So after reading Neuromancer last month, I was looking for a bit of lighter fare, so I decided to work on some Discworld books and started with the first book of the City Watch subseries, Guards! Guards!. I was already quite a bit in when I was like “why does all of this seem so familiar? Are Discworld books really so same-y that it feels like I’ve read this before?” The good news is that it wasn’t true, Discworld books aren’t super-samey; I have read it before, way back in 2016 in fact. And I also found out that I had done this in 2016 with another Discworld book as well! Ok, so I guess that means they are a bit same-y, but on the other hand I am getting better at retention because I actually recognized it this time.
Anyway, I went ahead and completed the re-read and proceeded to the next City Watch book, Men at Arms. And this one was totally new to me, for sure. So, this is a bit of a double review. And maybe a review of the Discworld series as a whole.
In Guards! Guards! we get Pratchett’s treatment of common fantasy tropes such as dwarves, dragons that can’t possibly be flying, and unknown heroes becoming king by slaying evil dragons.
You have the effrontery to be squeamish, it thought at him. But we were dragons. We were supposed to be cruel, cunning, heartless, and terrible. But this much I can tell you, you ape—the great face pressed even closer, so that Wonse was staring into the pitiless depths of his eyes—we never burned and tortured and ripped one another apart and called it morality.
– Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!
In Men at Arms, Pratchett expands on the cast of the City Watch subseries, explores the guild structure of the city of Ankh Morpork, and expands the lore of races such as dwarves and trolls.
Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles. But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while a poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet. This was the Captain Samuel Vimes “Boots” theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”
– Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms
So, yes, the Discworld books are maybe kind of same-y, but that’s kind of a good thing? You usually know what to expect. They’re light reading, they’re funny in a dry British humor kind of way, and Pratchett likes to attack and parody and deconstruct common fantasy tropes. I like the books, despite their sameyness, although I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to work my way through the entire series.