Guards! Guards!: A Novel of Discworld

Guards! Guards!: A Novel of Discworld - Terry Pratchett In late 2007, Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

I was very young at the time but I still remember it happening because one of my cousins is a huge fan of Sir Terry. It was devastating to her. Now, almost 7 years later, it is devastating to me too.

Alzheimer's is a serious issue on my father's side of the family. We usually go to the family cemetery on Memorial Day weekend with some of my older great aunts and uncles. Some of them I'll admit I don't know very well, but I still see the disease setting in when they talk about older relatives who have passed away and people from their childhood. And it breaks my heart. I really hate those outings, but my father and grandparents act like they are mandatory. Thank God, I'm at an age where I can put my foot down and say "no" and not go.

But these outings weren't even the worst of it. Before my great grandmother Opal died in 2007, we used to go and see her about every two weeks or so. She lived with my great aunt at first, but then as she got older and in worse shape we sadly had to move her into a nursing home. I always enjoyed seeing her. She was a vibrant and lovely woman who was always curious about the world around her, even when her disease took a turn for the worse and left her bed-ridden.

What did bother me about going to visit her, and what still bothers me now almost 8 years after her death, was the fact she never really learned my name. As soon as I would walk in her door with my grandmother in front of me, she would instantly think I was Richard, my father. My grandmother would tell her who I was and she would smile out at me, but I don't she ever truly understood who I was.

But when I think about this disease and the effect it has had on me the first thing I think about isn't about these events. What I think about is Stephen (Sai) King.

There was an interview King did last year with NPR before his book Joyland came out. I've yet to actually read that book but I still remember the interview clear as day, well at least one of the questions he was asked. At one point the interviewer asked King "what scares him now". This was his answer:

"It's been quite awhile since I was really afraid that there was a boogeyman in my closet, although I am still very careful to keep my feet under the covers when I go to sleep, because the covers are magic and if your feet are covered, it's like boogeyman kryptonite. And I'm not as afraid of that as I used to be. The supernatural stuff doesn't get to me anymore.

"So here's the movie that scared me the most in the last 12 or 13 years: The movie opens with a woman in late middle age, sitting at a table and writing a story, and the story goes something like, 'Then the branches creaked in the ...' and she stops and she says to her husband, 'What are those things? I can't think of them. They're in the backyard and they're very tall and birds land on the branches.' And he says, 'Why, Iris, those are trees,' and she says, 'Yes, how silly of me,' and she writes the word and the movie starts. And that's Iris Murdoch and she's suffering the onset of Alzheimer's disease. That's the boogeyman in the closet now. ... I'm afraid of losing my mind."


I will never forget that for as long as I live.

Afterwards, I hunted down the film King was talking about, Iris starring acting-god Judi Dench. This film was amazing, and it wasn't just about Iris Murdoch's disease, but also about the life and relationship with her husband that was ruined by it. It was a sad and brilliant film, and I was inexplicably in tears by the end of it.

I know this review has been a bit...off. But I felt like I needed to explain to you all why I felt so obligated to read this brilliant man's work.

I started to really like Terry Pratchett about two years ago when I started reading his some of his articles he'd down for various British newspapers and magazines. I really liked the articles and I really liked him. I came to really respect him and I would even categorize him as a genius. But I knew his life had been deeply effected by this dreadful disease and despite it all he remains vigilant and keeps writing so he won't let his avid readers down, and that is what truly won him my respect. So I told myself I seriously needed to read one of this man's works.

One of my favorite reviewers on here said to start with Guards! Guards! in her review of it. So earlier this year, in January while I was in Jacksonville, I was at a Barnes & Noble that had every book in the Discworld series. I picked up this book along with 2 others in the series and....set them on my shelf and didn't glance at them at all for 5 months. Earlier in June I decided I was going to get to them soon and I am uber glad I did.

This book was brilliant in so many unconventional ways. Whether it be the very British humor or the fact that the book constantly pokes fun at it's own cliches, I'm really not sure. But somewhere in that mess, an awesome mess too, was a great story about a group of loser city watchmen/guards who try to do something right kill the dragon that is wreaking havoc on their city.

I loved the characters in this book too. Sam Vimes is just strangely lovable with his drunken-disorderlyness and the other members of the watch have their own little traits that make them great. My personal favorite character though was Errol, the sweet little swamp dragon who eats everything, even a kettle at one point.

But even though this book was fun it also had some serious messages to convey under all that humor. Messages about the cowardice of men and absurdities of government that can really strike a chord with even the most easy going reader.

Terry Pratchett is just a brilliant writer and also has a great way with prose too.

It also didn't hurt that this book had dragons. Layton loves dragons.

So to this book I give my highest recommendation:

5 bright stars out of 5.

This book might not be right for all readers, but it sure as hell was right for me.