Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms

I’m not a big fan of werewolf or shifter literature — but I’ll gladly use any excuse out there to read another book from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, so here we go!

Men at Arms is part of the Night Watch subseries; it’s the first book in which the Watch’s werewolf recruit Angua makes her appearance, and to lasting effect … though the star of this particular instalment, truth be told, is a flea-ridden canine mongrel about a third (or a forth) Angua’s size named Gaspode who’s acquired the gift of speech (and trust Pratchett not to go all soppy and anthropomorphic on this one).  After a bit of a meandering beginning, the story settles on the mysterious disappearance of a unique, lethal invention by local polymath Leonardo da Quirm, consisting of a barrel connected to a cylinder holding six cartridges filled with a “No.1 Powder” that are discharged pyrotechnically, and known as “the gonne”.  Very much to the Guild of Assassins’ annoyance, Sam Vimes and his Watch (which in addition to Angua has also acquired a dwarf and a troll recruit) discover (1) the “gonne”‘s existance, which had heretofore been a closely-guarded secret, (2) the fact that it had been entrusted to the Guild of Assassins for safekeeping, (3) the fact that it seems to have been stolen, and (4) the fact that it seems to be associated with several suspicious deaths occurring in quick succession.

Furthermore, we learn that Sam Vimes is getting married, and how it comes about that (despite all appearances to the contrary) he remains with the Watch after all and the subseries doesn’t come to a grinding halt with this particular book.

Although I loved Angua’s and Gaspode’s exchanges in particular, for some reason this book didn’t grab me quite as much as some of the others in the series — though don’t get me wrong, this is measured only by Pratchett’s very particular standards.  I’ll be the first to admit I’m fairly spoiled at this point, and I’ll gladly take any book by Pratchett over many another writer’s best efforts.


4 thoughts on “Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms

  1. S.D. McKinley says:

    I’ve been thinking of putting some of Terry Pratchett on my TBR. Have you read his first book at all? I’m interested in seeing how an author of his calibur’s first book pans out.


    • ThemisAthena says:

      Yes, I’ve read it (that is, if you mean the first “Discworld” novel — which was, however, not his very first published book).

      If you want to see how the series progressed, by all means start there (“Colour of Magic”) — though Discworld is one of the series that don’t need to be read in order; there are several subseries which alternate in the overall sequence, and each of their installments can easily also stand alone. (To the extent necessary, Pratchett also does a great job bringing the reader up to speed with what happened in previous installments).

      My favorite subseries are “The Witches” (the book to start with there is “Wyrd Sisters”) and “Night Watch” (a good book to start with there would be “Guards! Guards!”).
      Another book I really love is the (pseudo-)Christmas entry of the series, “Hogfather”.


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