This is one of those books in the series that I don’t revisit as often as I should. I think when I was first reading through this series it didn’t hit me in the way that it does now. This book focuses on racism and nationalism which are hot topics right now in the USA and have been for a while. Klatch is a stand-in for the middle east much like the counterweight continent is a stand-in for Asia. Now, these books are old and sometimes Pratchett can date himself with the jokes he makes. I was worried going into this one, but honestly I think it aged well all things considered.
So, an island forms right in the middle between Klatch and Ankh-Morpork and there’s an argument that turns into a war over who gets to keep this island. There are delegates sent from Klatch and their reception in Ankh was less than polite. Vimes has to explain and try to make up for the citizens but it’s difficult when people are calling them “towel heads”. This book is very, very on the nose as it were. The insults used against the Klatchians are those used against Middle Easterners in real life and that can make this a difficult read, I would expect more-so if you’re Islamic or from that area of the world. However, it’s clear what the message is here – fuck racists. I also would say that this is one of those Discworld books that’s intentionally not that funny and more serious. I’m not sure what was going on at this time in Britain but I have a feeling maybe things were racially charged.
The whole cast of the Watch is back and naturally I love watching them evolve and grow — or how they play off of one another. Not every watch character grows like Vimes, some of them are delightfully static sounding boards for other characters to launch their growth from, if that makes sense.
One of the things I really love about this book and had forgotten is that Vetinari plays a pretty big role in this book and a lot of his backstory and fleshing out of his character happens in this book. I had known a lot of these things about Vetinari given how many times I’ve re-read this series, but I had forgotten it was this book in partiular that Vetinari gets such a prominent highlight.
Pratchett has a way of satirizing current culture and events and since he was such a fast writer his books were usually on topic for the times. This isn’t to say there aren’t funny moments, there are, but this is one of the more bleakly toned books that became dominant later on in the series. Pratchett was an angry guy, underneath it all. His anger was directed at injustice and human cruelties, and then later on at his disease. These personal themes play out hard sometimes. I think this is one of those on-the-nose and not-that-funny books which is perhaps why I tend not to think to go back to this one. That said, it’s a very good book and one I’d still definitely recommend.
It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was us, what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do the bad things.
- Plot: 12.5/15
- Characters: 14/15
- World Building: 14/15
- Writing: 13/15
- Pacing: 12/15
- Originality: 13/15
- Enjoyment: 8/10
Final Score: 86.5/100