the entire scene, because it’s really long and rather perfect in the unabridged state. But there’s a little snippet here, after Vetinari realizes Carrot could have taken over the city, but chose not to.

The Patrician stood up and limped over to the window. It was dusk. Lights were being lit all over the city.

With his back to Carrot he said, “Tell me, captain…this business about there being a heir to the throne… What do you think about it?”

“I don’t think about it, sir. That’s all sword-in-a-stone nonsense. Kings don’t come out of nowhere, waving a sword and putting everything right. Everyone knows that.”

“But there was some talk of… evidence?”

“No one seems to know where it is, sir.”

“When I spoke to Captain… to Commander Vimes, he said you’d got it.”

“Then I must have put it down somewhere. I’m sure I couldn’t say where, sir.”

“My word, I hope you absent-mindedly put it down somewhere safe.”

“I’m sure it’s… well-guarded, sir.”

“I think you’ve learned a lot from Cap — Commander Vimes, captain.”

“Sir. My father always said I was a quick learner, sir.”

“Perhaps the city does need a king, though. Have you considered that?”

“Like a fish needs a… er… a thing that doesn’t work underwater, sir.”

“Yet a king can appeal to the emotions of his subjects, captain. In… very much the same way as you did recently, I understand.”

“Yes, sir. But what will he do next day? You can’t treat people like puppet dolls. No, sir. Mr. Vimes always said a man has got to know his limitations. If there was a king, then the best thing he could do would be to get on with a decent day’s work.”

“Indeed.”

“But if there was some pressing need… then perhaps he’d think again.” Carrot brightened up. “It’s a bit like being a guard, really. When you need us, you really need us. And when you don’t… well, best if we just walk around the streets and shout All’s Well. Providing all is well, of course.”

As good as the “decent day’s work” is, to this day, the line I remember more often is, “a king can appeal to the emotions of his subjects.” It’s such a succinct way to explain the folly of humans. Carrot has, like Vetinari, come to understand that people feel driven toward authority because of the emotional payoff it promises. But Sir Terry liked rationality. That was sort of his thing.

WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE

Sir Terry Pratchett holding a lovely orangutan and grinning like a fool.
Two fuzzy guys who love books.

Emotional wildness means people might do all sorts of wild things, some quite harmful to themselves or others. Carrot has chosen to uphold the law, not because he can, but because people should be able to trust authorities, not simply follow them around blindly. Because, in his mind, that’s how to be the best helper he can be. That’s what he’s chose to do, not what he has decided to be. And that distinction is at the heart of this novel and all the intriguing characters in it.

We all love Vimes, but I’ve often wondered what it is about Sam that Carrot idolizes so much. It’s not that he idolizes him, because of course he does. But I’ve wondered at the specific why of that a lot. But there’s actually a really phenomenal scene in Men At Arms that I think hints at the why.

Angua, who has problems trusting people, has taken an opportunity to snoop around in Vimes’s things.

More or less. It was hard to tell. Even a prisoner in a cell manages to stamp his personality on it somewhere, but Angua had never seen such an unlived-in room.

“This is where he lives?” said Angua. “Good grief.”

“What did you expect?”

“I don’t know. Anything. Something. Not nothing .”

There was a joyless iron bedstead. The springs and mattress had sagged so that they formed a sort of mold, forcing anyone who got into it to instantly fold into a sleeping position. There was a washstand, under a broken mirror. On the stand was a razor, carefully aligned toward the Hub because Vimes shared the folk belief that this kept it sharp. There was a brown wooden chair with the cane seat broken. And a small chest at the foot of the bed.

And that was all.

“I mean, at least a rug,” said Angua. “A picture on the wall. Something.”

Carrot deposited Vimes on the bed, where he flowed unconsciously into the shape.

“Haven’t you got something in your room?” Angua asked.

“Yes. I’ve got a cutaway diagram of №5 shaft at home. It’s very interesting strata. I helped cut it. And some books and things. Captain Vimes isn’t really an indoors kind of person.”

“But there’s not even a candle!”

“He finds his way to bed by memory, he says.”

“Or an ornament or anything.”

“There’s a sheet of cardboard under the bed,” Carrot volunteered. “I remember I was with him in Filigree Street when he found it. He said ‘There’s a month’s soles in this, if I’m any judge.’ He was very pleased about that.”

“He can’t even afford boots?”

“I don’t think so. I know Lady Sybil offered to buy him all the new boots he wanted, and he got a bit offended about that. He seems to try to make them last.”

“But you can buy boots, and you get less than him. And you send money home. He must drink it all, the idiot.”

“Don’t think so. I didn’t think he’d touched the stuff for months. Lady Sybil got him on to cigars.”

Vimes snored loudly.

“How can you admire a man like this?” said Angua.

“He’s a very fine man.”

Angua raised the lid of the wooden chest with her foot.

“Hey, I don’t think you should do that — ” said Carrot wretchedly.

“I’m just looking,” said Angua. “No law against that.”

“In fact, under the Privacy Act of 1467, it is an — ”

“There’s only old boots and stuff. And some paper.” She reached down and picked up a crudely made book. It was merely a wad of irregular shaped bits of paper sandwiched together between card covers.

“That belongs to Captain — ”

She opened the book and read a few lines. Her mouth dropped open.

“Will you look at this? No wonder he never has any money!”

“What d’you mean?”

“He spends it on women! You wouldn’t think it, would you? Look at this entry. Four in one week!”

Carrot looked over her shoulder. On the bed, Vimes snorted.

There, on the page, in Vimes’ curly handwriting, were the words:

Mrs. Gaskin, Mincing St: $5
Mrs. Scurrick, Treacle St: $4
Mrs. Maroon, Wixon’s Alley: $4
Annabel Curry, Lobsneaks: $2

“Annabel Curry couldn’t have been much good, for only two dollars,” said Angua.

She was aware of a sudden drop in temperature.

“I shouldn’t think so,” said Carrot, slowly. “She’s only nine years old.”

One of his hands gripped her wrist tightly and the other prised the book out of her fingers.

“Hey, let go!”

“Sergeant!” shouted Carrot, over his shoulder, “can you come up here a moment?”

Angua tried to pull away. Carrot’s arm was as immovable as an iron bar.

There was the creak of Colon’s foot on the stair, and the door swung open.

He was holding a very small cup in a pair of tongs.

“Nobby got the coff — ” he began, and stopped.

“Sergeant,” said Carrot, staring into Angua’s face, “Lance-Constable Angua wants to know about Mrs. Gaskin.”

“Old Leggy Gaskin’s widow? She lives in Mincing Street.”

“And Mrs. Scurrick?”

“In Treacle Street? Takes in laundry now.” Sergeant Colon looked from one

to the other, trying to get a handle on the situation.

“Mrs. Maroon?”

“That’s Sergeant Maroon’s widow, she sells coal in — ”

“How about Annabel Curry?”

“She still goes to the Spiteful Sisters of Seven-Handed Sek Charity School, doesn’t she?” Colon smiled nervously at Angua, still not sure of what was happening. “She’s the daughter of Corporal Curry, but of course he was before your time — ”

Angua looked up at Carrot’s face. His expression was unreadable.

“They’re the widows of coppers?” she said.

He nodded. “And one orphan.”

“It’s a tough old life,” said Colon. “No pensions for widows, see.”

He looked from one to the other.

“Is there something wrong?” he said.

Carrot relaxed his grip, turned, slipped the book into the box, and shut the lid.

“No,” he said.

“Look, I’m sorr — ” Angua began. Carrot ignored her and nodded at the sergeant.

“Give him the coffee.”

“But.. .fourteen dollars.. .that’s nearly half his pay!”

Carrot picked up Vimes’ limp arm and tried to prise his fist open, but even though Vimes was out cold the fingers were locked.

“I mean, half his pay!”

“I don’t know what he’s holding in here,” said Carrot, ignoring her. “Maybe
it’s a clue.”

He took the coffee and hauled up Vimes by his collar.

“You just drink this, captain,” he said, “and everything will look a lot… clearer…”

Klatchian coffee has an even bigger sobering effect than an unexpected brown envelope from the tax man. In fact, coffee enthusiasts take the precaution of getting thoroughly drunk before touching the stuff, because Klatchian coffee takes you back through sobriety and, if you’re not careful, out the other side, where the mind of man should not go. The Watch was generally of the opinion that Samuel Vimes was at least two drinks under par, and needed a stiff double even to be sober.

“Careful.. .careful…” Carrot let a few drops dribble between Vimes’ lips.

“Look, when I said — ” Angua began.

“Forget it.” Carrot didn’t even look round.

“I was only — ”

“I said forget it.”

Carrot idolizes Vimes because he is uncomplicated in at least one sense: he is a helper to his core. Vimes does not “look for the helpers.” He has dedicated his life to ensure he is the helper others look for. Sam Vimes has a universe within him, and every star goes something like, “Young lady I’ll get to the bottom of this for you, don’t you worry about it, mark my words, alright?”

Carrot, rightfully, is a little scared of himself. He knows exactly who he is, and he knows what he could do with that, and no matter how he tried, ruling with appeals to emotion would never end well. He knows that. And it’s no accident that Vimes’s ancestor is the one that killed the last king —i.e. killed Carrot’s ancestor. Old Stoneface Vimes was vilified for this, even though everyone was glad he did it. If Carrot became king, one day, it might end up with Carrot on one side, and the current Vimes on the opposing one. That’s how bloody destiny would have it. And that just wouldn’t do.

In Men At Arms, we see the Watch minus Samuel Vimes, and, it turns out, absolutely no one likes that alternative melodrama. We see, here, the anger of Sir Terry referenced in the Gaiman quote from my previous Discworld article. Most of us read a Chosen One story and feel emotionally swept up in the grandeur of destined greatness. Pratchett reads the same story and sees red.

The Patrician looked at Carrot. He seemed to be shuffling futures in his head. Then:

“Yes. I accede to all the requests, except the one involving Corporal Nobbs. And you, I think, should be promoted to Captain.”

“Ye-es. I agree, sir. That would be a good thing for Ankh-Morpork. But I will not command the Watch, if that’s what you mean.”

“Why not?”

“Because I could command the Watch. Because… people should do things because an officer tells them. They shouldn’t do it just because Corporal Carrot says so. Just because Corporal Carrot is… good at being obeyed.” Carrot’s face was carefully blank.

“An interesting point.”

“But there used to be a rank, in the old days. Commander of the Watch. I suggest Samuel Vimes.”

The Patrician leaned back. “Oh, yes,” he said. “Commander of the Watch. Of course, that became a rather unpopular job, after all that business with Lorenzo the Kind. It was a Vimes who held the post in those days. I’ve never liked to ask him if he was an ancestor.”

“He was, sir. I looked it up.”

“Would he accept?”

“Is the High Priest an Offlian? Does a dragon explode in the woods?”

I wouldn’t call Men At Arms a perfect novel, exactly. Pratchett deliberately fills it with red herrings and endless twists as parody, and it makes the plot feel too meandering at times. It’s the first novel where The City of Ankh-Morpork is a true member of the ensemble cast instead of a mere setting, with the various guilds and ancient histories stepping to the forefront of the plot. There was so much of it that I think Pratchett got a little lost in all the details of his creation he wanted to share. Also, the switch in the second half to following Carrot around instead of Vimes is, while brilliant in the meta, fairly jarring in terms of narrative flow.

But that’s all relative, really. It’s still excellent, and has some of the most lasting moments in Discworld: the Boots theory, Detritus in the Pork Futures warehouse, and the final “showdown” between Carrot and Vetinari. It features the One Ring of Discworld, which in many ways is far scarier because it’s a lot less vague in its evil. And because once you destroy the Ring, at least that can never be made again.

But the gonne is just an idea. And ideas have ways of popping back up again, just when you least expect them.

As a coda, I do want to point out that Cuddy makes a little fan and heat sink for Detritus’s head, featured here along with the troll’s commandeered siege weapon. Maybe one day we’ll find what what it all equals, and why it somehow equals 42. Hey, Pratchett and Adams were friends, you know?

Constable Detritus with his fan helmet and the Piecemaker.
Corporal Detritus, his Heatsink Helmet, and the Piecemaker

About the author

i5

View all posts

Leave a Reply