Thursday, October 9, 2008

Guards! Guards! - Terry Pratchett

1989, 355 pages. Genre : Comedic fantasy. Awards : #69 on the BBC's "Big Read" List. Overall Rating : A.

    .In the city of Ankh-Morpork, a secret society of bumblers figure out how to summon a big, nasty-tempered, fire-breathing dragon. As it turns out, that was the easy part. Much more difficult is how to get rid of the beast once you're done with it. This is a job for Captain Vimes and his Night Watch guards, who unfortunately have the mentality of the Keystone Kops.

What's To Like...
    This is part of Pratchett's Discworld series, which is in the same genre as Piers Anthony books, save that, whereas the latter's works feature lots and lots of puns; the former chooses to use lots and lots of groan-inducing metaphors. One quick example (from page 55) :

    "He was a small, bandy-legged man, with a certain resemblance to a chimpanzee who never got invited to tea parties."

   .The plot is good and there are lots of likable characters. The writing is witty and had me laughing out loud. Pratchett's books are a spoof of fantasy novels in general, with each book then also lampooning various smaller topics. Guards! Guards! takes a laugh at things like Secret Societies, Dog-Breeding (here it's Dragon-Breeding), and how to properly build your own dungeon. The book's an easy read, but I found myself going slowly anyway, just to soak up the pervasive humor.

An Introduction to Discworld...
    Discworld is your typical fantasy universe (trolls, dwarves, dragons, wizards, etc.). The world is flat and shaped like a disk. The disk is held up by four cosmic elephants, who in turn stand on the back of a great turtle. There are (so far) 36 novels in the Discworld series, and although a lot of characters do go and grow from one novel to the next, you don't need to start with Book #1 to enjoy the series. For instance, Guards! Guards! is the eighth Discworld book, but was personally my first Pratchett encounter, and the storyline flowed just fine.

What is the "Big Read" List?
    In 2003, the BBC conducted a survey to determine the 200 most-popular books in the UK. Guards! Guards! came in at #69. Terry Pratchett had 5 books in the top 100, and 15 books in the top 200. You can find the complete list here. FYI, #1 was Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. No real surprise there. #2 was Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. That's quite a swing from LOTR.
    To close, Terry Pratchett and Discworld were a pleasant discovery for me, and Guards! Guards! was a very nice "light" read. After the darkness of The Bell Jar, it was just what I needed.

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