Sunday, June 5, 2016
Guards! Guards! (audiobook) by Terry Pratchett, narrated by Nigel Planer
If you look up the wonderful “Discworld Reading Order” guide, this is listed as the first of the City Watch novels. The mostly ineffectual Night Watch, consisting of Captain Vimes, Sergeant Colon, Corporal Nobbs, and Carrot Ironfoundersson, the Watch's new volunteer, finds itself dealing with a secret brotherhood and the dragon the brotherhood has called into being. They receive help from Lady Sybil Ramkin, a swamp dragon breeder, and the Librarian of the Unseen University, an orangutan.
I finished this nearly a month ago and have repeatedly put off reviewing it. The problem? I remembered liking this book a lot more when I first read it. My first reading was so long ago that all I could remember was that it featured Carrot's first appearance, but I still figured I'd love this audiobook. Instead, the experience was more so-so.
I mean, I didn't dislike it. It was still as wonderfully quotable as any other Discworld book, I loved pretty much everything about Carrot (his habit of taking things literally, the bit with him arresting a dragon, everything), the Librarian got a sizable role, and I enjoyed Lady Sybil's enthusiasm for dragons. It was just that Vimes was more of a mess than I remembered. At the start of the book, he was well on his way to pickling himself in alcohol. As the story progressed, he slowly became the Vimes I'm familiar with, but, yeah, full-on drunken Vimes was a bit of a shock. I had totally forgotten about that.
The developing relationship between Vimes and Lady Sybil was a little weird. When his mind wasn't on dragons, work, and survival, Vimes spent most of his time with Lady Sybil worried that she might compromise his virtue. The end of the book featured a scene that was partly sweet and partly kind of depressing, as Vimes decided he liked Sybil both because she was awesome and also because she'd smiled at him and happened to like him for some reason, so why not?
Vimes' affection for Errol, the seemingly defective swamp dragon, was sweet, and I had to laugh at Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs' ideas about what constituted wild and crazy demands for the Night Watch to make from Lord Vetinari. Vetinari's imprisonment seemed out of character, at first, and then revealed itself to be something very much in character for him. Oh, and I was surprised to note that the setup for The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, or at least part of it, could be found in this book.
The characters were mostly enjoyable, and there were wonderful details, but the story itself was just...meh. Some of my dissatisfaction may also be due to the audio format itself. In many ways, Nigel Planer and Stephen Briggs' styles were similar, but Planer's narration felt like a more faded version of Briggs' (which I admit may be due to my having heard Briggs' Discworld narrations first). I also very much disliked the nasal quality that Planer gave Vimes' voice. He sounded like he was constantly suffering from a head cold.
The audio quality could have been better. At one point, part of the recording repeated itself. At another point, the volume suddenly turned way down and then turned back up again, in time for a line to be repeated.