“FABRICATI DIEM, PVNC” – The Ankh-Morpork City Watch
Most people are at least passingly familiar with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Me, I’ve been a huge fan since reading my first one back in 1998 (for the record, it was “Maskerade”). I admit that there are some novels and characters that I like more than others but overall the series is wonderful. Each book can be picked up and read without reading any of the previous ones. True, you will miss out on certain things but most of them can be read by themselves. There is one group of characters that I love that I often recommend reading their books in order. That’s the Ankh-Morpork Night Watch (and later City Watch).
I think the first Watch book I read might have been “Men at Arms”. It happens to be the second book in the series that focuses mainly on the Watch. I followed that one with “Feet of Clay” (luckily that’s actually next in the series) and then I got curious and went back to read the first book, “Guards, Guards!”. Only three books under my belt that dealt with the Watch and I already wanted more. (plus, who doesn’t love that motto listed in the title? “Fabricati Diem, Pvnc.”? In the Discworld series they mess with Latin and essentially misread it in humorous ways…this one cracked me up with how you can read it as “Make my day, punk.”) The Watch starts out in “Guards, Guards!” with only 3 members who are joined by a new recruit. These members are Sgt. Colon, Corporal Nobbs and Captain Vimes and the new recruit is Constable Carrot.
Samuel Vimes is easily my favorite of the Watchmen (followed closely by a later addition) and we meet him as a man who is at the same time a realist and an idealist, full of sarcasm, toughness and whiskey. He’s the type of character who knows that he has a dark side (he calls it “The Beast”) that is worse than most of the criminals that he’s seen and yet he constantly keeps it under control. It’s interesting to watch the struggle that he goes through in the series, dealing with a darker side of himself that he is fully aware of unlike other characters (and folks in real life) who prefer to pretend that they don’t have a dark side at all.
After the first book the Watch begins to grow in numbers and my second favorite character, Constable Angua is introduced. I’ll let you find out more about her but she’s definitely one of the characters that I was happy to read more about in later books. Carrot is also a close tie for my second favorite. He almost shines with honesty and yet there is a subtle side to some of his actions that you almost miss sometimes.
After those three the next Watch book I read was “Jingo”. This one cemented my love of the members of the Watch and I actually had to re-read part of the ending several times simply because of the impact that it had on me. If you’ve read it, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.
“The Fifth Elephant” was another Watch-centered book that also gave us a better look into Angua’s life and background. If you ever needed proof that Vimes is a total badass, this book gave it to you. My favorite Watch novel followed this one and is called “Night Watch”. It involves time travel, consequences of changing things in the past, seeing things from a different perspective and the Glorious 25th of May. If you’ve ever seen folks wearing lilac or talking about that day, using that specific name, this is the book that it came from. While it’s my favorite Watch book, when I recommend Discworld novels to friends, I tell them to read the other Watch novels before reading this one. Trust me, you’ll appreciate this one so much more if you have that background. I can read “Night Watch” over and over again and never get tired of it.
The next Watch novel is called “Thud!” and this one was also great at giving us a better look at Vimes, what is at the core of the man and what he truly believes in when you strip away everything else. A companion book (almost a little kid’s picture book) was made after this novel. It’s called “Where’s My Cow” and might be the most adorable thing I’ve read in some time.
Many of the other Discworld books involve the Watch members to varying degrees. Even Maskerade introduced me to Colon and Nobby before I was familiar with the Night Watch at all. Terry Pratchett has commented that it’s almost impossible to set any story that might involve crime in Ankh-Morpork without it quickly becoming a Watch novel. Not that I’m complaining. I’m eagerly waiting for the next one that he comes up with.
One day I fully intend to go to Dragon*Con as Angua, with full Watch armor, and see who guesses my character correctly. Anyone want to go with me as other Watchmen?
So, do you have favorite Watch characters? Completely hate the Watch? Drop me a line!