This review is a re-post of my 2015 Goodreads review of this book.
This morning, Commander Vimes of the City Watch had it all. He was a Duke. He was rich. He was respected. He had a silver cigar case. He was about to become a father.
This morning he thought longingly about the good old days.
Tonight, he's in them.
Flung back in time by a mysterious accident, Sam Vimes has to start all over again. He must get a new name and a job, and there's only one job he's good at: cop in the Watch. He must track down a brutal murderer. He must find his younger self and teach him everything he knows. He must whip the cowardly, despised Night Watch into a crack fighting force -- fast. Because Sam Vimes knows what's going to happen. He remembers it. He was there. It's part of history. And you can't change history . . .
But Sam is going to. He has no choice. Otherwise, a bloody revolution will start, and good men will die. Sam saw their names on old headstones just this morning -- but tonight they're young men who think they have a future. And rather than let them die, Sam will do anything -- turn traitor, burn buildings, take over a revolt, anything -- to snatch them from the jaws of history. He will do it even if victory will mean giving up the only future he knows.
For if he succeeds, he's got no wife, no child, no riches, no fame -- all that will simply vanish. But if he doesn't try, he wouldn't be Sam Vimes.
And so the battle is on. He knows how it's going to end; after all, he was there. His name is on one of those headstones. But that's just a minor detail . . .
This, right here, is a Discworld novel for Discworld fans. The Watch have always been my favourite characters, and Vimes is certainly my favourite of the bunch. So obviously an origin story about the man is going to go over well. But this isn’t lazy fan service, and is replete with Pratchett’s beautifully incisive writing, teaching us about what it means to be a “copper” when the world is falling to pieces.Continue reading...
Cohen the Barbarian.
He's been a legend in his own lifetime.
He can remember the good old days of high adventure, when being a Hero meant one didn't have to worry about aching backs and lawyers and civilization.
But these days, he can't always remember just where he put his teeth...
So now, with his ancient (yet still trusty) sword and new walking stick in hand, Cohen gathers a group of his old -- very old -- friends to embark on one final quest. He's going to climb the highest mountain of Discworld and meet the gods.
It's time the Last Hero in the world returns what the first hero stole. Trouble is, that'll mean the end of the world, if no one stops him in time.
Just what I needed to wash away the lingering after-effects of Revelation Space… short, sweet, perfect Pratchett. If you’ve ever wondered why satire is an important artform, Pratchett shows us, with his uncanny ability to take cliches and archetypes, twist them around, and use them to teach us a little more about ourselves:
“He’d never been keen on heroes. But he realised that he needed them to be there, like forests and mountains… he might never see them, but they filled some sort of hole in his mind. Some sort of hole in everyone’s mind.”
Nine hundred thousand years ago, something annihilated the Amarantin civilization just as it was on the verge of discovering space flight. Now one scientist, Dan Sylveste, will stop at nothing to solve the Amarantin riddle before ancient history repeats itself. With no other resources at his disposal, Sylveste forges a dangerous alliance with the cyborg crew of the starship Nostalgia for Infinity. But as he closes in on the secret, a killer closes in on him. Because the Amarantin were destroyed for a reason—and if that reason is uncovered, the universe—and reality itself—could be irrevocably altered...
Poor characterization and even poorer dialogue (honestly, don’t give me the names of the characters and by their dialogue I probably wouldn’t be able to tell them apart), uneven pacing, gimmicky writing (e.g., frequently creating artificial tension by withholding information from the reader for no good reason)… and a brilliant concept.
I have a like/detest relationship with this book. I nearly didn’t finish it, but once the plotlines converge and we start rushing to the end, it becomes compelling enough to plow through.
But only barely.
Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A high school math genius, he's secretly fascinated with a series of children's fantasy novels set in a magical land called Fillory, and real life is disappointing by comparison. When Quentin is unexpectedly admitted to an elite, secret college of magic, it looks like his wildest dreams have come true. But his newfound powers lead him down a rabbit hole of hedonism and disillusionment, and ultimately to the dark secret behind the story of Fillory. The land of his childhood fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he ever could have imagined. . . .
The book is slow to start and it often feels as though Grossman is going through the motions. But the driving second half more than makes up for it. And with choice quotes like:
“Look, who’s the talking bear here?” Quentin snapped. “Is it you? Are you the talking fucking bear? All right. So shut the fuck up.”
The meta-fiction is downright entertaining.
Some might find the book needlessly angsty, and there’s some merit to that complaint. But its an interesting alternative look at what it would mean to discover a magical world embedded in our own.