The Quotable Pratchett: Night Watch

No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away

With the passing of Sir Terry Pratchett and the publication of The Shepherd’s Crown, I embarked on an epic re-reading of all 41 official Discworld novels, with the goal of finishing by 31 December, 2016.

Famous for its wit and wisdom, the series offers countless quotable quotes on a variety of subjects. The quotes I share should not be considered the whole of Sir Terry’s excellent prose; indeed, they are the tasty appetizers to a succulent, nourishing meal.

About Night Watch

Night Watch coverThis is the 29th Discworld novel and the 6th in the City Watch series.

Pratchett wrote about Time/History and Fate/Destiny before, namely in Mort and Thief of Time. Excellent as those books are on their own, Night Watch is the masterpiece of these concepts.

His Grace, Sir Samuel Vimes, Commander of the City Watch and Duke of Ankh-Morpork (and soon-to-be father) closes in on the twisted criminal Carcer on the Library roof when the unthinkable happens: the Universe (and some time-meddling monks) sends the two back in time.

And not just to any old time, either, but to the Bad Old Days of Lord Winder, well before Vetinari brought the Guilds to heel and made the City work, and just before the Glorious 25th of May and the short-lived Republic of Treacle Mine Road.

Forget stepping on ants, within hours of their arrival Carcer murders John Keel, mentor to then-Lance-Constable Vimes and ingratiates himself into the wicked machinery of the Unmentionables and Winder’s Particulars.

It’s up to Vimes, then, to take Keel’s place, teach Vimes the right way of coppering, promote Fred Colon, set Nobby Nobbs on his somewhat crooked path to the Watch, and deal with Carcer, who wasn’t there the last go-round.

A future awaits when time snaps back, but will there be room for Vimes in it?

5 stars

The Goodreads Blurb:

One moment, Sir Sam Vimes is in his old patrolman form, chasing a sweet-talking psychopath across the rooftops of Ankh-Morpork. The next, he’s lying naked in the street, having been sent back thirty years courtesy of a group of time-manipulating monks who won’t leave well enough alone. This Discworld is a darker place that Vimes remembers too well, three decades before his title, fortune, beloved wife, and impending first child. Worse still, the murderer he’s pursuing has been transported back also. Worst of all, it’s the eve of a fabled street rebellion that needlessly destroyed more than a few good (and not so good) men. Sam Vimes knows his duty, and by changing history he might just save some worthwhile necks—though it could cost him his own personal future. Plus there’s a chance to steer a novice watchman straight and teach him a valuable thing or three about policing, an impressionable young copper named Sam Vimes.

To the Quotes!

Discworld Librarian

The Librarian as he appears in The Discworld Companion, illustrated by Paul Kidby

He hated being thought of as one of those people that wore stupid ornamental armor. It was gilt by association.

Just because you’re a zombie doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.

You know that time with libraries is . . . somewhat more flexible?

Vimes found it better to look to Authority for orders and then filter those orders through a fine mesh of common sense, adding a generous scoop of creative misunderstanding and maybe even incipient deafness if circumstances demanded, because Authority rarely descended to street level.

I expect Historical Imperative will win.

Don’t assume you know what’s going to happen, because it might not.

Every honest copper ought to know how to break into his own nick.

It wasn’t that the city was lawless. It had plenty of laws. It just didn’t offer many opportunities not to break them.

. . . a mind that had arrived at thuggery by the long route and was capable of devising in the name of reason the kind of atrocities that unreason could only dream of.

Every password was swordfish! Whenever anyone tried to think of a word that no one would ever guess, they always chose swordfish. It was just one of those strange quirks of the human mind.

That was always the dream, wasn’t it? ‘I wish I’d known then what I know now’? But when you got older you found out that you now wasn’t you then. You then was a twerp. You then was what you had to be to start out on the rocky road of becoming you now, and one of the rocky patches on that road was being a twerp.

If you’re going to fight, fight. . . If you’re going to talk, talk. Don’t try to talk and fight.

His movements could be called catlike, except that he did not stop to spray urine up against things.

Ninety percent of most magic merely consists of knowing one extra fact.

In a world where we all move in curves he moves in a straight line.

The world does not deal well with those who don’t pick a side.

A man with a weapon he doesn’t know how to use is likely to have it shoved where the sun does not shine.

Don’t put your trust in revolutions. They always come around again. That’s why they’re called revolutions.

History finds a way. It’s like a shipwreck. You’re swimming to shore. The waves will break whatever you do.

Governments were not, on the whole, staffed by people who had a grip, and plans were what people made instead of thinking.

Dark sarcasm ought to be taught in schools.

Who knew what evil lurked in the hearts of men? A copper, that’s who.

Changing history is like damming a river. It’ll find its way around.

People are content to wait a long time for salvation, but prefer dinner to turn up inside an hour.

And now, a song: “All the Little Angels”


All the little angels rise up, rise up,

All the little angels rise up high!

How do they rise up, rise up,

How do they rise up high?

They rise heads up, heads up, they rise heads up, heads up high!


All the little angels rise up, rise up,

All the little angels rise up high!

How do they rise up, rise up,

How do they rise up high?

They rise knees up, knees up, they rise knees up, knees up high!


All the little angels rise up, rise up,

All the little angels rise up high!

How do they rise up, rise up,

How do they rise up high?

They rise feet up, feet up, they rise feet up, feet up high!


All the little angels rise up, rise up,

All the little angels rise up high!

How do they rise up, rise up,

How do they rise up high?

They rise arse up, arse up, they rise arse up, arse up high!

. . .

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