I’ve been having a nice slow meander through Terry Pratchett’s Guard! Guards! during my lunch break over the summer. Last Thursday the book reached a point where I couldn’t leave it at work any longer because I had to find out what happened. So I brought it home and flew through the final 20 or so pages. It was great fun especially since the Librarian (a wizard who was turned into an Orangutan and likes it so much he won’t let anyone change him back) plays a nice part in the story.
The plot in a nutshell. A Secret Society manages to steal a book from the Wizard library at Unseen University. The book can be used to summon dragons from the nonexistent world to which they had been banished. The person who summons the dragon can control it, so the idea is to set it all up so the Supreme Master of the Secret Society of the Elucidated Brethren can become king of Ankh-Morpork. It all works out pretty well except the Supreme Master underestimates the power of dragons and the dragon is able to come back to stay through the magical connection with the Supreme Master.
The Night Watch is unwillingly drawn into the whole mess when the Librarian shows up to report that a book was stolen from the library. The Librarian’s only words are “ook” and as he tries to communicate the nature and urgency of the matter to the guards he gets rather frustrated:
The Librarian rolled his eyes. It was strange, he felt, that so-called intelligent dogs, horses and dolphins never had any difficulty indicating to humans the vital news of the moment, e.g. that the three children were lost in the cave, or the train was about to take the line leading to the bridge that had been washed away or similar, while he, only a handful of chromosomes away from wearing a vest, found it difficult to persuade the average human to come in out of the rain. You just couldn’t talk to some people.
As is usual with Terry Pratchett Discworld books, there are lots of great jokes, puns, innuendoes, slapstick, and no end of fun. The man really knows how to write a comedic novel.
If you have never read a Discworld book, you don’t have to read them in any kind of order. You can start anywhere. This one would actually be a fun one to start with if you were feeling so inclined. The books aren’t meaty in anyway, they are just plain fun, but once in a while there is an idea that pokes its head out. With that, I will end with my favorite bit of the whole book. It’s the Librarian again, of course:
People are stupid, sometimes. They thought the Library was a dangerous place because of all the magical books, which was true enough, but what made it really one of the most dangerous places there could ever be was the simple fact that it was a library.