Tuesday 26 September 2023

CRB15 Book 45-46: "Men at Arms" and "Feet of Clay" by Terry Pratchett

CBR15 Bingo: Nostalgia

Total page count: 733 pages
Rating both books: 4 stars

In Men at Arms, there's a series of mysterious deaths in Ankh-Morpork, and the Patrician, Lord Vetinari, strictly forbids Sam Vimes, the head of the City Watch to investigate, thus ensuring that he will do the exact opposite. Vimes, Carrot, Nobbs and Colon, who used to be the whole of the Watch have been joined by new recruits to diversify the Watch, Cuddy (a dwarf), Detritus (a troll) and Angua (a werewolf, although Carrot believes it to be because she's a woman). As the ragtag group of individuals learn to work together (trolls and dwarfs are sworn enemies), it turns out that the murder is part of a plot to replace Vetinari with a king, since the plotters have discovered who is the rightful heir. As well as 'disobeying' Vetinari and investigating the string of murders, Vimes is also super stressed about his upcoming wedding to Lady Sybil Vimes, the richest woman in Ankh-Morpork (who insists on being traditional and transferring all of her money and assets to Vimes upon their marriage). 

In Feet of Clay, Sir Samuel Vimes, Commander of the ever-growing City Watch (he was both promoted and knighted at the end of the previous book) and his various underlings have to figure out why a museum curator and a priest have been murdered, and why shortly after, a dozen golems, working at various factories around the city very dramatically and publically kill themselves. To add to the complications, someone is clearly trying to assassinate Lord Vetinary, and he keeps getting worse no matter what safety precautions an increasingly more frantic Vimes puts in place. 

Obviously, in each of the books, the rather complicated central mysteries are eventually sold, and at the end of each book, poor Samuel Vimes seems to end up promoted into an even higher social sphere as a reward for his loyal service. The Watch keeps expanding, in Feet of Clay, Cheery Littlebottom, a dwarf from Uberwald (think the location of every Hammer horror movie ever) joins the team as a forensic expert and comes to several conclusions about their identity over the course of the book.

A perusal of my blog shows that back in 2010 I read and reviewed quite a few Pratchett novels. I also reviewed my re-read of Soul Music in 2015 and my revisit of Guards Guards in 2021. The meticulous records of my reading history (a lined notebook where I've written down everything I've read since back in 2007 - it'll survive even if technology fails!) show that while Pratchett is an incredibly important writer to me and his books have brought me so much joy over the years, I haven't really re-read many of his books in the last 10-15 years. My husband and my BFF Lydia have both warned me not to read Raising Steam (his penultimate Discworld novel and the book where it's the most clear that Alzheimers had stolen away too much of his brain) and although we have a lovely hardback copy of it on our bookshelf, I still am not emotionally ready enough to read The Shepard's Crown - his very last novel before he died. Especially not now that I lost my mother this winter. If I read his final book, it becomes irrevocable that he's gone. 

Re-reading these books is absolutely nostalgic for me. I read a lot of them during my student years in St. Andrews in Scotland back in the late 1990s-early 2000s and because Pratchett has always been one of my husband's favourite authors, we had a lot of enjoyment reading the books together in the early years of our relationship. The great thing about Pratchett is how versatile he was as an author. He didn't just write police procedural novels with a fantastical twist like he does with the City Watch novels. Because his creativity and cleverness were so vast, he was able to write very funny, but also sharp, insightful, and frequently satirical books and make a lot of astute observations while doing so. Not to mention his mastery of language. There are so many puns - so many amazing turns of phrase. There really was no one entirely like him. 

Judging the books by their covers: My Pratchett novels are the original paperback editions with cover art by Josh Kirby. I know they've been redesigned several times since. While I don't always agree with the way the various characters get depicted on the covers, it's always fun to see plot elements hinted at on each of the covers. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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