Mass Market Paperback
By Terry Pratchett
Published: September 30, 2003
Time travel, as a story premise, can be a slippery slope. While some creators go to great lengths to describe how the Grandfather Paradox can be overcome, others find themselves backed into a corner, waving a magic wand at logical thinking and asking the audience to take it on good faith that the hazards of time travel can be easily overcome.
Meanwhile, Terry Pratchett‘s comic fantasy Night Watch — the 29th novel within his Discworld series — takes it at face value and has everyone run with it. When Sam Vimes, commander of Ankh-Morpork’s police force, is thrown back through time while chasing a psychopathic killer, there’s hardly a moment to spare for either Vimes or the reader to ruminate upon the logistics of it all. Instead, Pratchett’s time-travel is a set-up for much larger questions — and we’re talking more than just, “What would happen if he killed his grandpa?”
That’s where the subtle strengths of Pratchett’s writing come in. Though written in the third-person, Night Watch‘s story unfolds more like a stream of consciousness. Rather than being bogged down in thoughtful monologues, the story actually takes off as Vimes spends his time observing other people and contemplating how he can play to their emotions and instincts. The novel is less about asking what one would do with time travel, and more about how you would have to do it. For his part, Vimes is forced to go through the motions of the past while still hunting down a notorious killer that no one in the past has even heard of — without upsetting the reality they’re used to or the future he came from.
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