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Fantasy Round 20: Men (and others) At Arms

2013/07/11 2 comments

This is the first Terry Pratchett book I’ve read.  Specifically, Men At Arms.  In which the Ankh-Morpork Watch hires a dwarf, a troll, and a woman… er, werewolf… for diversity.

Wow.  That was a wild ride.

As ever, spoilers, here they come.

Hey!  That thing on the cover, it shows up in the story.  Judge away.

Hey! That thing on the cover, it shows up in the story. Judge away.  Well, except for the strange swirly background thing.  No wormholes here.

Just One More Chapter — Oh, wait…

There is no chapter.

Apparently, Pratchett thinks chapters are for kids.  (So saith Wikipedia.)  Movies and real life don’t have chapters, so why should books?

While I enjoyed the format, there is a very serious danger.  Usually, after a couple of “okay, just one more chapter, then I’ll go to bed” iterations, I actually go to bed.  Since ends of chapters are usually good stopping points.

Except… the whole book is one chapter.  Oops.

The Guilds

Eh, what?

I’m a bit puzzled by the guilds (and economy in general) of Ankh-Morpork.  Now, the Assassins Guild, I can understand that existing.  The Beggars Guild?  Okay, kind of makes sense.  And they have a clear source of income for supporting their guildhouse and activities.  Thieves Guild?  Nice protection racket.  (Pay them off, get a license, and they don’t steal from you.  And if you steal, but don’t have a license from the Guild, you’re in trouble, so it works.  Sort of.)

Fool’s Guild.

What.

So, they’re jesters, and clowns, and everybody looks down on them… and… do any of them actually work?  I mean, in Ankh-Morpork society, do people actually traumatize their children with clowns at parties, and such things?  Very strange.

But then, so is reality.

The Trolls

These guys are awesome, with the main one who shows up, named Detritus.  They’re silicon-based, and they’re from the parts of the mountains where it’s cold.  At low temperatures, their brains become superconducting and they’re very intelligent.  At warmer temperatures we squishy people like… not so much.  This isn’t really accurate, since the shift to being superconducting is actually a sharp transition, and wouldn’t exactly change computational speed, but… eh, it was cool.

On the other hand, silicon-based life-form.  Silicon doesn’t bond quite so well as carbon does for making chains of organic molecules… and needs very strong acidic solvents… what’s in Detritus’ blood, anyway?  He gets shot a couple of times… his blood should probably leave pits in the pavement.  Then again, silicon-based critters (if you could make the chemistry work at all) would probably actually be high-pressure, high-temperature animals.  Not at all like Detritus in fact.

Corporal Carrot

He’s a six-foot-plus tall human who was raised by dwarves (and, being adopted by them, is considered a dwarf for many purposes).  He’s also strongly implied to be the direct descendant of the old kings of Ankh-Morpork, and completely uninterested in the job.

And therefore, apparently, awesome.  I couldn’t find an exact match, but he’s a good example of how Good Is Not Dumb.  He’s simple, and nice, but not stupid.  And apparently has the superpower of being able to make a riot of trolls and dwarves out for each others’ blood (or other bodily fluids…) stop fighting.  And he knows everybody, and has everyone’s respect.

Fascinating.

Dragons Are Made of Explodium

Yikes.  I don’t want a pet dragon anymore.

In this universe, dragons are fairly dumb lizards capable of breathing a little fire, but if they’re stressed or sick or threatened, they self-destruct, taking whoever was menacing them with them to the grave.  Which is an interesting survival trait.

Unfortunately, a lot of people like the baby ones as pets for cutely lighting cigars or other things, and abandon them later when they get too big and dangerous.  Lady Ramkin takes them in.  She is nice.  And nuts for liking dealing with the critters.  Of course, an exploding dragon is (horrifically) used as a means of dealing some damage to the Assassin’s Guild fairly early on…

The Gonne

This seems a little strange, and isn’t fully explained.  The “Gonne” is the single gun to appear in the book (recently invented; there are fireworks around).  But, it seems to have a personality of its own, drifting into “guns kill people” territory, with implications that it points itself and bend the mind of the person holding it, trying to make them unleash glorious violence.  Or something to that effect.

How this mind-altering capacity comes about isn’t explained, which bugs me a bit, since the person who made it (Leonard of Quirm) is an alchemist, not a wizard.  Guns are mundane.  So, where did the magic come from?  I start pondering malevolent demons, or something.  But it still strikes me as odd.

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