Mark Reads ‘Guards! Guards!’: Part 7

In the seventh part of Guards! Guards!, there’s a dragon, and everyone has to deal with it. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of alcoholism/addiction

I appreciate that Vimes’s characterization is changing slowly. Even though he’s more aware of his drinking and his place within the Patrician’s machine than he’s ever been before, he doesn’t suddenly become a vicious badass who throws caution to the wind. And he certainly doesn’t stop drinking, either. It’s part of a behavior of his that he inherently falls into throughout the waking hours of his life. And as someone who once relied entirely on drinking to get me through the day, this particular passage hit really close to home:

He was aware that his right hand, entirely unbidden, had pulled open the bottom drawer, and three of his fingers, acting on sealed orders from his hindbrain, had lifted out a bottle. It was one of those bottles that emptied themselves. Reason told him that sometimes he must occasionally start one, break the seal, see amber liquid glistening all the way up to the neck. It was just that he couldn’t remember the sensation. It was as if the bottles arrived two-thirds empty…

Awareness slips away in a state like this, and I remember being able to drink bottles of Corona in such a short time that it felt like they’d just disappeared. (I tended to prefer hard liquor over beer, though.) I relied on the sensation so much that it was almost as if my body was controlled by someone else. If Vimes is ever going to conquer this habit, it’ll have to be through deliberate action. You can’t just wish it away, nor is it something that’s immediate for the vast majority of people.

Anyway, let’s talk about how this book is shaping up! There’s no secret anymore that a dragon is loose in Ankh-Morpork, which changes the feel of the story. Pratchett adds a whole lot of parody to the text, though, and it’s a great deal of fun to read. He uses the Elucidated Brethren to further poke fun at the very idea of a Chosen One or the Destined King. It’s all part of the Supreme Grand Master’s manipulation, of course, since these characters totally believe in this trope within their own world. As Brother Watchtower states, they’re helping Destiny to move forward in the way that they want it. In the Grand Master’s case, he’s already got someone in mind who could be this mythical “king” of Ankh-Morpork. (I thought it would be Carrot, since he fit the profile of “handsome lad who’s good at taking orders,” but there’s apparently a “distant cousin” he has in mind. Whoops!)

But my favorite bit of this is the Grand Master’s angry rant about kings. Within a universe of all sorts of magic that is nonsensical and weird, the Grand Master decries the very existence of a “real” king. On one level, it definitely works as a criticism of the tropes of the fantasy genre, particularly this part:

“What do you expect? Some people wandering in the wilderness for hundreds and hundreds of years, patiently handing down a sword and a birthmark?”

PRETTY SURE I’VE READ THAT BOOK. But he also knows that it’s an absurd notion because it’s impossible for such a thing to exist in any “pure” sense. So what shall they do? Invent one. Make him look perfect for the part, down to the shiny sword and shield, so that other people believe that he’s real. (Belief plays a huge part in the Discworld books, doesn’t it?) If the people believe it, then that’s all the Supreme Grand Master needs, right?

No more summoning the dragon.

I can give it up, he thought. I can give it up any time I like.


But it’s not just the Supreme Grand Master affected by the recent events. The whole city has changed, and I loved the introduction of Cut-me-own-Throat Dibbler, both because he’s a great joke AND a great parody of another “stock” character within fantasy worlds. There’s always someone peddling things during a citywide disaster, and not just within a fictional world like this. And most of the junk they’re selling? Well, it’s as useless as Throat’s wares, like the anti-dragon cream brewed by “a bunch of ancient monks what live on some mountain somewhere.” So specific!

It’s also brought out the Heroes, the men who play a very specific role within a fantasy narrative (like the Guard!): to fight the dragon, win half the kingdom, and win the king’s daughter.


“Cheap job,” said the intellectual. “Well below the rate. Should be half the kingdom and his daughter’s hand in marriage.”

“Yes, but he ain’t a king. He’s a Patrician.”

“Well, half his Patrimony or whatever. What’s his daughter like?”

The assembled hunters didn’t know.

“He’s not married,” Vimes volunteered. “And he hasn’t got a daughter.”

BLESS THIS BOOK. The archetypes don’t even feel the need to do their stereotypical jobs BECAUSE THE REWARD IS TOO LOW.

We see this same sort of disorder and chaos in the Patrician’s palace, where the “civic leaders” are pretty upset about the dragon, too. I love that “civic leaders” means the Chairman of the Guild of Thieves in this world! I’m interested, then, to see how the Supreme Grand Master plans to get past the Patrician. He has to tip the scales of power in this instance, and I don’t know that a hero killing a dragon will do that. The Patrician seems fairly set on the reward amount, and even if he raises it, I’m sure he’ll find a way to deny a king the chance to be a king.

What’s most interesting here is the fact that when Vimes meets with Lord Vetinari, he’s far more terse and snappy than usual. It’s a subtle change, I think, one that suggests that Vimes is realizing just how much potential there is in this situation for him to grab some of that power. He’s speaks with a matter-of-fact tone to the Patrician while also being deliberately vague about what “inquiries” he and his Watch are pursuing. He’s keeping information from the man, and I suspect it’s because he can use it to his own end. Which isn’t a bad thing! When he goes to the Librarian for more information, he finds out that he’s got a lead that no one else has. That’s important because it furthers his role within the narrative. More than anyone else, Vimes has a chance to solve the case at hand. While I don’t want to discount the Patrician, I suspect that because the Patrician looks upon Vimes poorly, this’ll give Vimes an advantage that the Patrician doesn’t have.

No one expects Captain Vimes to do great things all on his own.

The original text contains use of the word “crazed.”

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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