Men at arms
I read it yesterday – a very enjoyable read, I’ve given it five stars on goodreads (the average rating is 4.28). This book is mostly about the Watch characters and it’s one of the ‘classic Ankh-Morpork stories’. I was actually wondering while reading it if I’d made the wrong choice recently when I gave Small Gods as a gift to someone unfamiliar with Pratchett – this one is much closer to ‘the average Discworld novel’ than Small Gods is, and even if I probably wouldn’t have given this particular book, a book like this one might have been a better choice (as for why I wouldn’t have given this one it’s not because it’s bad, it’s rather because it would be much more natural to start out with, say, Guards! Guards!)
Some quotes from the book, which is awesome (as the five star rating also indicates):
i. “Dwarfs are very attached to gold. Any highwayman demanding ‘Your money or your life’ had better bring a folding chair and packed lunch and a book to read while the debate goes on.”
ii. “There was a splintering noise across the street. They turned as a figure sprinted out of a tavern and hared away up the street, closely followed – at least for a few steps – by a fat man in an apron.
‘Stop! Stop! Unlicensed thief!'”
iii. “Dwarfs make a living by smashing up rocks with valuable minerals in them and the silicon-based lifeform known as trolls are, basically, rocks with valuable minerals in them. In the wild they also spend most of the daylight hours dormant, and that’s not a situation a rock containing valuable minerals needs to be in when there are dwarfs around. And dwarfs hate trolls because, after you’ve just found an interesting seam of valuable minerals, you don’t like rocks that suddenly stand up and tear your arm off because you’ve just stuck a pick-axe in their ear.
It was a state of permanent inter-species vendetta and, like all good vendettas, didn’t really need a reason any more. It was enough that it had always existed.* Dwarfs hated trolls because trolls hated dwarfs, and vice versa. […] ‘Don’t see why we can’t let ’em fight it out amongst themselves and then arrest the losers,’ said Corporal Nobbs. ‘That’s what we always used to do.'”
iv. “He was said to have the body of a twenty-five year old, although no-one knew where he kept it.”
v. “The rest of the Watch came trotting along Filigree Street as Vimes reached the Guild entrance. A couple of black-clad Assassins barred his way, in a polite manner which nevertheless indicated that impoliteness was a future option.”
vi. “Vimes would be the first to admit that he wasn’t a good copper, but he’d probably be spared the chore because lots of other people would happily admit it for him.”
vii. “Assasins did have a certain code, after all. It was dishonorable to kill someone if you weren’t being paid.” (to illustrate just how packed the book is with these kinds of remarks and quips, quote # iv is from page 54 and quote # vii is from page 63 – the quotes v and vi are from the pages in between…)
viii. “Dwarfs are known for their sense of humour, in a way. People point them out and say: ‘Those little devils haven’t got a sense of humour.’
ix. “Murder was in fact a fairly uncommon event in Ankh-Morpork, but there were a lot of suicides. Walking in the night-time alleyways of The Shades was suicide. Asking for a short in a dwarf bar was suicide. Saying ‘Got rocks in your head?’ to a troll was suicide. You could commit suicide very easily, if you weren’t careful.” […]
x. “Shouldn’t we be finding out who did it?’ said Angua.
‘Why?’ said Nobby.
She opened and shut her mouth once or twice, and finally came out with: ‘In case they do it again?’
‘It wasn’t an assasination, was it?’ said Cuddy.
‘No,’ said Carrot. ‘They always leave a note. By law.’
They looked at the drinks. They drank the drinks.
‘What a city,’ said Angua.
‘It all works, that’s the funny thing,’ said Carrot.
‘D’you know, when I first joined the Watch I was so simple I arrested the head of the Thieves’ Guild for thieving?’
‘Sounds good to me,’ said Angua.
‘Got into a bit of trouble for that,’ said Carrot.
‘You see,’ said Colon, ‘thieves are organized here. I mean, it’s official. They’re allowed a certain amount of thieving. Not that they do much these days, mind you. If you pay them a little premium each year they give you a card and leave you alone. Saves time and effort all round.’
‘And all thieves are members?’ said Angua.
‘Oh, yes, said Carrot. ‘Can’t go thieving in Ankh-Morpork without a Guild permit. Not unless you’ve got a special talent.’
‘Why? What happens? What talent?‘ she said.
‘Well, like being able to survive being hung upside down from one of the gates with your ears nailed to your knees,’ said Carrot.”
xi. “The river Ankh is probably the only river in the universe on which the investigators can chalk the outline of the corpse.”
xii. “‘He was a bit … unhinged, if you know what I mean. Head too full of brains. Ha, I remember he had this idea once of getting lightning out of lemons! Hey, Sendivoge, you remember Leonard and his lightning lemons?’
Sendivoge made little circular motions alongside his head with one finger. ‘Oh, yes. “If you stick copper and zinc rods in the lemon, hey presto, you get tame lightning.” Man was an idiot!'” (This exchange made me laugh out loud. If you’re completely lost, go here.)
xiv. “how come you know so much about all this stuff?’
‘Really, Nobby?’ said Carrot.
‘Had a special job, sir. Very responsible.’
‘And what was that?’
‘Quartermaster, sir,’ said Nobby, saluting smartly.
‘You were a quartermaster?’ said Carrot. ‘In whose army?’
‘Duke of Pseudopolis, sir.’
‘But Pseudopolis always lost its wars!’
‘Ah … well …’
‘Who did you sell the weapons to?’
‘That’s slander, that is! They just used to spend a lot of time away for polishing and sharpening.'”
xv. “‘He’s got a motive,’ said Nobby.
‘Yes. Hammerhock was a dwarf.’
‘That’s not a motive.’
‘It is for a troll. Anyway, if he didn’t do that, he probably did something. There’s plenty of evidence against him.’
‘Like what?’ said Angua.
‘He’s a troll.’
‘That’s not evidence.’
‘It is to Captain Quirke,’ said the sergeant.
‘He’s bound to have done something,’ Nobby repeated.
In this he was echoing the Patrician’s view of crime and punishment. If there was crime, there should be punishment. If the specific criminal should be involved in the punishment process then this was a happy accident, but if not then any criminal would do, and since everyone was undoubtedly guilty of something, the net result was that, in general terms, justice was done.”
xvi. “‘Did you know she was a werewolf?’
‘Um … Captain Vimes kind of hinted, sir …’
‘How did he hint?’
Colon took a step back.
‘He sort of said, “Fred, she’s a damn werewolf. I don’t like it any more than you do, but Vetinari says we’ve got to take one of them as well, and a werewolf’s better than a vampire or a zombie, and that’s all there is to it.” That’s what he hinted.'”
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