Night Watch ~ Terry Pratchett

  • Title: Night Watch
  • Author: Terry Pratchett
  • Series: Discworld #29
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Format: paperback
  • Source: own
  • Reviewed by: Olga
  • Rating: 5 out of 5

Description:  One moment, Sir Sam Vimes is in his old patrolman form, chasing a sweet-talking psychopath across the rooftops of Ankh-Morpork. The next, he’s lying naked in the street, having been sent back thirty years courtesy of a group of time-manipulating monks who won’t leave well enough alone. This Discworld is a darker place that Vimes remembers too well, three decades before his title, fortune, beloved wife, and impending first child. Worse still, the murderer he’s pursuing has been transported back also. Worst of all, it’s the eve of a fabled street rebellion that needlessly destroyed more than a few good (and not so good) men. Sam Vimes knows his duty, and by changing history he might just save some worthwhile necks—though it could cost him his own personal future. Plus there’s a chance to steer a novice watchman straight and teach him a valuable thing or three about policing, an impressionable young copper named Sam Vimes.


Unlike most other Discworld novels, this is not a funny book. It’s exploratory and philosophical and delves deep into the natures of leadership and decency, courage and tolerance.

By accident, Sam Vimes, the Watch Commander of Ankh-Morpork and a Duke, is transported 30 years into the past, when the young Sam Vimes was just starting his work in the city police. The streets are boiling with unrest on the eve of a bloody rebellion, and it’s up to the older and much more experienced Vimes to preserve as many lives as he could, even if he can’t prevent the senseless revolution.

“Don’t put your trust in revolutions. They always come round again. That’s why they’re called revolutions. People die, and nothing changes.”

The older Sam Vimes is pessimistic and grim, with 30 years of experience as a policeman behind him. He doesn’t have any illusions left, neither about the common citizens nor about his fellow policemen, but he values lives and above all, he respects the Law. His integrity is never for sale, no matter the price. When the need arises, he puts his skills and his life on the line, and the Night Watch rallies around him. Like any good leader, he makes heroes out of the average men, inspires them by his irreverence towards authority and his acceptance of human follies. He makes sensible decisions, disregards cruel or ignorant orders of his superiors, and always leads by example.

The story is seemingly slow, rooting for a wide panorama and deep understanding instead of a lighter mockery, as in many of Pratchett’s earlier novels. Nothing is galloping or hurtling ahead. The events are gradually expanding, rolling forward like an unstoppable avalanche. When the plot gathers momentum, nothing can stop it.

Of all the City Watch books I’ve read so far, this one made the best and most profound psychological portrait of Sam Vimes. Finally, after several earlier volumes, I could see the man in all his complexity, and my respect for him, high already, soared. I wish our city police was led by such a guy.

The other characters are less distinctive, but there are many of them: good and bad, funny and whiny, clever and stupid. The entire crowd congregates and pivots around one human focus – Sam Vimes, the embodiment of a Leader.

A great read. 

2 thoughts on “Night Watch ~ Terry Pratchett

  1. I love Pratchett’s books, and there is definitely a shift in focus towards the philosophical over the funny on these later Discworld ones. While I was disappointed at first, I’ve since come to accept that it’s just a different sort of storytelling, and to appreciate it for that.
    It helps that Vimes and his guards are always portrayed with such wonderful humour and sympathy.

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