Men at Arms

Posted by : atcampbell | On : May 5, 1998

Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett

Six people attended the discussion of Men at Arms, a fairly recent entry in Pratchett’s long-running Discworld series. This humorous fantasy novel is a follow-up to Guards! Guards!, which we discussed last year. To confound those who like to pigeonhole books into single genres, I should mention that despite the presence of wizards and dragons, this book’s plot has strong mystery elements.

Our reactions to this book ranged from “one of my favorite all time books” to “really good — I read it twice” to “enjoyed it, but not a great thrill” to “completely boring — I couldn’t get past page 60”. Those who liked it most had read prior Discworld novels, so we surmised that some of the background gleaned from reading the other books increased appreciation.

There were a lot of nice touches in the book. I personally enjoyed the surprise appearance of Leonardo da Vinci, who appears in an awful lot of Reading Group books. Several people commented favorably on the book’s exploration of ethnic relations. There were also thoughtful insights into the connection between vocation and duty. The characters were well realized, especially Corporal Carrot — a rare good, heroic, simple character without any apparent dark side. The humor in the book was compared to the work of Douglas Adams, Tom Holt, and Piers Anthony.

There were some negative comments. Some folks found the writing clever but didn’t find the material thought-provoking enough for their tastes. Other complaints were mainly along the lines of “this humor is not to my taste”.

The majority of our group enjoyed this book, and we were pleased to learn from the staff of Adventures in Crime & Space that Pratchett has written several more “guards books”.

— A. T. Campbell, III