I came late to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and so far have read less than half of them. This book is the sixth one featuring Sir Samuel Vimes, head of the City Watch of Discworld’s largest city, Ankh-Morpork. I haven’t read any of the others, though I do know Vimes from supporting roles in books I have read. I chose it because it’s on a list of Neil Gaiman’s favorite fantasy novels.
Sam Vimes’ job keeps him very busy, but not too busy to remember the anniversary of the death of his mentor as a young policeman, John Keel, fallen hero of the Glorious Revolution of thirty years earlier. After visiting Keel’s grave with others who were there, Vimes learns a vicious criminal, Carcer, has been found, and Vimes wants to make the collar himself. While trying to do so, Vimes and Carcer are caught in a magical storm that sends them thirty years into the past, where Vimes soon finds himself in jail, taken there by a green young recruit, his former self. Vimes discovers that he must take on the role of John Keel to not only teach young Vimes the things he needs to know, but to prevent the Glorious Revolution from becoming a much more deadly event than he remembers it, and also to recapture Carcer, who has killed the real John Keel.
The plot of this book runs like an expensive watch, but the real joy in reading it is the characters and Pratchett’s knowledge of human nature. Old Vimes, posing as John Keel, has his work cut out for him, but he remembers how that work is done, and finds himself enjoying the challenges of his situation. The other members of the Night Watch, and the many other people of power and influence he must deal with, are written of with gentle humor or scathing sarcasm, as they each play their part. The outcome, while expected, never feels certain, and tragedy is always waiting for one false move.
Recommended. I look forward to reading more about Sam Vimes.