In the nineteenth part of Thud!, Vimes makes a compromise. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For police brutality
Well, there’s an exception to the rule, isn’t there? Y’all, I never expected to reach a point where Vimes would actually commission the use of magic in a Watch investigation, but if he was going to do it, then here’s the exception. It’s interesting to me upon examination that this usage doesn’t actually affect the actual police work itself. It’s solely about the logistics of travel, a means that allows these two coaches to travel a long distance in very little time. So, technically, I don’t think Vimes has compromised himself on this note. He still hasn’t personally used magic. I mean, only Fred and Willikins have, right? Since they’re steering both of the coaches? Technically???
Okay, that’s a minor point. The bigger point: HOLY SHIT THIS IS SO FUN. It’s fun to experience that meeting between Ridcully and Vimes because now, knowing what the wizards did to those coaches, I can re-read that scene and see the overwhelming joy that is emanating from the Archchancellor. Oh, I could tell he was excited by the prospect that Vimes had presented him, but he was also clearly planning at least half of this on the spot. You know he was thinking, “But what if the broomsticks are HIDDEN from sight???” And he did it so he could follow Vimes’s orders in the most strictest sense of interpretation and yet still be FUCKING RIDICULOUS.
“Nothing too obvious.” Well, none of this was obvious! I didn’t expect the wizards to do what they did! So I guess they did what Vimes asked them?
Before I move on to that scene, I did want to talk about an uncomfortable moment that I hope Pratchett intended as something deeply uncomfortable. I say that because it was so clear before during that important scene with Bashfulsson that Pratchett was addressing power and violence in regards to law enforcement. Even if Vimes didn’t plan to act on his violent thoughts towards the dwarfs, I found it powerful that we were still uncomfortably drawn into Vimes’s thoughts, only to then be forced to reflect on what they meant. There’s another part here that felt related:
Come along boys. Say something wrong. Lay hold of a weapon. Move slightly. Breathe loudly. Give me something that could be stretched to “in self-defense.” It’d be my word against yours, and believe me, lads, I’m unlikely to leave you capable of saying a single damn thing.
The dwarfs run away at this, but there’s little in the text that accompanies this that makes it obvious that this is a really terrifying moment. I didn’t read it as a badass moment but one that gives us a glimpse into Vimes’s mental state at this point. He’s still raw around the edges, still furious about what the deep-downers did to his family, still itching for revenge. He doesn’t act out this dark, upsetting thought, which is good, but Vimes is also not in a state to recognize that the thought itself is a problem, too. Stretching what counts as “self-defense” is like… textbook police brutality? So, my gut tells me Pratchett is probably doing this on purpose, particularly since no one is there to check Vimes on these impulses since they’re all internal.
ANYWAY. Let’s talk about the coach ride, which is just a delight???? Look, there’s something fun about characters who, despite living in a magical world (seriously, Vimes recently traveled through TIME), are pretty much non-magical and then are FORCED TO LIVE IN MAGIC. It’s just so entertaining! And there are so many of them on this journey, since in addition to the original twelve, there’s also Brick—who has gone cold turkey at the absolute worst time—and Willikins, our force of consistency and casual violence. (I assume that Vimes counted Bashfullson initially, right? Or maybe he counted Willikins but not Bashfullson.) Before the chaos begins, this was actually pretty introspective. Vimes did some research on the Koom Valley, and I got an appreciation for just how important the flooding was not just to the Koom Valley myth, but to the area in general. I suspect that’s going to be important for a reason to be seen, so I’m storing that away for later. Those complicated caverns and waterways will mean something!!! I know it!!!
And then, once the coaches are out of the city… it’s a lot. A GREAT DEAL. And whereas I expected that the magical “weightlessness” of the coaches was the key, I was not ready for the sheer absurdity of the magical horsepower that the wizards provided. (Gods, what a pun.) Or the exploding cabbages and corn. Or the exploding cow??? Or going so fast that they literally don’t even touch the ground, and it’s like the actual horses aren’t even moving at all? It’s like the coaches exist outside of physical space for moment, but time still passes??? Holy shit, this was incredible.
So what’s this all leading to? As noted in the text, Vimes doesn’t really have a plan, and I hadn’t really paid attention to that. I was just excited he was going to Koom Valley and bringing so many people along! But… what if he can’t arrest the dwarfs responsible? What if they refuse to come with him? What then? Vimes doesn’t have a concrete plan of attack, but I’m wondering if he’ll need it at all.
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