All the little angels rise up, rise up
All the little angels rise up high!
Night Watch, by Sir Terry Pratchett, along with a lilac pin and Dorami (Mi Mi)
Unlike my other book reviews, this time I have taken a picture of my own copy of Sir Terry Pratchett's Night Watch, arguably one of the finest novels in the entire Discworld series. For me, it ranks among the top three, and it certainly is the best out of the Watch novels.
Here's a fairly spoiler-free summary for those of you who have not read it:
Our protagonist, Sir Samuel Vimes, has everything any man could want - power, wealth, respect, the love of a good woman, and a child on the way (literally - the book starts off with Lady Sybil ready to deliver their baby). He laments the loss of the old days, when he was just a plodding alcoholic copper, down in the gutters (often literally), chasing and probably not catching miscreants.
And then Vimes is sent back to the past, because Magic happens, along with a serial murderer Carcer, and he gets his wish of reliving the Good Old Days. Except the Good Old Days are not that good, and if Vimes isn't careful, he might never return to the time from whence he came.
Be careful what you wish for indeed.
This is a dark book. There is no getting around it. Murder, torture, corruption, authoritarianism... When an angry, cynical, righteous man is placed in such a scenario, he can feel either despair or rage.
Sam Vimes is an angry man. More importantly, he knows when and how to use his anger. This time, his anger is directed at History.
Neil Gaiman once said that Terry Pratchett was an angry man. His anger was not for himself, but at humanity, who should be better than it currently is. It's hard to argue with this sentiment, because we as a species suck.
Sir Pterry's own anger and humor are both on top form here, with biting insight into why people turn a blind eye to torture and how revolutions really work. However, it is in the quiet, introspective moments, when Vimes really look at the darkness around him and inside him, that the novel truly shines with hope that things will turn out better, eventually.
One of my favorite passages in the novel is when Vimes realizes that he knows he faces a tough choice, between those he love in the hazy future, and the people around him at that very moment in this past.
History finds a way? Well, it was going to have to come up with something good, because it was up against Sam Vimes now.
In that one line, Sir Pterry captured everything that was Sam Vimes. One man, against seemingly insurmountable odds, and determined to do the right thing at any cost.
The first time I read this line, I cried. Now, after umpteenth readings, I still tear up, because I see Pratchett's resolution and fury against overwhelming odds. Again and again in the book, shady deals are made, cruelty is tolerated, selfish people succeed, and still - still! - Vimes clutches Hope close to his battered, cynical heart, believing that somehow, somehow he could change things for the better.
As I write this review, I only wish we could have had more of Sir Pterry's compassionate rage against callousness and selfishness, against brutal ignorance and narrow-minded hate. He was angry because he hoped that we could be better, because he knew we were capable of being loving, kind, courageous people. All I can do now is carry on in the same Vimes spirit: doing the right thing at any cost, regardless of the odds.
In tribute to the People's Revolution of the Glorious 25th of May,
GNU Terry Pratchett