Mark Reads ‘Men at Arms’- Part 4

In the fourth part of Men At Arms, YES. YES. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Ah, this was so good. I can already see how some of the concerns I brought up in last week’s reviews are being addressed here, and I’m also VERY INVESTED in the trio of new Night Watch characters. I WANT A MILLION SCENES WITH THEM. A million! Anyway, let’s discuss, because there’s a lot I need to talk about.

Lord Vetinari

It’s hard to say that the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork occupies a position similar to a villain because I think it’s a lot more complicated than that. He can be antagonistic, and we certainly see that in this section of Men At Arms. But he’s more like an immutable force within the story, one which the other characters have to work around. His position here is one of pragmatism in one sense, due to the fact that he does what he thinks is necessary to keep the complicated machine of the city moving forward. At the same time, he’s in control, and you can’t deny that. His scenes with both Dr. Cruces and Vimes ooze with power and control, and you never once doubt that this man knows more than anyone else, and you never hesitate to assume that Vetinari is at the top.

Initially, then, Pratchett plays it pretty straight. That first scene with Dr. Cruces further establishes the relationship between the guilds and the Patrician, but it also makes it clear that Vetinari is to be obeyed at all costs. Dr. Cruces does so, but Vimes? Oh, it’s just beautiful. I love that despite his laziness and apathy, Vimes knows when he’s on to something. He knows when Vetinari’s machinations work against some sort of greater good, and he knows when not to obey. The world of the Patrician runs fairly smoothly, and I don’t think Vimes would dispute that. However, it’s convenient that the rules that are always ignored are now suddenly enforced, and if anything? Vimes is stubborn enough to continue ignoring the. For tradition!

Bjorn Hammerhock

Serious things first: so, was that Edward commissioning a cannon from Hammerhock? Where did he find it? I thought it was a gun, but the hole it left in Hammerhock seems too big for that. But why? Why does Edward want it? And what if I’m wrong AND THAT WASN’T EVEN EDWARD?

Bjorn. Bjorn again. Bjorn again. I wasn’t ready, nor was I ready for DEATH’S FIRST PUN. He was so proud of himself!!!!


It’s nice to feel like I might actually understand what a book is trying to pull off, so I hope I’m not wrong about this. But there are numerous scenes in this section where Sergeant Colon does his best to train the new recruits in the workings of the Night Watch. Initially, he works on the truncheon use in Night Watch work, and it demonstrates the obvious flaw in his teaching method: he refuses to adapt this technique to people who aren’t human men. Cuddy can’t reach most people’s heads, and Detritus is far too powerful to wield a tiny baton. When the team tries crossbows, it’s the same deal. Instead of adapting his methods to each person, Colon just wants to teach what he thinks is right. Up to this point, all the members of the watch have been human men, and thus, that’s the only valid way to teach people.

Thankfully, Pratchett gives space for these three characters to (briefly) talk about their frustrations, and I appreciate that. What Colon is doing is making these people feel so awful that they’re certain he doesn’t even view them as worthy of much of anything:

That was the worst part. It would have been better all round if he’d called the dwarf some names. It would have been better if he’d made it seem that Cuddy was worth an insult.

And that’s the sense we get from their discussion. Cuddy knows that Colon was insulting them all; Angua knows that Colon doesn’t believe women should be in the watch; and poor Detritus is trying as hard as he can to do his best, and he keeps getting fined for it.

So how does this change? What will make Sergeant Colon look at these people differently? We know that they’re all very talented, and even just 80-odd pages into this book, there are examples of that: Angua tracking down Gaspode. Detritus’s immense strength. Cuddy’s skill with a battle axe. The problem is that Colon needs to recognize that part of the way equality works is in acknowledging the differences in people and uplifting them for it.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be seasons 1 & 2 of The 100, Death Note, and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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