Mark Reads ‘Guards! Guards!’: Part 17

In the seventeenth part of Guards! Guards!, the King of Ankh-Morpork faces off against an unexpected opponent. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld

It’s been so fascinating to watch Vimes come into his own in this book. The Vimes that I met at the beginning of Guards! Guards! had, more or less, given up on his life having any sort of promising future. Look at who he is now, though! As the dragon blasts the distillery, which blows up and backfires horribly on the King, Vimes is busy running towards the action instead of ignoring it or running in the opposite direction. He expresses regret that he may have treated his fellow Watch guards terribly. And when he begins to free Lady Ramkin, he doesn’t cower in the face of the palace guards:

“Right, you’ve asked for –” one of the guards began. Vimes’s elbow caught him under his rib cage; before he collapsed, Vimes’s foot kicked savagely at the other one’s kneecaps, bringing his chin down ready for another stab with the other elbow.

“Right,” said Vimes absently. He rubbed the elbow. It was sheer agony.

I liked that touch at the end. Heroes always get in these huge fights and it never seems to hurt them! But Vimes isn’t a traditional hero, y’all. This shit hurts.

What’s interesting to me, then, is how Carrot kind of fills the role of the traditional hero. Kind of. He’s got a foolish sincerity to him; he’s ridiculously strong; he’s undeniably moral; and he’ll run into danger because it’s the right thing to do. And while he’s been easy to poke fun at throughout Guards! Guards!, it’s in this section that you can see his true influence: he’s made Colon and Nobby better guards. He’s made them thoughtful. He’s made them willing to run into danger because it’s the right thing to do. He started out as a joke (albeit one I found adorable), but he’s turned into one of the most important characters in this adventure.

AND LET’S ALSO TALK ABOUT THE PATRICIAN. Oh my god, how did I not question his behavior around Vimes? The man manipulates people for a living. THIS IS WHAT HE DOES. He utilizes their belief in the world for his own benefit, and he did exactly that while Vimes was in the dungeon with him. At any point in time, Lord Vetinari could have left that goddamn place, but he stayed there BECAUSE HE NEEDED LUPINE WONSE TO BELIEVE HE WAS STUCK DOWN THERE. He needed Vimes to believe in the injustice of what had happened to Ankh-Morpork because it kept him right where the Patrician wanted him to be. My guess is that somehow, the Patrician is going to end up exactly where he started: in charge of the entire city, with practically no one the wiser as to what’s really going on. (Well, aside from Vimes, who now knows more than anyone else.)

There are a lot of unexpected things in this section, but the second half of it is just… I can barely comprehend how weird and surreal this has gotten. It’s no surprise that Errol was changing into something. His bizarre gastrointestinal problems were always an obvious form of foreshadowing, and Pratchett clearly intended that. He wanted us to pay attention to this character and wonder what was happening to him. Like I said earlier, I had just assumed that through sheer willpower, Errol was trying to change himself into the kind of swamp dragon that could challenge the King.

I was so wrong.

The sunlight glinted off his silver scales as he hovered about a hundred feet up, turning slowly, balancing nicely on his own flame…

The best way I can try to summarize this is that Errol turned into a fucking jet engine. Which makes no sense to me at all, but kind of does??? Given what he ate (THE OIL, OH MY GOD), it seems somewhat reasonable that he somehow turned himself into the kind of swamp dragon that could fly at such a high rate of speed that he could cause a sonic boom from BREAKING THE SOUND BARRIER. And you know what? It’s a brilliant way to disarm the dragon, so much so that it can’t fight back, but there’s one part of this that doesn’t make any sense to me:

“You mean,” said Vimes, “all this is just – just show? He’s just doing it to impress?”

How is this impressive to a dragon? It seems that hurting the dragon, or slowing it down, won’t be viewed positively by the king of Ankh-Morpork, right? So… what?

There’s one last thing I want to talk about that’s so goddamn funny I can barely stand it. I actually started to worry that Lady Ramkin and Vimes wouldn’t be able to see eye-to-eye on the fate of the dragon. Understandably, Vimes has no interest in keeping the creature around, given what it has accomplished in the city. But he’s forced to rethink that after Lady Ramkin insists that they can’t kill the dragon because it’s too cruel:

“But it’s just a dragon! It’s just doing what a dragon does! It never would have come here if people had left it alone!”

Vimes thought: it was about to eat her, and she can still think like this. He hesitated. Perhaps that did give you the right to an opinion…

Well, they’ll all have to deal with the dragon anyway because Carrot is my absolute favorite. HOW DID I NOT SEE THIS COMING?

“It’s not that,” said Colon. “It’s Carrot. He’s arrested the dragon.”

In a beautiful twist, not only has Carrot arrested the dragon from breaking the law in Ankh-Morpork, but HE HAS TO PROTECT IT FROM EVERYONE TRYING TO KILL IT BECAUSE THAT’S ALSO THE LAW.

This book is so incredible, y’all.

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

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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