I couldn’t sleep last night, so I read GUARDS! GUARDS! by Terry Pratchett. This finishes up ALL the Sam Vimes books, which I either read or listened to in the past few months. As it happens, I started with SNUFF, so then I went on and listened to / read the rest of them in reverse order, which in case you’re interested is:
THE FIFTH ELEPHANT
FEET OF CLAY
MEN AT ARMS
I’d read NIGHT WATCH before, several times, but I was saving most of the rest to get as audiobooks because I discovered that Terry Pratchett is fabulous in audio format, easily the best author I’ve ever listened to. (Though it turns out that GUARDS GUARDS is not available in audio format, at least not in this country, so I wound up getting that one in paper.)
And btw, you want the ones narrated by Steven Briggs, who gets everyone’s voice exactly right; I really did not like the narrator for MEN AT ARMS, who gave Vimes a weird nasal voice and Angua a terrible stuffy deep voice that didn’t work for me at all. I didn’t think the narrator would make such a difference, but it did.
These books span quite a time period, right? Actually, a nice even decade. GUARDS GUARDS came out in 2001 and SNUFF came out in 2011. I thought I would very likely like the later books better and I was right. I think the social-satire-disguised-as-fantasy thing, which Pratchett has patented, is indeed better developed in the later books. Though there are signs of it in the early ones, definitely.
What I didn’t expect: who would have guessed, working backwards, that Sam Vimes is actually not the main character for GUARDS GUARDS or MEN AT ARMS? Did everybody know that but me? Maybe if I’d gone in forward order, I would have liked the early books better, rather than being a little disappointed in them?
I mean, I did like both the earliest books. I really did. And I liked Carrot well enough as a main character. But the basically incompetent Sam Vimes of the early books, the man who shows flashes of competence when sober, is NOTHING compared to the competent, dedicated, teetotaler Sam Vimes who takes over as the main character starting in FEET OF CLAY.
Also, I had a particular issue with MEN AT ARMS, which I didn’t expect. Because the idea of guns as evil doesn’t resonate with me at all. I can see how a British author might go that way, but really, this feeling that weapons that depend on your personal strength are fine but weapons that anybody can use are evil? Are you kidding me? I’m much more into the the “God made men, Sam Colt made men equal” idea. Believe me, I’d much rather depend on my gun than my black belt if I ran into an ax murderer while hiking. MUCH.
And I like Vetinari much better in the later books, too. He doesn’t seem quite right to me in the earlier Vimes books. Actually, I think Vetinari reaches perfection in GOING POSTAL and MAKING MONEY, which I would grab in audio format now except I’ve already got them in paper.
So, too bad I’m out of Vimes books! But I also have the Death ones now, all in audio except for REAPER MAN which I’ve had for years and just love; and the Tiffany Aching ones, all of which I have in audio. Those will get me through quite a lot of dog show driving! Though I think I may take a break and listen to something non-Pratchett this coming weekend.
I’ve given some thought to what I appreciate in audiobooks and I think that what matters to me is a) the book must actually be good, but also b) it must be fast-paced, and c) it helps if it has snappy dialogue.
For audio other than Pratchett, I’ve therefore turned to YA. I have two YA downloaded right now: THE PRINCESS ACADEMY and I AM HALF-SICK OF SHADOWS. I’ve burned both to cds so I can use the navigator on my phone and listen to a book at the same time. Each is a mere six cds, which is actually about perfect for the relatively short drive to this weekend’s show. Don’t know which I’ll listen to. Both the reviews linked above make their respective books sound excellent.
In the meantime, though, and taking a break from audio, I’m definitely reading CAPTAIN VORPATRIL’S ALLIANCE, which arrived last night.