Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
Here there be dragons . . . and the denizens of Ankh-Morpork wish one huge firebreather would return from whence it came. Long believed extinct, a superb specimen of draco nobilis (“noble dragon” for those who don’t understand italics) has appeared in Discworld’s greatest city. Not only does this unwelcome visitor have a nasty habit of charbroiling everything in its path, in rather short order it is crowned King (it is a noble dragon, after all . . .).
Meanwhile, back at Unseen University, an ancient and long-forgotten volume–The Summoning of Dragons–is missing from the Library’s shelves. To the rescue come Captain Vimes, Constable Carrot, and the rest of the Night Watch who, along with other brave citizens, risk everything, including a good roasting, to dethrone the flying monarch and restore order to Ankh-Morpork (before it’s burned to a crisp).
WARNING: This book does not have chapters.
I wanted to love this book. I really did. Its exactly the kind of book I could like, a silly, goofball fantasy featuring dragons. But… I didn’t.
Guards! Guards! is in the same vein as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, so if you loved Hitchhiker’s you’ll probably love this too. It has the same kind of ridiculous, often nonsensical humor, and the same creative way of looking at common fantasy elements but re-imagining them to be completely new and original. Like in Hitchhiker’s, the characters seem idiotic at first, but eventually grow on you until you become quite fond of them. And finally, the story careens about until the end is about something totally different than you would have expected back at the beginning.
But at the same time, Guards! Guards! is kind of deep. There’s a lot of social commentary, especially frustration with people’s … people-ness. There’s this kind of sense that you can’t change human nature, and human nature is stupid, cowardly, and sheep-like. But you have to get out of bed every day a live your life, because reasons. It’s both pessimistic and optimistic at the same time.
If I’m being completely honest with you guys, I should have loved this book, the same way I should have loved Hitchhiker’s. I adored the Hitchhiker’s movie, and I love British humor. But, I don’t know, for some reason British humor doesn’t seem to work for me written down. Maybe if Guards! Guards! had been a movie I would have fallen in love with it the way I wanted to.
To summarize. Brilliant book. Laugh out loud funny. Just, not for me.
Also, to clarify, Guards! Guards! is a part of a series, and not the first novel in the series. However, it stands on its own just fine. You don’t have to have read any of the previous books to understand and enjoy it, although I’m sure reading the others would give you a better understanding and probably clue you in to some inside jokes.