Re: Men At Arms

Terry Pratchett are good for taking a break, and Men At Arms is just about right for a “hang up your brain and read” kind of book.

I still find these books more jokey than funny; I got more laughs out of the footnotes. There are a lot of cheap jokes to be had at the expense of diversity hiring, prejudice, breastplate modifications, and the rather predictable foibles of the major characters. I liked the minor characters more, especially the dog Gaspode, the resourceful dwarf Cuddy, and Detritus, the troll with a heart of stone and a silicon mind.

Amid the jokes, the book doesn’t quite let you hang up your brain as it plays with thoughts on the power of kings and guns.

The book makes fun of the idea of kings by putting the desire for one into the thoughts of a madman. But all the signs point to a rightful heir to the throne: he was found as baby abandoned under violent circumstances with a bloody great sword lying about, everyone likes and obeys him, he has the ability to thrust a sword into stone.  The book seems conflicted about whether kings are a good thing. In the end, our putative heir resolves it for Good by refusing to reach for the power offered him.

Guns are unequivocally Bad, complete with evil voices telling you to shoot. I actually like the evil voices, but it wasn’t quite as interesting. You also get chances to think about justice, identity, governance, and the banality of clowns.

Good fun.