The relative quality of any humorous novel really just depends on how funny it is, in the reader’s opinion. It all boils down to whether or not it makes you laugh. And boy did I. Some of the vernacular was too British for me, and sailed right over my head, some of it was really obvious stuff like the foot/leg thing above, but Pratchett fires off a lot of ammunition, some of it hits and some of it doesn’t. In general, I found it funny enough to recommend it. Something about Terry Pratchett’s humor gives me a warm feeling in my belly. It makes me happy. To me it’s not quite as laugh-out-loud hilarious as Douglas Adams, or as poignant as Vonnegut, but it has its own peculiar charm that I found delightful.
Now, an open letter to the copywriter who included a very late spoiler on the back cover blurb which distorted my expectations in a weird way. The spoiler took place on page 241! This is rudimentary science here, like understanding that the world rests on a turtle or something, or that vaccines cause adults.
Dear Sir or Madam,
From an Aggrieved and Bewildered Reader,
My quibbles with regards to Guards! Guards! are all minor. There’s a little confusion at the beginning as to who is the main character. Carrot, the idealistic new recruit is given a healthy back story at the outset. Pratchett just devotes more words to him in the first 30 or 47 pages of the book than he does to Vimes. I think this is partly intentional, playing off of Carrot’s kingly pedigree to roast the stereotypical fantasy trope of the secret king. But it did cause some banana peel-esque unsure footing at the outset of the story.
What really makes a book like this work is the lovable cast. The characters aren’t realistic compared to the typical fantasy story. They are caricatures, with two-dimensional motivations and relationships. But their idiosyncratic foibles are both amusing and endearing. We can see the directions in which their simple emotional mechanisms propel them, but Pratchett ingeniously devises a barrage of quips, puns, and misunderstandings to make the inevitable a delight.
Guards! Guards! is a romp. It’s a silly farce masterfully disguising a societal critique, that in the end doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s fun, often juvenile humor. If you are the sort that likes wordplay, irreverence, and truly fantastical scatalogical humor, you’ll adore it. If not, you can always get a head start on next year’s taxes.
P.S. I loved everything about the library and the librarian. Every ‘Ook’ he uttered filled me with joy.
P.P.S. Love to Minty!