Guards!Guards! by Terry Pratchett. Or, Classic British Humour


Read August 2015
Recommended for fans of Pratchett, British humor
 ★    ★    ★   


My Terry Pratchett Experience ™ is remarkably similar to my Month Python Experience.™  Fun and funny, but really best done in small doses. Say, 15 minute doses if I’m watching, longer if I’m reading.

It turns out, I haven’t read Guards!Guards! before, although I thought I had. Quite possibly, it is because I had not. Quite possibly, it’s because I had and forgot, but you’d think I’d remember the dragons. For future reference, it’s the one where the adopted dwarf Carrot goes to the big city of Ankh-Morpork and joins the Night Watch in hopes of Becoming a Man.  Night Watch captain Sam Vimes spends most of his days and nights in an alcoholic stupor, but the antics of Carrot in Enforcing Law and Order soon force Vimes into involvement. Meanwhile, a secret society (the Elucidated Bethren of the Ebon Night) has decided to summon a dragon, intending on overthrowing the Patrician Lord Vetinari and replacing him with an old-fashioned monarchy. Some of the Brothers are quite sure they are being held down and need a monarchy to make things right:

I get oppressed all the time,” said Brother Doorkeeper. “Mister Critchley, where I work, he oppresses me morning, noon and night, shouting at me and everything. And the woman in the vegetable shop, she oppresses me all the time.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Like Monty Python, Pratchett specializes in absurdity, in mocking our perceptions, definitions and expectation. Clever and funny; a little bit of social commentary with an edge, both are particularly skilled in word games.

“‘But you’re my kind,’ said Carrot desperately. ‘In a manner of speaking, yes,’ said his father. ‘In another manner of speaking, which is a rather more precise and accurate manner of speaking, no.'”

Which puts me in mind of another famous sketch based on, you know, meaning and such:

I wish to complain about this parrot I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“It’s dead.”
“No, no; it’s resting.

Parrot Sketch: “he’s resting.” YouTube:

It is funny, but when it’s all clever wordplay–mocking villains in their thick dark cowls, and the general populace for being sheep, and Carrot for being So Earnest, and Lady Sybil for being such a hearty, large Englishwoman, and the only one who is really clever is the Patrician–well, it’s a bit hard to empathize. And honestly, rather tiring.

Then there’s the Librarian, an orangutan who runs the greatest library in the world. He’s trying to make Constable Carrot understand a serious crime has been committed:


A book has been taken. A book has been taken? You summoned the Watch,’ Carrot drew himself up proudly, ‘because someone’s taken a book? You think that’s worse than murder?’

The librarian gave him the kind of look other people would reserve for people who said things like, ‘What’s so bad about genocide?’

Which pretty much reminds me of the Albatross sketch. Both use the device of the straight man for maximum silliness:

The Albatross at Intermission:

Albatross for sale!

At the end of the day, certainly fun. There’s certainly messages and social commentary that elevate it above simple romps, but it tends to be applied with heavy emphasis. Like Python, best enjoyed in short sketches. 

Don’t worry, I’ll show myself out.

On the way to the Ministry of Silly Walks

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
This entry was posted in Book reviews, fantasy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Guards!Guards! by Terry Pratchett. Or, Classic British Humour

  1. Three stars, surely it’s just a nick. Not like the Holy Hang Grenade of Antioch or anything

  2. fromcouchtomoon says:

    Nice analysis and great timing (comedic and otherwise)! I share your feelings about Pratchett, and I suspect my days of finding Monty Python hilarious disappeared with my teenagehood (and the past couple of decades). Thank goodness humor continues to evolve.

    • thebookgator says:

      You know, it’s interesting–teenagehood was when I loved Python the most, especially The Holy Grail. Of course, that didn’t stop me from frequently falling asleep during re-watches. Although I’m not sure I’d call modern debauchery humor ‘evolution…’ 😉

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