The book: Guards! Guards!
Author: Terry Pratchett
This is my second Terry Pratchett read. When someone asked me to describe the author’s books, I suggested science fiction with a British sense of humor. This resulted in a, “Oh like Douglas Adams” (author of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy), response. After consideration, I responded with, “No more like if Monty Python were to rewrite Star Wars and tackle broader questions around the nature of our existence.”
My first Terry Pratchett experience happened while on a train from San Francisco to Seattle. That ride was nearly 36 hours, and I don’t sleep well in new surroundings. I was nearly delirious when I read all of Mort. I suspected that the book was funny. I suspected that I was too tired to appreciate the dry wit. Suspicions confirmed! Gaurds! Gaurds! was a delightful read. So, Terry Pratchett, I’m sorry for those exhaustion powered reflections on Mort. If Terry Pratchett has any good sense, he’s not reading this blog though.
The storyline centers around the medieval equivalent of the red shirt guy on Star Trek, the guy who doesn’t have a name and is the first to meet his doom in the episode, night guards. The city in which the guards keep watch has established an equilibrium between criminal and legitimate activities by normalizing crime. The thieves guild and the assassins guild ensure that only people without the proper money or connections are victimized. This is the first of many instances that Pratchett provides commentary on our current environment via satire.
While I do enjoy Pratchett’s humor, it’s the satire that will drive me to read more of his books. There’s wit and searing clarity in Pratchett’s satire that I didn’t find in Douglas Adams’ writing. Pratchett’s satire reminds me of the scene in The Holy Grail in which King Arthur is thwarted by a peasant refusing to recognize him as King due to the peasant’s rejection of feudal rule. The argument devolves to, “Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help! Help! I’m being repressed!”
Pratchett dispenses with just as many moral lessons if not more than Suzanne Collins does in The Hunger Games trilogy. But Pratchett sneaks it in with less horror and violence. Darkness is much easier to swallow when it’s wrapped in British humor.