With the recent announcement of the passing of author Terry Pratchett, I found my self mourning the loss of a prolific writer who's endless imagination created an entire world full of insanely funny characters, relentless amounts of satire, and all around great fun. Pratchett wrote his first Discworld novel in 1983, and has since expanded the series significantly over the years. Although there are recurring characters, locations, and themes that span across the Discworld novels, it is not necessary to read them in order to understand all that is happening.
With his Pratchett's passing, I felt it only fitting to reread one of my favorites from the Discworld series, Guards! Guards!. This book has everything you would expect from a fantasy novel. It has dragons, magic, dwarves, swords, and romance. It also has Vimes. Captain Vimes to be exact. Guards! Guards! provides the introduction of Captain Vimes to the Discworld universe. Vimes is captain of the Night Watch, which, despite its their important sounding title, are really just a small group of misfits with few other prospects in life. But, when the city of Ankh-Morpork is faced with the prospect of being burned to the ground by a fire breathing dragon, it is up to the men…and Corporal Nobbs (whatever he might be), to save the day.
Guards! Guards!, like many of Pratchett's books, is a hilarious read that leaves the reader often laughing aloud, to the discomfort of those sitting around you. Although set in an era where technology would be no existent, Pratchett still finds ways to insert "Discworld equivalents" of our own modern conveniences. For example, the Discworld has their own version of a Palm Pilot, which is a small box from which an Imp flies when you open the lid, reminding you of appointments, etc.
Although not the first book in the Discworld series, Guards! Guards! is a fantastic introduction to Terry Pratchett's writings. It is also the start of a story arc that includes Captain Vimes and his rise through the ranks of Ankh-Morpork's City Watch. The plot of the book is so twisted with little nuances that invoked a little bit of Douglas Adams, and a little bit of Kurt Voonegut. It is fun, fast, and truly entertaining. Pratchett had a way with words that, in my opinion, is unmatched in the satirical fantasy genre (f such a genre exists). His manipulation of the reader's pre-conceived notions about what fantasy should be is spectacular. Just when you think you have the whole story worked out, he throws a curve ball in there that completes changes everything.
If you are looking for something light and entertaining that will leave you laughing until the very end, Guards! Guards! is what you need. No previous knowledge of the Discworld needed. Just start turning the pages, and enjoy.