From the moment of the dedication (to all the generic guard-type characters whose sole function is to rush into danger in chapter 8 and die a faceless death to up the stakes), I knew I was in for a great time. This is my second Discworld read.
It won't be the last.
Guards! Guards! starts as a ridiculously funny satire that pokes fun at fantasy tropes, while at the same time homaging them in amusing ways. Then it gets deeper. It explores what it means to fail, to be on the bottom; the nature of power and corruption - and how we can redeem ourselves after a life of misery.
“If there was anything that depressed him more than his own cynicism, it was that quite often it still wasn't as cynical as real life.”
I view Pratchett as a kind of trickster. Come for the hilarious set ups (and they're still the best in the business), stay for the deep introspections into the human condition. Don't be fooled: just because this novel is funny doesn't mean it's not serious. Also, don't be fooled the other way. Just because it's serious doesn't mean it's funny.
“Down there - he said - are people who will follow any dragon, worship any god, ignore any inequity. All out of a kind of humdrum, everyday badness. Not the really high, creative loathsomeness of the great sinners, but a sort of mass-produced darkness of the soul."
What Pratchett shows, in marvelous fashion, is that seriousness and humour and tragedy and comedy are all interwoven into the human spirit. No one quite explores this strange chemistry like he did. I was so incredibly moved by the ending of this book - and while I'm sad Pratchett's no longer with us, I'm so grateful for the treasure trove of literature he left us. Here's to many more Discworld adventures ...
Overall Rating: 5/5.