In the sixteenth part of Night Watch, Vimes and Carcer make their next moves. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
I’m glad that this part came days after I’d read the last one, as it would have been a bit of tonal whiplash to go from the deeply disturbing discovery in Cable Street to some of the more funny moments of this blockade. Given space and time, I do see Pratchett poking fun at some of the more absurd elements of protesting, like the language of revolution. And it makes sense that he’d do that! It’s his style, yes, but it’s also a way for Vimes to use his wisdom. He knows that what Reg Shoe is aiming for us never going to work because Vimes has had the luxury of living a future timeline. Therefore, he’s detached from some of the political meaning of these moments. Young Vimes, however, is more easily caught up. WHICH I DEEPLY RELATE TO. It’s so easy in your teen years and your early twenties to feel swept up in the joy of change and protest. Rey’s role here, is not so much about disillusionment—he hasn’t had time to get to that point—but about the reality of how complicated protesting can be. Getting a group of strangers to agree with one another? GOOD LUCK, SIR.
And then, Pratchett cuts over to Major Mountjoy-Standfast, and oh boy, does this ever get DEEPLY SERIOUS. It’s not a jarring transition, though. (And really, in hindsight, none of this is. How does this man segue from such variable tones with ease? WRITING, Y’ALL.) The Major and his men are perplexed and bewildered by fighting in Ankh-Morpork’s streets and alleys, and their distinct disadvantage is why they’re losing. Which is why Sergeant Carcer can arrive and manipulate them as he does. See, this is about obedience and authority. It’s about order. Those are the things the soldiers’ represent (or at least desire in some sense), and this is what Carcer appeals to. He frames Treacle Mine Road (and, by extension, Vimes) as rebels, as natural enemies, as rabble rousers who just don’t respect law and order!
What’s incredible to me is that Major and Captain Wrangle are more or less aware that they’re being manipulated:
“But that man’s an evil bastard! You know the sort. The kind that joins up for the pillaging? The kind you have to end up hanging as an example to the men?”
And yet, they still accept Carcer’s information. They still plot this “surgical strike” that’s supposed to deal with the “rebels” once and for all. Never once do they consider why it is that they have the same goal as a homicidal monster.
It’s always good to see who aligns themselves with your goals.
So… what the hell happens next? I keep saying this, but it continues to be such an important question for Night Watch. Even Vimes wonders the same thing!
Maybe the monks were right. Changing history is like damming a river. It’ll find its way around.
Vimes’s whole decision was based on his desire to prevent as much death and destruction as possible, to use his knowledge of this massacre to re-route history, timeline be damned. But if this surgical strike is going to happen anyway, was any of this worth it? Well, perhaps because Young Vimes gets to watch himself be brave and courageous and moral, this is worth it. Isn’t this what he needed to grow up into the man he is now?
But, again: is that enough? Is that enough if everyone still dies, if people still suffer all over again?
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