Several nights ago, I picked up Men at Arms, by Terry Pratchett, because I didn’t want to start reading The Paths of the Dead before bed (for fear that I would be up all night reading the whole thing. This turned out to be a good decision.). I’ve been done with the book for a while, but the last few nights, my time has been taken up with computer issues instead. (My new port replicator hates the USB card I wanted to put in it. Grr.)
Men at Arms is the second book in the Guards sub-series of the Discworld books, after Guards! Guards!. Most of the book is styled as a police procedural, as a series of unusual killings puzzles the Watch and sparks ethnic (dwarf-troll) tensions in the city. This part of the book is really enjoyable; I love the interactions between the new members of the Watch, particularly Detritus and Cuddy, and it’s always fun watching Vimes and Carrot policing. However, I think the book bungles the semi-MacGuffin by being about as subtle as a sledgehammer—not that the Discworld books are generally known for being subtle, but this is bad in a Real World political kind of way, which makes it even more strident. There are lovely moments in this book, and I really like it if I skip over those few pages here and there.
As an aside, I’ve been trying to see why I thought that the Patrician was considerably older than portrayed in Night Watch. Here’s one reason: he’s described as limping and hobbling during his end-of-book conversation with Carrot (which, by the way, is a great conversation). I know, you were all losing sleep over that one . . .