Mark Reads ‘Guards! Guards!’: Part 18

In the eighteenth and penultimate part of Guards! Guards!, everyone realizes they’ve misinterpreted the dragon fight, and the City Watch arrests the real criminal. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld

Have I ever been more wrong about a Discworld book? Good lord, I wasn’t even thinking along these lines but HERE WE ARE. How many clues did I miss? Am I going to have to re-read the dragon and Errol’s first confrontation again? THIS IS HURTING MY BRAIN.

Let’s start with Carrot, who must have spent AT LEAST AN HOUR reading off the charges that were being levied on the dragon. Just… that image alone is so absurd that I can’t help but love it. Carrot stood on top of a pile of rubble that was on top of a dragon, and he read the dragon their rights, and if that’s not a perfect representation of the kind of character that Carrot is, then I’ve got nothing else to give you. I mean, it’s also hilarious that Vimes decides to finally do things “by the book” simply because they hadn’t tried it yet. (The severe irony of this decision is not lost on me because… well, we’ll get to the thing soon, I promise.) So Vimes lets Carrot loose, which in this context means that Carrot does his job as literally as possible.

And it’s all upstaged by Errol, and I still can’t believe I read a book in which at least a third of it was… well…

“No, wait a minute,” said Lady Ramkin, laying a hand on his arm. “I’m not sure we haven’t got hold of the wrong end of the stick here –”

I had not figured out the explanation for Errol’s behavior at this point. I wasn’t even close.

“It’s – it’s as though he’s fussing over it,” said Vimes.

This did not help me either. I was no closer to the truth with this sentence.

Vimes felt Lady Ramkin’s gaze on the back of his neck. He looked at her expression.

Realization dawned. “Oh,” he said.

Lady Ramkin nodded.

“Really?” said Vimes.

“Yes,” she said. “I really ought to have thought of it before. It was such a hot flame, of course. And they’re always so much more territorial than the males.”

I got closer at this point. Okay, so the dragon was a female. That still didn’t help, though. So? What did this mean?

Vimes coughed urgently. Nobby’s rodent eyes slid sideways to Sybil Ramkin, who blushed like a sunset.

“A fine figure of a dragon, I mean,” he said quickly.

“Er. Wide, egg-bearing hips,” said Sergeant Colon anxiously.

“Statueskew,” Nobby added fervently.

Oh.

OH. OH MY GOD.

This was not two dragons attacked one another. THIS WAS SOME SORT OF MATING RITUAL. Errol was flirting with the dragon. Oh. Oh, this explains so much. This explains why Pratchett stopped switching over to the dragon’s point of view after the dragon finally met Errol; it would have given everything away. HOLY SHIT. Is this why the dragon stopped going after the one who summoned it/controlled it? Because she was distracted by Errol???

Does this mean there are going to be dragon/swamp dragon babies???????

I hope there’s some closure for Errol in the last section, but for now, let’s talk about the transformation of the City Watch. I know I commented on Vimes’s growth over the course of this book, but all four members of the Watch get a chance to shine here when they… well, they get to do their jobs! They get to run to a crime scene; they get to threaten the palace guards with arrest, and the threat actually works; they get to utilize the chain of command. These are all things that have never appeared in the book in any form, and it’s so fun to see them gain a semblance of respect for who they are. (Well, I don’t know that anyone respects Nobby’s attempts to be a foul-mouthed guard, but hey, at least it’s funny.)

So the four of them storm the palace, tracking down their target: Lupine Wonse, responsible for stealing the book that led to this nightmare in the first place. I’m still confused, though. Is the Patrician the Supreme Grand Master? Did he plan for all of this to happen exactly as it has, or did Wonse surprise him? Actually, the more I think about it, the more I feel as if Wonse lied about the Patrician summoning the dragon. Doesn’t it make more sense that Lupine Wonse himself is the Supreme Grand Master? I suppose that has to be the case because we already knew that Brother Fingers was suspected to be one of the members of the Thieves’ Guild. I WAS VERY CONFUSED ABOUT ALL THIS, Y’ALL. (Oh god, now I suspect that a lot of you are going to comment about this in the reviews before this. WHOOPS, I’VE CAUSED A CONTROVERSY.) I assumed that since the Patrician had said that he often caused the very challenges to his power, that meant he was implicated in the same scheme that Wonse had executed. If the Patrician was the Supreme Grand Master, then Wonse had to be the surviving member of the Brethren, the same one who stole the book that Wonse possessed in the final scenes of this section.

Well, turns out I just needed to write this down to understand it. Now, Wonse’s behavior – from his terror towards the dragon and the dragon’s fixation on him – makes a whole lot more sense. She had sought out the one who summoned her; she wasn’t just using Wonse because it was convenient. SHE WAS PUNISHING HIM FOR SUMMONING HER.

Anyway, now that I’ve used a review to figure out what’s actually going on in this book, I feel like I understand it a lot better. The confrontation between the Watch, the Patrician, and Wonse… jesus, y’all, I missed the mark so badly. SO BADLY. What have I done??? Why else would the Patrician have been so calm about all of this? Because he knew he’d end up on top again. He knew that if Wonse locked him in the dungeon, all he had to do was wait it out. He could get out at any time he wanted.

Oh, I’ve never been so wrong.

Let’s talk about the best thing ever instead:

“That’s it, then,” he said, and turned away. “Throw the book at him, Carrot.”

“Right, sir.”

Vimes remembered too late.

Dwarfs have trouble with metaphors.

They also have very good aim.

Death by metaphor, y’all. HOLY SHIT. Of course, it’s absolutely perfect that Wonse’s death is caused by Carrot throwing The Laws and Ordinances of Ankh at him. Killed by the law! It’s poetic! (Death sure seemed to think so.)

Then we’ve got the Patrician’s advice to Vimes, which… WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? Actually, it fits exactly within the Patrician’s view of the world, but after the silliness of Wonse’s death, I thought it was jarring to read such a heavy dose of cynicism. I don’t know precisely how I feel about his outlook; part of me is cynical enough about humanity to agree with some of this:

“Down there,” he said, “are people who will follow any dragon, worship any god, ignore any iniquity. All out of a kind of humdrum, everyday badness. Not the really high, creative loathsomeness of the great sinners, but a sort of mass-produced darkness of the soul. Sin, you might say, without a trace of originality. They accept evil not because they say yes, but because they don’t say no.”

That complacency was certainly a significant part of this very book. The citizens of Ankh-Morpork really were ready to accept a world where a dragon was their king and they sacrificed a maiden once a month in order to not be roasted to death. I think it’s true even of our world that this refusal to say no to certain things is what brings about such wretched systems: of inequality, of bigotry, of discrimination, and of extreme pain, both physical and emotional.

Where I disagree with the Patrician is in his insistence that people like him – who are bad, know it, but have a Plan to rule the world – are the only ones who have truly figured everything out. He believes the world needs people like him. It stinks of a certain arrogance, one that assumes that no one person can have any power to make change without royally screwing it up in an epic display of “badness,” or whatever you want to call it. What makes the Patrician special? Is it his honesty? Vimes may want to see the best in people, but I wouldn’t characterize him as dishonest about the human condition. It’s a lot easier for someone like the Patrician to say that the world needs him when he’s on top. I would be far more interested in what someone on the bottom thought of men like the Patrician.

Let’s also appreciate how wrong I was. Again. Lord, I thought Wonse was Brother Fingers. LORD.

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

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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