Mark Reads ‘Guards! Guards!’: Part 11

In the eleventh part of Guards! Guards!, Vimes and Lady Ramkin face off against a very angry dragon. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld

It’s really hard for me to parse exactly why I feel like this book is so much better than all the other Discworld books that came before it. As I said in the beginning of the video for this section, I don’t want to insult what I’ve read before! This has been a lot of fun, and that’s not me saying that Guards! Guards! suddenly renders my enjoyment null. But holy shit, HOW. I’m just barely past the halfway mark in this novel, and it’s already doing shit that I expected to happen at the end.

I think the pacing plays a large part in that, since Pratchett doesn’t waste time dropping us into this chaotic experience and then refusing to relent. But I also don’t want to ignore that the rich characterization makes Guards! Guards! a rewarding experience for me as a reader. For example, the joke at the open of this section where Lady Ramkin treats the dragon like one of her swamp dragons is funny on the surface. She acts like it’s a large dog. But is it quite as funny (and horrifying) if we hadn’t seen how she behaves around swamp dragons? There’s an innocence to her, a genuine love for these creatures that allows her to think that she can speak to the dragon and it’ll do exactly as she says. Would we care about her fate if we didn’t grow to love her by this point?

I think that’s the aspect of this book that I’m most drawn to. I feel like these characters act less as set-ups for jokes or gags, and they’re written with a depth and sadness that I’m not used to from this series. Again, it’s hard to talk about this without comparing it to past books or characters because my goal isn’t to say that Rincewind or the Witches or Eskarina are badly written. That’s not the point I want to make. I think it is easy to say that Pratchett wrote this book a little bit differently, though. From Vimes’ alcoholism and apathy to Lady Ramkin’s desire to do right by the swamp dragons, we’re getting character studies within a rather brutal parody of the fantasy genre.

And it’s just so goddamn good, and I’m a broken record. I DON’T CARE. I feel like this is something a great deal of you were waiting for, since interest in me reaching this book was PRETTY DAMN HIGH. I hope you know that this was absolutely worth it for me. I’m so glad I’m here.

So! Let’s discuss things.

Libraries

Holy shit.

All libraries everywhere are connected in L-space. All libraries. Everywhere.

I don’t even question this. I ACCEPT IT. Libraries were and continue to be an important place for me. They were my outlet to the outside world when I lived in a strict Christian household. They were my outlet to my queerness when I was trying to define it and understand it. They were my place of calm during the chaos of the first couple years of college. The downtown branch of the San Francisco library was were I did weeks of research for the novel I’m writing. (I AM SO CLOSE TO BEING FINISHED, OH MY GOD.)  Most of my favorite events have been in libraries. There truly is something magical about them, and I’m pleased that Pratchett feels the same way.

WHERE IS THE LIBRARIAN GOING, BY THE WAY?

Thaumivores

Oh my god, please read the Bas Lag trilogy by China Mieville because that’s all the word “thaumivore” reminded me of. I LOVE THOSE BOOKS.

Aside from a book recommendation, I did want to say that Vimes’s realization about the dragon feeding off magic is another part of this book that makes me very happy. As the text points out, Vimes does not possess a “classical education.” And while I am often bored by the bizarrely right-wing belief here in America that college educations are useless and cause people to become unfairly liberal, I also think that there’s a deep classism in believing that a “classical education” is something everyone needs. I face it quite often because I never finished college. (Surprise! Racists and homophobes love throwing that in my face, even in person, when being bigots. Apparently, I can’t speak to either issue because I haven’t been in university as long as they have.) So I love that Vimes can use his experience and his instinct to put the pieces together and figure out that the dragon is draining magic from the world just to exist.

It also means that the Library is threatened by the dragon’s existence in this world. I HOPE IT’S OKAY.

Thin Stairs

LADDERS. OH MY GOD, YOU HAVE RUINED ME.

The Brethren

I suppose I don’t feel all that bad about the Brethren’s fate, though it’s awful that so far, the Supreme Grand Master is alive while the Brethren are not. But this dragon can sniff out the minds that controlled it, so I imagine that it’s not going to be too long before it locates the Grand Master and… well, does its thing. However, as sad as the Brethren might be – as desperate for attention and validation as they were – they still helped the Supreme Grand Master summon a dragon that ended up killing people. So the end they get?

“We never intended this,” he said weakly. “Honestly. No offense. We just wanted what was due to us.”

A skeletal hand patted him on the shoulder, not unkindly.

And Death said, CONGRATULATIONS.

They got exactly what was due to them.

The original text contains use of the words “mad” and “idiot.”

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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