'What's so hard about pulling a sword out of a stone? The real work's already been done You ought to make yourself useful and find the man who put the sword in the stone in the first place'The City Watch needs MEN! But what it's got includes Corporal Carrot technically a dwarf, Lanceconstable Cuddy really a dwarf, Lanceconstable Detritus a troll, Lanceconstable Angua a woman most of the time and Corporal Nobbs disqualified from the human race for shovingAnd they need all the help they can get, because someone in AnkhMorpork has been getting dangerous ideasabout crowns and legendary swords, and destiny And the problem with destiny is, of course, that she is not always careful where she points her finger One minute you might be minding your own business on a normal if not spectacular career path, the next you might be in the frame for the big job, like saving the world

10 thoughts on “Men at Arms

  1. Patrick Patrick says:

    “The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

    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 the 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.”

    Things like this aren't the only reason I love Terry Pratchett, but they're one of the main reasons.

  2. Mario the lone bookwolf Mario the lone bookwolf says:

    Quota policy, by integrating minorities in the already chaotic and dysfunctional City Watch, while a military arms race and intrigues are boiling.

    Prejudices and racism are some of the main tropes behind the curtain and this often used elements come to ingenious culminations with the integration of alternative fighters from contrasting fantasy folks. Using the different magic abilities, weaknesses, and natural hereditary enmities as metaphors, the City Watch turns into a multicultural melting pot of ideas, stereotypes, and vendettas.

    I am not sure how many dark fantasy comedy detective novels could be seen as heirs of this idea of investigating trolls, werewolves, vampires, zombies, whatevers,…, but the potential of using the magic abilities for finding the nasty criminals has great potential, as it unites plot, character, and ability and enables manifold expansion options. As far as I know, Butcher did it best with his close to legendary Dresden Files series and I am too lazy to remember and name similar authors.

    These two elements, open and hidden racism, the different abilities, secret superweapons, another evil force in the background next to Vetinari and, jay, a wedding, how romantic, make it one of Pratchett's best works. He is now at the peak of his craft, took some books to really get started and become more professional, and will, from the novels of this middle, golden age period on be one of the best, or even the best, humoristic author. Until he turns so dark that I still remember some of the extremely depressing and sad scenes he used in his later work.

    Carrot is big in this, his subtle, Vetinari style cool badassness is urgently needed to handle the situation. I didn´t look enough for the innuendos and connotations surrounding Carrot´s secret and how it plays with the philosophy of good leadership and responsibility, I have to take a more detailed glimpse at it in the big reread.

    I also don´t remember enough about the implications, innuendos, and gags regarding militarization and how new technology can be used, abused, and misused and how Pratchett instrumentalized one of the most defining elements of human history to satirize greed and misled patriotism. Technologies and ideologies and their influence on more or less primitive societies are an often seen element of his work, something reality should possibly cut a slice off from, because these two little critters are often underestimated, or simply overseen, harbingers of prosperity or doom.

    Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:

    This one is added to all Pratchettian reviews:
    The idea of the dissected motifs rocks, highlighting the main real world inspirational elements of fiction and satire is something usually done with so called higher literature, but a much more interesting field in readable literature, as it offers the joy of reading, subtle criticism, and feeling smart all together.

  3. Patrick Patrick says:

    This is the second book in the City Watch storyline in the Discworld novels. And I have to say, it's probably twice as good as Guards Guards.

    All the characters are more fully realized and more compelling. What's more, it's obvious to me reading now that Pratchett has multi-book plans for the central characters: Carrot, Vimes, and Angua.

    Detrius also has a pretty strong secondary arc in this one, and we see the begining of some of Pratchett's Troll Vs. Dwarf discussions that come to beautiful fruition in Thud.

    Carrot still a focal character here, and he's interesting, charming, all that. But Vimes is consistently stealing the show. He's the Batman to Carrot's Superman.

    Given that comparison, it's not surprising that Vimes keeps our attention more. Perfect characters just aren't compelling in the same way.

    Part of me wishes that Angua's character and plot was bigger. But that's just fiddling and griping. Not every book can have everything. And this book has so much more than most.

    Excellent read, absolutely worth your time.

  4. Brandon Sanderson Brandon Sanderson says:

    (This review is from 2006.)

    All right, the short of it is I really liked the book. The long of it is, I’m very annoyed at Terry.

    Those of you who have been following things here know that I just sold the Alcatraz books to Scholastic. They’re essentially humorous fantasy—evil librarians running the world and all that. I wrote them because I was a little frustrated at the market. I could find funny books (Snicket) and I could find books with good worldbuilding (Pullman) and I could find books with clever pacing and plotting (Rowling).

    What I couldn’t find was a series that had both amusing text AND engaging characters. They all seemed to sacrifice one for the other—which is fine. After all, Douglas Adams didn’t give much of a hoot for compelling characters, and look where he went. Still, I wanted something with both. And, as it turns out, I happen to write books for a living. Hence, the ALCATRAZ books were born.

    Turns out that Terry has been doing this for years. At least, he has been if Men at Arms is a good example. (Note—I realized all of my examples above were YA, and this is adult, but if you can’t make a forced metaphor once in a while, then what’s the good of having a literary license in the first place?)

    Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the book—perhaps as much as everyone told me that I would. Now, my Pratchett experience is limited. I tried The Color of Magic when I was younger (I’ve since learned that it is a poor representation of the series) and have read Good Omens (which was brilliant, and which ultimately led me to give Discworld another go.)

    I guess the reason I liked Men at Arms was that balance. It was funny—and not in a cheap way either. It was funny in a clever, scholarly, satire sort of way, with an occasional bad pun or lowbrow shot to keep you on your toes. But, somehow, Pratchett still managed to make me care a great deal about his characters. (Thereby stealing my great, wonderfully original idea for the ALCATRAZ books—that of giving people character arcs.)

    How well Terry did this is still a little dumbfounding to me. All of his characters seemed pretty single-sided at the beginning. And, they didn’t really get that much deeper as the story progressed. Yet, they became irresistible.

    Good tension in books is based, in my opinion, on making the reader care about the characters. Any book will feel fast paced if the characters are in danger. And, Terry is obviously a very good craftsman, with excellent pacing beyond his character drama.

    So, anyway, it’s a fine book. If you, like me, have been living in a hole and ignoring Pratchett, then this is a good one with which to start.

  5. Lyn Lyn says:

    Was Terry Pratchett the English Kurt Vonnegut?

    Here is another example of playful satire that thinly hides a stinging social and cultural admonishment. In his 1993 Discworld novel Men at Arms (the 15th Discworld adventure and the second to feature Sam Vimes and his City Watch crew) Sir Terry tackles such heavy subjects as racism, sexism, political correctness, class distinctions and the inhumanity of marshal technology but in a decidedly not-too-heavy format; impishly mocking what needs mocking and throwing down not the gauntlet but instead the soft mitten.

    Discworld fans will love to see the return of the City Watch along with a deterministically diverse set of new recruits, demonstrating Ankh-Morpork’s commitment to employment equality. In Ankh-Morpork, a multi-cultural, pluralistic, metropolitan city if ever there was one, humans live together with trolls, dwarfs and any number of other kinds of folk and Pratchett waxes poetic about the strengths of diversity but at the barstool rather than the pulpit.

    We also get to know The Patrician better and really a winning element of this book is Pratchett’s mature and qualitative characterization. We knew these players before, but in these pages, Pratchett provides more illuminating introductions – like getting to know acquaintances and becoming better friends.

    Discworld seems to be to Pratchett what Mars was to Bradbury: his vehicle for metaphor and allegory, the canvas for his brush, the macaroni to his cheese. In Men at Arms, like so many of these enjoyable Discworld escapades, what goes on atop Great A’Tuin is in periphery of what goes on in our minds, an idyllic statement about how things should be, or at least as they would be if more fun.


  6. Bradley Bradley says:

    Discworld Re-Read project #15. :)

    I remembered that there was one particular Watch novel that lunged the entire Watch novels out of the stratosphere in terms of how much I grew to LOVE them. I had forgotten that THIS was that novel.

    Vimes was great, but who really stole the show was Carrot. I'll love Vimes a lot more in the future, but for now, Carrot is KING.

    Or not. That's a matter of perception and some small debate, all of which Carrot himself will probably have the right precedent and moral outlook and word to set right.

    Other than that, this novel deals with racial prejudice in a big way. Trolls and Dwarves are at each other's throats. And then the Assassin's guild is deep in the muck thanks to a little theft and ideology. And then there's Gaspode.

    I don't think there's any part of the novel I disliked. At all. Wolves and dogs and romance and bringing back the old monarchy kinda reverberated with a previous novel, of course, but I didn't mind. This was a different kind of beast. This time there was rioting in the streets rather than dragons. :)

    Too cool. :)

  7. Adrian Adrian says:

    So, what do I think ? Well, when I started (in Jan 19) (re)reading these Discworld novels in order (it had been some years since I last read any of them) I started remembering characters from my earlier reads. I remember thinking oh Rincewind is just excellent, then it was oh but the three witches are so funny, and of course DEATH is the best character, and then as you move through the books, you come across the Night Watch and you suddenly realise that they are your new favourite.

    This book was just so well written, and the characters in the Night Watch including the new recruits are so well formed after even only a couple of ages. The existing NW characters are of course like old friends, Vimes, Carrot and Nobby, and they are also joined by Gaspode the talking dog and a couple of cameo appearances from CMOT Dibbler.

    A great story with a worthy end, and truly deserving of the 5 stars.

  8. Phrynne Phrynne says:

    This was a reread - the last time I read it was so long ago I don't remember:)

    Such a good book! This man only wrote good books and he is much missed. Men at Arms has to be a hit with me because it contains so many of my favourite characters. There is Corporal Carrot who was adopted as a child by dwarves but is probably the disinherited King of Ankh-Morpork. He has so much charisma he changes the world just by being in it. Captain Vimes is there too, about to get married and leave the Force and not happy about it. Veterinari plays a delightful role and even manages to make a mistake and get shot which is a first. And then of course there is Death, one of Pratchett's greatest ever characters. You have to read the books to appreciate why.

    To enjoy these books you have to like the type of humour. I love it and could easily read the whole series again. In fact I probably will!!!

  9. Melki Melki says:

    Vimes smiled. Someone was trying to kill him, and that made him feel more alive than he had done in days.
    And they were also slightly less intelligent than he was. This is a quality you should always pray for in your would-be murderer.

    Murders are rare in Ankh-Morpork. Suicides and assassinations...well, they're a dime a dozen, but genuine murders are pretty darned rare. But DEATH has been busier than usual lately, and it's up to Carrot and Vimes of the Night Watch to figure out what the heck is going on.

    This is a most excellent entry in the Discworld series. In addition to the thrilling mystery, we get to:

    * Meet an adorable gargoyle.

    * Dine at a dwarf deli, where it seems impossible to order anything that doesn't come with Spam rat.

    * Attend the funniest clown funeral since Chuckles bit the dust on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

    There's all this...PLUS, the Librarian gets to attend yet another wedding! Oook! Oook!

    Did I enjoy this book?

    Does a dragon explode in the woods?

  10. ᴥ Irena ᴥ ᴥ Irena ᴥ says:

    I'll keep this short. If I had to describe what I think about this story in one sentence it would be as if I need more reasons to love the Watch. There are so many highlighted parts that I gave up after a while.
    I didn't read the blurb before, and now I see it has a spoiler in it. At least, I enjoyed finding out that particular thing in the book itself.

    I loved it.

    I rarely listen to audiobooks, but Men at Arms has an excellent narrator (Nigel Planer, but I checked the other one too and he too is pretty good). Everyone has a distinct voice - from trolls to werewolves.

    As if I needed another reason to love the Watch.