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    Review of MEN AT ARMS by Terry Prachett


    Harper, 1993 (reprinted May, 2003)

    Captain Sam Vimes is about to become wealthy, married, and retired from his career in the City Watch. When a strange explosion occurs in the Assassins Guild, it really isn't his business--especially when Vetinari, the Patrician, specifically orders him to stay clear. Vimes's common sense wars with his self-defined duty and duty wins--at least until Vetinari calls him in for a second appointment (nobody wants a second appointment with the city's strange and nearly omnicient leader). For Vimes, the bottle is the way out. But Corporal Carrot isn't about to let a little thing like Vetinari's orders keep him from donig the right thing (Carrot always does the right thing) and pushes on in Vimes's absence.

    MEN AT ARMS tells the story of the fundamental reshaping of the City Watch under the combined influence of Vetinari, Vimes, and Carrot. The Watch is expanded from all-human to include dwarves, trolls, and a beautiful werewolf. Vetinari's policy of constructive anarchy may allow the city to work after a fashion, but a watch made up of misfits from all walks of life can certainly help. The novel is a near-continuation of the very fine GUARDS! GUARDS! (see our review).

    Author Terry Pratchett (see more reviews of novels by Pratchett) combines puns, outrageous and over-the-top action, and real insights into humanity in ways that keep the reader laughing and thinking at the same time. Both Vetinari and Carrot are admirable, but both are also beyond most of our reach. Vimes, in contrast, is every-man. His dilemmas are those that all of us must face. That Vimes can rise (and sometimes fall) to the occasion brings some hope that any of us could do so too. Pratchett's work is at its best when it uses Discworld as a backdrop for the actions and decisions of its all-too-human sapients, and MEN AT ARMS is a fine example of exactly this.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 5/27/03

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