Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Nov 28, 2005

Night Watch

After finishing Les Miserables I was inspired to go back and re-read this book by Terry Pratchett. While not my favorite (largely because it rehashes setting elements that were already silly in Thief of Time) it is one of the more philosophical and hence very enjoyable.

In Night Watch, Commander Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork (sic) city watch is propelled back through time by a magical accident to relive one of the formative experiences of his youth from a different perspective: the Glorious Revolution of Treacle Mine Road.

As in Les Miserables, there is a vile, oppressive government; there are riots, barricades, and fighting in the streets. People die, perhaps unnecessarily, almost certainly stupidly, for their ideals. It’s a revolution after all.

There the similarities end. Pratchett, in my mind, does a much better job than Victor Hugo in portraying the motivations and character of his revolutionaries. Instead of the young, visionary and zealous Enjolras leading the defense, there is the middle-aged, cynical, practical Vimes, who is fighting, in his own words, for a hard-boiled egg. He believes this is a more reasonable short-term goal than Truth, Justice, and Freedom.

Such an outlook might make it appear that Vimes is a vicious pragmatist with no philosophy whatsoever. In comparison to Enjolras, whose only accomplishment was the production of corpses, it is Vimes who is the real man of ideas, ideas formed from a lifetime of watching people and forming conclusions, instead of, as he complains, deciding “this is how people ought to be, how can we change them?”

Well worth the read, or re-read, in my case.

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