In the twelfth part of Night Watch, Vimes tries to impart some important lessons and discovers a flaw. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
So, this isn’t exactly a new bit of commentary from me about this book, but I continue to be fascinated with the way Pratchett is building tension. At this point, he is both filling in the blanks for this supposed revolution—whose breaking point occurs on a single day—while also hanging that said revolution over our heads. It’s like… well, there’s a carrot on the stick, but only like 25% of that carrot is there. I’m interested because I want to know what the carrot looks like and because I’m hungry.
If that makes any sense.
See, we open this section with a vital update from Nobby, and Pratchett does this in a way to give us a sense for how far gone the remainder of Ankh-Morpork is. After the brief confrontation (and multiple assassination attempts) at Treacle Mine Road come to pass, and after Vimes tricks Ferret into a confession… well, what now? How much waiting can they do? And lord, that waiting is PAINFUL. Seriously, I don’t blame these characters for spending the night at the watch house. Why would you go out into the streets of Ankh-Morpork unless you absolutely had to? You’ve got a pissed-off mob and a furious bunch of men from Cable Street, all of whom could easily turn on you in a second.
Given that Vimes is working in such a short timeline, then, I think he realized that he couldn’t waste a single moment. What was something that Keel taught Vimes when he was younger? Well, I’m guessing that how to fight dirty was one of those things. He doesn’t say it in the text, so maybe I’m misinterpreting this, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Indeed, that is the point of his presence here in one sense, but the other is that… well, I feel like Vimes is actively trying to change history, and I don’t know how that’s gonna actually work. The entire training sequence here feels less like he’s trying to fulfill Keel’s original role in history and MORE like Vimes is just trying to prepare these people for what’s to come. Which… they weren’t prepared for originally? And some of them actually died?
UGH I HAVEN’T FIGURED ALL OF THIS OUT, YET. I gotta say, though, that I can’t imagine a more Sam Vimes thing to do than being sent back and time and then changing that history because you couldn’t bear to let it unfold again. And it felt very Sam Vimes to watch him get a little bit of revenge on Ned Coates… well, up until we learned the truth. Coates just seemed like an asshole, one that would believably fit in with the Night Watch because most of those men were also pretty awful. Plus, Coates had hinted that he thought Vimes was a spy, and I was prepared to just write him off as a character who had just gotten it all wrong, but GUESS WHAT.
I GOT IT ALL WRONG.
“I know you’re not John Keel.”
All right, red flag, yes, I see you. But how? And why was he being so bold in all his attempts to attack Vimes???
He relaxed his grip. “Who taught you all this stuff, anyway?”
“Sergeant Keel, Sarge,” said Ned.
OH WAIT. HE KNEW THE REAL KEEL. WHICH MEANS HE WOULD KNOW VIMES IS AN IMPOSTER.
And of course Pratchett doesn’t focus on this because Swing shows up EXACTLY after this is said!!! But I found myself fascinated with what did happen. After Swing reveals that more soldiers are being sent in to Ankh-Morpork, Vimes knows they’re on the precipice of THE THING. And even knowing how bad Swing is, how violent the mob is, how horrible the Unmentionables are… every Watch man at Treacle Mine Road decides to side with Vimes to “keep the peace.”
Except Coates. And who can blame him? The odds are terrible AND he knows Vimes is a liar. Coates cannot fathom any other outcome… especially since he’s with the revolutionaries. He knows this is going to be bad. Does he warn the Watch men? No. Does he try to get them to leave town? No. He blames Vimes for sticking them in the middle of a disaster, but does he do anything himself to stop it?
Not a thing.
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