A Discworld tale of intrigue, rebels, street urchins, assassins, torturers and time monks. May or may not have anything related to this picture
"He wanted to go home. He wanted it so much that he trembled at the thought. But if the price of that was selling good men to the night, if the price was filling those graves, if the price was not fighting with every trick he knew... Then it was too high. History finds a way? Well, it would have to come up with something good, because it was up against Sam Vimes now."
The 27th Discworld
novel and the sixth in the Watch theme. The framing events take place at the same time (such as it is) as the previous novel Thief of Time
and also set up events for the following novel Monstrous Regiment
. The Watch is on the hunt for a serial killer named Carcer, who has murdered Sergeant Stronginthearm. Vimes has him trapped on the University Library's roof, but when a lightning boltnote
strikes, it causes a freak magical incident that catapults Vimes and Carcer thirty years back in time. Vimes soon inadvertently steps into the shoes of his old mentor, John Keelnote
and quickly lands himself right in the middle of the Ankh-Morpork civil war. Now he has to stop Carcer, fill his mentor's role in his younger self's life, protect the citizens of Ankh-Morpork and his fellow Watchmen from the impending war. Except that if he succeeds, he will no longer be able to return to his timeline
. Basically Life On Mars
meets Les Misérables
This novel is hailed by both fans and critics as one of the best installment of the series despite, or maybe because of its much darker than usual tone, with fewer obvious jokes and a more serious story than previous installments.
A five-part BBC radio adaptation, starring Philip Jackson (best known as Chief Inspector Japp from TV's Poirot
) as Sam Vimes and Carl Prekopp as Young Sam, was first broadcast in 2008.
Should not be confused with the Night Watch
books by Sergei Lukyanenko Night Watch
, or the film adaptation, or that one.
The front cover art by Paul Kidby is an homage
to Rembrandt's famous 1642 painting The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq which also commonly referred as Nightwatch
. (A reproduction of which adorns the back cover in the Hardcover edition).
Preceded by Thief of Time
, followed by Monstrous Regiment
. Preceded in the Watch series by The Fifth Elephant
, followed by Thud!
Night Watch provides examples of:
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: Captain Swing and the Cable Street Particulars, who also borrow heavily from the "blackshirt" fascists of the British Union.
- A Storm Is Coming: And with it, Sam Vimes' finest moment.
- A Wizard Did It: Lu-Tze uses this after attempting to explain the function of the Procrastinator.
Lu-Tze: Did you understand what I just said?
Lu-Tze: All right, it's a magical box. Happier?
- Almighty Janitor: Discussed twice. When young!Vetinari expresses disbelief that a man as clever as John Keel/Vimes is a mere sergeant, Madam points out that it's the perfect rank, giving him the right balance of authority and responsibility. The author then notes this a second time during the actual revolution; the military simply would not work were it not for the few intelligent people in unglamorous yet vital positions.
- Annoying Arrows: Justified; they didn't bother Reg much because he was practically born to be a zombie. They did kill him, though they didn't keep him down for long.
- The Apprentice
- Young Sam Vimes learning from his older self.
- Jocasta Wiggs realising, at her mentor's devising, there's a long way to go before she's good enough to graduate as an Assassin.
- Arc Words: "Just do the job in front of you." and its variations.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Truth! Freedom! Justice! Reasonably priced love! And a hardboiled egg. Because Vimes won't be finding truth, freedom nor justice by the next morning, but he might just be able to eat a hardboiled egg. He doesn't.
- The Artful Dodger: Young Nobby.
- Banana in the Tailpipe: Well, cars do not exist on Discworld, but you can create quite a bit of havoc with oxen and a handful of fresh ginger... Which combines with a Brick Joke and Truth in Television. A jade is a worn out, tired horse. To sell it, you make it look more youthful and lively. To do that, you fleague it. What you do is shove a bit of ginger in its keister, which makes it a little antsy. If you've ever heard the saying "gingering things up" i.e. make them go a bit faster, you have the rough idea already.
- Bavarian Fire Drill
- Vimes pulls this well enough to make Moist von Lipwig weep. First he talks himself into becoming Sergeant-at-Arms to his superior. Who has him currently arrested. Then later, using this and a combination of Obstructive Bureaucrat and Obfuscating Stupidity, he manages to get one up on Unmentionables.
- Also how he fleagues up Old Mary.
- Begone Bribe: Young Nobby follows people around until they pay him not to.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Although he doesn't exactly say it out loud, at the beginning of the book Vimes longs for the old days when things were simpler and he actually did real copper work. Then he gets transported back to really old days.
- Berserk Button
- Normally amiable Fred Colon's reaction to a young corporal asking why they were wearing sprigs of lilac seems quite disproportionate, as it seems like a fair question to us, but as the reason becomes apparent later in the book the incident implies that the subject of the revolution is a Berserk Button for Colon.
- Mind you, it's not the question itself that sets Colon off, but the young corporal's (well-meaning) offer to put on a lilac as well, which Colon finds presumptive. (Lilac aside, the Watch goes far out of its way to avoid honoring the men who died in the revolution, to prevent others from trying to emulate them.)
- Vimes' rant to Vetinari when the Patrician wants to put up a monument to the dead watchmen.
- Bitter Almonds: Mentioned by Winder's poisons tester.
- Bothering by the Book
- The oath for joining the Watch. "... uphold the Laws and Ordinances of the city of Ankh-Morpork comma serve the public trust comma and defend the subjects of His stroke Her bracket delete whichever is inappropriate bracket Majesty bracket name of reigning monarch bracket..." Nothing in there about obeying orders. It also doesn't say anything about serving or defending the ruler (King, Queen, or otherwise). Just the public.
- Vimes also pulls an Obstructive Bureaucrat on Unmentionables with paperwork to sign when he has to hand over curfew breakers to them. The Unmentionables are expectantly uncooperative and Vimes gets them off the hook.
- Also, one of the reactions of the coppers to Vimes insisting they do things by the book. They get very precise. "Obeying Orders To The Letter, With Gleeful Malignancy."
- Break the Cutie
- Brick Joke:
- The briefly-mentioned trick of "fleaguing a jade" (see Banana in the Tailpipe) is used during the revolution to take out the oxen pulling the anti-barricade siege engine.
- Bring My Yellow Pants: Ferret, after hearing his friends undergoing 'questioning'.
- Call Forward: For instance, Vimes accidentally inspires Cut-Me-Own-Throat-Dibbler's Catch Phrase, establishing a Stable Time Loop. More cynically, the new would-be ruler Snapcase is spoken of with praise by some characters... both Vimes and the readers know that he will become Mad Lord Snapcase and be hung up by his figgin.
Dibbler: "It's called victory stew, Sergeant. Tuppence a bowl, or I'll cut my own throat, eh?"
Vimes: "Close enough."
- Can't Take Anything With You: When going forward in time.
- Captain Obvious: Imposed on Lords Selachii and Venturi, who due to their history have to avoid any topic that they might possibly disagree on. Leading to conversational topics like "I see you are standing up."
- Characterization Marches On: Remember when Vimes was bullied by the Patrician Guards, scared of the "Shades" and was reluctant to enter the Broken Drum to save one of his comrades? Neither can we.
- The ending of Night Watch even justifies the Vimes from early Guards Guards! After waking up to find his mentor and six other Watchmen dead on the Patrician's orders, Vimes spent about three decades having the potential to be the badass we know and love but not being able to do anything for fear of another attack on the Night Watch. That or his lack of confidence in the Law meant that the bottle was the only thing keeping the Beast at bay.
- Lampshaded when Vimes wonders "Was I ever this young?" and ruefully recalls that he'll spend the next thirty years and half-dozen books becoming himself.
"Thirty years of being hammered on the anvil of life. You poor bastard, you've got it all to come."
- Circling Monologue: The early part of Vimes vs. Swing.
- Click Hello: The two Vimeses' first meeting.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: The Cable Street Particulars' method of extracting confessions.
- Colour Coded Timestop: During the brief moments time is "stopped" by Lu-tze just before Vimes faces off against Carcer, the whole world becomes gray.
- Composite Character: In the radio adaptation, Cheery Littlebottom performs Carrot's role and dialogue from the book in addition to her own, as well as serving a similar function to that of Buggy Swires' minor role in the novel.
- Contest Winner Cameo: Dr Follett of the Assassin's Guild is actually a cameo for fellow British novelist Ken Follett.
- Continuity Nod: Many of them. The Night Watch is based at the old watch house that the dragon burned down in Guards! Guards!; Leggy Gaskin from the same book is a young watchman; Vimes has a run-in with future Captain Quirke from Men at Arms and is responsible for him transferring to the Day Watch; Vetinari's aunt briefly mentioned by Vimes in the book now appears as a main character, the Mended Drum is called the Broken Drum (as it was in The Colour of Magic); Sergeant Colon previously mentioned remembering Vetinari's predecessors Lord Snapcase and Lord Winder in Jingo; and so on.
- Cop Killer: Carcer has killed several cops over the course of his career, including at least one who bumped into him by chance while off-duty and didn't even recognize him.
- Creepy Mortician: Legitimate First.
- Crouching Moron Hidden Bad Ass: Despite the fact that he is a complete ass in his youth, it's pointed out that the young Downey is still quite capable and dangerous, such as when he instantly suspects that a dark passageway is a trap, despite being very drunk at the time. He's right. Not to mention that he goes on to become Head of the Assassin's Guild.
- Darker and Edgier: The book basically begins with the death of a copper and memorial to an event so bad even the normally comic Colon and Nobby treat with solemnity. It quickly goes From Bad to Worse.
- Death by Irony: Lord Winder is so paranoid about assassins that Vetinari doesn't even have to lay a finger on him — the man just dies from fear-induced shock when Vetinari enters.
- It isn't Vetinari entering that does him in. It's the fact that, through his aunt's machinations in getting the 'right' people into the right 'groups', Vetinari is able to close the distance...and go 'boo'
- Decapitated Army: Discussed. When the Monks finally take Vimes and Carcer back to the present, the bad guys leg it and the guards fight like tigers.
- Declining Promotion:Sam Vimes/John Keel when he's offered a promotion to officer and a transfer to the Cable Street Particulars. He refuses on the grounds that he's not qualified (really because he knows that with his experience he can become the Almighty Janitor almost instantly).
- Doomed Moral Victor: Parodied, as the villains consider "You may take our lives, but you'll never take our freedom" to be the dumbest revolutionary slogan ever. Specifically, Carcer replies "Wrong," and cue the hail of crossbow bolts. However, if you think about it, they did take Reg's life, but they never took his freedom.
- Dramatic Gun Cock: Done with a crossbow, which unaccountably clicks when Young Vimes raises it during the Cable Street raid.
- Dramatic Irony: In spades.
Reg: I only regret that I have but one life to give for Whalebone Lane!
Vimes: (thinking) If only you knew.
- Reg has another one; he yells "You can take our lives but you can never take our freedom!" Since he came Back from the Dead, he was actually right.
- Dual Wielding: Vimes in an Unstoppable Rage? Scary. Vimes in an Unstoppable Rage with two swords? Run. Run and never look back.
He wasn't an enemy, he was a nemesis.
- Which takes on a whole new (hilarious) meaning if you remember Brick Top's speech from Snatch: "Do you know what 'nemesis' means? A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent. Personified in this case by an 'orrible cunt..." In this universe, Vimes.
- Due to the Dead: Present day Morporkians remembering the Glorious 25th of May by wearing lilacs and taking care of the graves of the fallen. Only people who were there can wear the lilac.
- Establishing Character Moment: Vimes is introduced dealing with an Assassin in a polite but very definite way, which demonstrates for a new reader his attitude and ability to rig defensive traps and generally be devious, a skill which he puts to great use during the Glorious Revolution.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Lady Meserole was clearly as power-hungry a schemer as anyone else, whose nephew suggested that she let him kill Keel for expediency (though she only gave him empty threats). But when she sees Snapcase turn around and order his death despite the amnesty she's so disgusted she orders Vetinari to protect Keel, and he happily obliges.
- The Night Watch aren't above accepting bribes and engaging in the occasional bit of police brutality. The Unmentionables' behavior make them very uncomfortable, though. And you do not drop your mates in the cacky.
- Evil Counterpart
- "Carcer had, in his own way, some of Vimes's qualities, only they were inverted."
- Similarly, Captain Swing is an idealist, he simply looks at the problem the wrong way around.
- In a smaller example, Sergeant Knock and Corporal Quirke (later Captain "Mayonnaise" Quirke of the Day Watch) are explicitly called out as evil versions of Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs. Like present-day Fred Colon, Knock is an older, incompetent, cowardly fat man but without any of Fred's redeeming qualities, and is corrupt to the core whereas Quirke is presented as an efficient version of Nobby without the amiable incompetence, as well as "bullying, brown-nosing, and a delight in small evils". They also have the same ranks as Colon and Nobby do in the present.
- Eye Patch Of Power: Like Keel before him, Vimes gets one of his own.
- Failed a Spot Check: Upon realizing that Vimes's barricade is actually containing the one peaceful bit of the city, a captain in the military pretends to fail a spot check to avoid being forced to dismantle it.
The captain: (to a soldier) It's just a pile of furniture, man. People have been spring cleaning, I expect. You'll never make an officer if you can't see straight.
- A younger Vetinai learns throughout the story how to apply this to other people. The author of the book he learnt it from was apparently eaten by the tiger he was studying.
- Fascists' Bed Time: One of the jobs of the Night Watch is to patrol this and take people breaking curfew to Cable Street House. The first thing Vimes does when he becomes Sergeant-at-Arms of his station is bring this system to the ground, release the people he's captured and make himself a reputation in the process.
- Foreshadowing: Lots of it. Both the lilac blooming and, as the story starts, with Sam Vimes and other Night Watch survivors of the Glorious People's Republic of Treacle Mine Road solemnly commemorating the anniversary of the deaths of their comrades, among them Sergeant Keel's.
- Friend or Foe: How the lilac started: as a badge.
- Fright Deathtrap
- Full-Circle Revolution: A pretty much Foregone Conclusion. Snapcase, mentioned as Mad Lord Snapcase in previous books, isn't much better than Winder.
- Get Back to the Future
- The Ghost: The actual Keel is killed offscreen before Vimes is aware of the situation, and we only have his reminiscences to get a sense of what the actual man was like. Vimes doesn't make any particular effort to imitate him, except insofar as it allows him to take the man's place, and muses on whether he was really a revolutionary, so it's unclear what Keel what really about in the original timeline.
- A bit of Fridge Brilliance in that one. Imagine Vimes as a ball, Keel as a cube, & the time travel as a tunnel that loops back on itself. Vimes goes into the tunnel at Pv, & comes out at Pk, where Keel is now dead. Keel's death knocks Vimes into Keel's temporal path, thereby forcing the ball to take the cube's place. Once this happens, THE BALL HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE ONE IN THAT TEMPORAL PATH, meaning that Keel's politics are now, AND ALWAYS HAVE BEEN moot, as it was always Vimes who taught Sam.
- Give Me Back My Wallet: Vimes to Young Nobby.
- Gone Horribly Right: In a non-science trope, Vimes' plan for the barricade. The original John Keel may have been a revolutionary, but Vimes just wanted to keep a few silly, innocent people safe and protect those in his street.
- Gory Discretion Shot: The description of the Torture Cellar, a rare literary variant.
- Handy Cuffs: Happens with Vimes as part of the "Were we ever really that bad?" sequence. Vimes' internal monologue points out how stupid this is.
"He had several pounds of metal on his wrists or, to put it another way, his arms were a hammer."
- Haven't You Seen X Before?: When Ridcully is summoned from his bath, he asks the Watch "Haven't you lot ever seen a wizard before?" Carrot, being the honest soul he is, points out that they've never seen so much of a wizard before.
- Having a Heart: Sergeant Keel has the eye of a mass-murderer. It's in his other coat.
- Heroic BSOD
- A brief one, but when Vimes realizes that doing everything he can for the people behind the barricades might mean that all his friends, and his wife and unborn son, might never exist, it's not a good day to be him.
He wanted to go home. He wanted it so much that he trembled at the thought. But if the price of that was selling good men to the night, if the price was filling those graves, if the price was not fighting with every trick he knew... then it was too high.
- Reg Shoe also has one when he realizes that the revolution he wanted so badly has only served to put an equally corrupt ruler in power. He sits dejectedly on a cart for a few minutes, then snaps into a rage so powerful not even getting killed can stop him.
- The bit when Vimes is sitting helpless, staring blankly at a mirror as his son is born; this even shuts down his internal watchman, revealed in later books to be more powerful than a thousand year old pan-dimensional being of pure vengeance.
- Vimes has an extremely powerful one right when he is ordered by Rust to take down the barricade. As he starts to tell the people behind the barricade that they shouldn't take the law into their own hands, he realizes suddenly that he has no idea what the law was at that moment. The feeling of despair and disconnection is so powerful in brings Vimes to his knees. Thankfully, the Time Monks show up at that very moment to provide him with the Heroic Reboot Key, a connection to the future that seems so distant: his silver cigar case.
- Highly-Visible Ninja: Vetinari when he kills Winder. He walks right up to him as the crowded hall ignores his presence, and Winder thinks that this isn't how assassins really operate: this is what happens in dreams. The Assassin's Guild in Discworld always wears the stereotypical ninja black clothes on the job. Vetinari shows the readers how much smarter he is when he reads a book on animal camouflage and goes for more appropriate clothes when they are called for. Downey shows how he isn't a match for Vetinari by burning the book instead of reading it and Vetinari shows what a Magnificent Bastard he is by having destroyed nearly every other copy of the book so no-one else can learn from it.
- And hiding the rest inside a cover reading Annals of the Great Accountants, Volume Three, which, it is noted, would do the original author proud.
- Honor Among Corrupt Coppers: The Night Watch bully citizens, openly accept bribes and have no morals to speak of. But You Do Not Drop Your Mates In The Cacky.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Rosie Palm
- Hope Spot: Winder is dead, Snapcase is Patrician and just as it seems the barricade can come down peacefully, Carcer's men attack and Sergeant Dickins picks up the lilac as Vimes' gang prepare to fight.
- Humble Goal: The revolutionaries want a slogan that encapsulates what they're fighting for. After asking each of their members what they want, the result is "Truth, Justice, Reasonably-Priced Love and a Hard Boiled Egg".
- Icon of Rebellion: The lilac flowers.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Vetinari suggests "They Did the Job They Had to Do" as a slogan when he talks about putting up a monument for the fallen watchmen. Vimes' deconstruction of it as he shuts Vetinari up is both epic and heartbreaking.
"They did the job they didn't have to do and they died doing it and you can't give them anything."
- If I Had a Nickel: If Colon had a dollar for every watchman's funeral he'd attended, he'd have $19.50. (One of them wasn't actually dead; fortunately he regained consciousness before they buried him.)
- I Found You Like This: When Sam Vimes is unexpectedly thrown backwards in time, Rosie Palm finds him unconscious in the street and rescues him.
- I Hate Past Me: Sort of. While Vimes doesn't hate young Sam, he's certainly put off and ashamed of how incredibly naive and idealistic he is.
"You're not me. You can't be. I don't think I was ever as young as you."
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Detritus and the Piecemaker. Although in this case, it's more like I Just Almost Blew Up My Boss' House and Its Gardens.
Vimes: What did I tell you about Mister Safety Catch?
Detritus: When Mister Safety Catch Is Not On, Mister Crossbow Is Not Your Friend.
- Improvised Weapon: When Lord Venturi expresses annoyance that his troops are being beaten by unarmed civilians and old veterans with garden forks, his lieutenant has trouble explaining that garden forks can do a lot of damage when hurled down from twenty feet, and that "unarmed civilian" is stretching the term quite a bit when the civilian in question is a 200 pound slaughterhouse worker with a flensing knife in one hand and a meathook in the other.
- I Never Said It Was Poison: Subverted.
"Did I say they stole anything, sir?
"Well, no, you didn't. That was me jumping to what we call a conclusion. Did they steal anything, then, or did they break in to deliver a box of chocolates and a small complimentary basket of fruit?"
- That said, Discworld does have an established practice called "breaking and redecorating"...
- The "box of chocolates" line is a reference to the old Milk Tray adverts, which involved a secret agent delivering the product in question to a lady.
- In Spite of a Nail: History always finds a way in the end. See the Stable Time Loop entry for details.
Well, it would have to come up with something good, because it was up against Sam Vimes now.
- Jerk Jock: The young Lord Downey. Which he must have really, really regretted when Vetinari became Patrician.
- Kill It with Fire: The Cable Street House.
- Knife Nut: Carcer
- La Résistance: But of course.
- A Lesson In Defeat: An overconfident student from the Assassins' Guild is sent after Vimes at the beginning of the book for pretty much this purpose.
- Lies to Children: Lu-Tze's explanation to Vimes about some of the mechanics of time travel is noted by another history monk as being completely inaccurate but he doesn't care so long as Vimes can wrap his head around it.
- Lightning Can Do Anything: Strictly speaking the lightning is just the catalyst, the plot is a side effect of the events of Thief of Time shattering the timeline.
- Like a Son to Me: Perhaps because it is essentially the same thing, Sam Vimes treats his younger self like his own son.
- Line in the Sand: Vimes makes one right before training his men for the barricade; later, history books will disagree about what happened but they all agreed about Sergeant Keel and the Line. Young Sam is the first to step over.
- Loophole Abuse: Discussed. The minor officers in charge of securing the streets know that the best way to deal with the Treacle Mine Road barricade is to ignore it, and their verbal orders are to secure the streets by "any means necessary". Unfortunately their written down, official orders explicitly call for a full attack on all barricades and they can't pull the trick off. Meanwhile, Vimes uses the exact same trick to essentially seize control of the watch despite not even being an officer.
- Mandatory Line: Averted, in that a number of City Watch regulars never appear in the "present day" sequences. Most notably absent is Sergeant Angua, who'd been a main character in every other City Watch book since her introduction, but here is only briefly mentioned in dialogue as being on duty in another part of the city.
- Mauve Shirt: Sergeant Abba Stronginthearm, who previously appeared in Men at Arms, Jingo and The Fifth Elephant, moving up the ranks but never becoming a main character. He's still well enough known for his death at Carcer's hands to be a shock.
- Also, Ned Coates. A cynical badass watchman who seems to be on the inside with the real revolution, he seemingly opts out in the middle of the book, comes back to be a big help in the end... and then in the very last pages we learn that he died during the clash between the watch and Carcer's men.
- Don't forget Sergeant Dai Dickins, introduced late in the book as another defector to the barricades, who quickly becomes part of Vimes' inner circle, and inadvertently introduces young Sam to "All the Little Angels." He dies in the final skirmish with Snapcase's men under Carcer.
- Meaningful Name: Captain Swing was the name used on a number of threatening letters sent by participants in the Swing Riots in Britain in 1830. In a typical Pratchett twist, Swing is now working for the other side.
- Meet the New Boss: Said by Mr Slant and Dr Follett after Winder dies and Snapcase becomes the new Patrician. In Latin, no less.
- Mercy Kill: Perhaps the most controversial line in any Discworld novel if fan reaction was anything to go by:
Just in case, and without any feeling of guilt, Vimes removed his knife, and... gave what help he could.
- Terry Pratchett supports assisted death and stated that he wishes to commit "assisted suicide" (although he dislikes that term) before his Alzheimer's disease progresses to a critical point.
- Misfit Mobilization Moment: In a city where the citizens are attacking Watch houses for being tools of the oppressive state, Vimes wins over his neighborhood and oversees their barricades.
- Morality Pet: Perhaps the most interesting dynamic is when cynical old cop Sam Vimes meets his idealistic younger self. Vimes had always been shown to be brutal and devious and was always on the edge of releasing the beast; that part of him that never forgave the atrocities of the Unmentionables and which is the collected form all of his fears and rage. But encountering Young Vimes directly reminded him of his ideals and caused him to rethink his actions such as when they freed the prisoners from the Unmentionables:
The beast tensed...
Vimes dragged the largest club out of the rack and stepped swiftly to the wall beside the door. Someone was coming, someone who knew about [the torture room], someone who called themselves a copper. Getting a firm two-handed grip, Vimes raised the club-
And looked across the stinking room, and saw young Sam watching him, young Sam with his bright shiny badge and face full of... strangeness.
Vimes lowered the club, leaned it against the wall and pulled the leather cosh from his pocket.
Shackled not quite understanding, the beast was dragged back into the night...
- Mugging the Monster: Carcer doesn't think of getting mugged in the Shades as a problem, he thinks of it as a bunch of victims falling over themselves to bring him entertainment, weapons and cash.
- The Multiverse: Lu-Tze and Vimes discuss the concept of many universes (which Vimes already knows about from Jingo), but Lu-Tze comforts him by telling them that, in all the great bounds of possibility, there is no universe in which Sam Vimes as he is now killed his wife, meaning that people's choices really do matter. This is a reference to a reality in which young Sam Vimes is given guidance by Carcer, if old Sam fails. Hence the as he is now instead of just there is no universe. That Sam recognizes this on some level is alluded to in other parts of the novel.
- My Future Self and Me: Vimes and Young Sam, although Sam is ignorant of this fact.
- Mundane Luxury: The young Nobby Nobbs is overwhelmed by the prospect of owning his very own spoon.
- Mundane Utility: Sweeper uses Procrastinators, devices capable of taking objects outside of the flow of time, to keep food fresh.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Although they are not given their epithets in this book of course, regular readers will recognize the Patricians here as Homicidal Lord Winder and
Psychoneurotic Mad Lord Snapcase.
- Necessary Fail: Cleverly played with. In the regular timeline, the resistance put on the barricades but failed to defend against a sneak attack, resulting in the deaths of the 7 men in the cemetery of Small Gods. When Vimes goes back in time and is tasked to fix Carcer's alterations, he is left with the choice of either doing everything he can to prevent the death of the rebels or doing almost nothing so he could return to his timeline and get back to his wife and unborn child. Vimes manages to organize the barricades and defend against the attacks. But the revolution fouls up and the new Patrician sends the newly promoted Captain Carcer and his squad of rogue guards to murder Vimes and his men. Cornered, Vimes orders his men to retreat but his companions decide to stay and help him bring down Carcer despite their slim chances of survival. In the end, Vimes manages to bring down Carcer but not without casualties on his side, resulting in the end in the death of the same 7 men that died in the original timeline.In the end, Vimes could not prevent the death of these 7 men but he didn't have to. In the end, they willingly put their lives on the line in both timelines for something they thought was important.
- Noodle Implements: The Ginger Beer torture method. Pratchett eventually did reveal what the "Ginger Beer Trick" actually is, although he despaired a bit that people actually had to be told. You shake it up real good to get the fizz going, then you stick it up the poor bastard's nose. Ouch. For those familiar only with Ginger Ale, Ginger Beer is a whole different, and much HOTTER, sort of animal.
- Noodle Incident / The Fun in Funeral: If Colon had one dollar for every officer funeral he went to he'd have nineteen and a half dollars. A half because in one of them, the officer woke up just in time and banged on the lid.
- No Sympathy: Sort of. While Lu-Tse sympathizes with Vimes and tries to help him, we also have... this:
- Not in This for Your Revolution: Keel may have been a revolutionary (it's left ambiguous), but Vimes only raised the barricades to keep a handful of people safe.
- John Keel could not have been a revolutionary because neither known revolutionaries like CMOT Dibbler, Lady Roberta Meserole, Rosie Palm or Ned Coates had included him in their plans before he came to town and Keel sure as hell wasn't aware of the Morphic Street Conspiracy. The best explanation is that Keel was a rebel sympathizer and that Ned Coates convinced him to support the barricades when the riots started out.
- The Obi-Wan
- Thanks to time travel, Vimes gets to play this role for himself... though in reality he spends only a small portion of his time training his protégé and much more doing badass and heroic (or anti-heroic) things on his own, and takes pains to keep young Sam from doing anything that'd attract attention to himself. Also spending money like water, because he knows for a fact that he will "die" at the end of the week.
- Madam also plays this role for Vetinari, being an older, Distaff Counterpart version of him, even owning an elderly and smelly tomcat (as he will one day have a smelly old dog). She educates him about the usefulness of men like Keel, and how killing someone isn't always the best answer (though she will if it is the best answer).
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Vimes plays the stupid, loud but unshakable copper to arrest an Unmentionable.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Vimes pulls this on the Unmentionables.
- In another words he wants the Secret Police to fill out the prisoner transfer paperwork. Which ruins the whole point of the Secret Police and they refuse to do so. So Vimes is "forced" to let the prisoners go as the proper authorities refuse to fill out the proper paperwork and he has no authority to hold them.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Just after Vimes has apprehended Carcer in the cemetery after both returned to the present, Lord Vetinari turns up. During the following conversation, it transpires that Vetinari was watching the final fight between the Night Watch and Carcer's gang of Particulars and, after Vimes-as-Keel disappeared, Vetinari joined the fight. It's described by Vetinari over one page, and that's it.
- Vimes tries to do one by saying his authority (as he draws his crossbow) comes from "Mr Burleigh and Mr Stronginthearm." No-one gets it, however, as those two haven't gone into business yet in the past.
- Another: Vimes finally revealed that he wasn't really Sergeant Keel to Ned Coates. He admitted he traveled through time. This is after a huge melee. Coates looked over Sam, blood and all, heavily-used swords in his hands, and once he was told Vimes was a time-traveler, he had just one thing to ask: "From how far back?"
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Snouty. We find out his real name at the end of the book, though.
- Opt Out: Ned Coates seems to do that in the middle of the book.
- The Password Is Always Swordfish: Played straight, and ruthlessly complained about by Vimes.
- Percussive Prevention: Vimes knocks out his younger self to keep him out of a fight at one point.
- Perspective Flip: Basically, the novel can be read as one of these on Les Misérables, with Vimes as a virtuous Inspector Javert and Carcer as an evil Valjean, and other characters filling roles from the novel. The Annotated Pratchett File described the difference between Javert and Vimes in an interesting way: both are obsessed with justice, but while Javert defines justice as the punishment of the guilty, Vimes defines it as the protection of the innocent.
- The Peter Principle: Captain Tilden is stated to have been a good military commander, which earnt him a job in the Watch after he retired from the army. Unfortunately, he's long past his prime and appears to be out of his depth in the world of policing.
- Pet the Dog: Emphasizing the fact that she is Vetinari's prototypical Distaff Counterpart, Madam's façade only cracks around her cat.
- The Poppy: The way the survivors of the last battle against Carcer treat the lilac on May 25th is very reminiscent of the Remembrance Day poppy: when new recruits don't understand its significance, they find themselves treading on a taboo.
- Posthumous Character: Keel. Vimes makes his moves and decision with Keel's previous acts in mind, and we get a pretty good sense of who he was.
- Powder Keg Crowd: People are already rioting against Watch houses elsewhere in the city. Vimes gives orders to prevent anything like that happening in his precinct. See To Win Without Fighting below.
- Production Foreshadowing: Early in this novel Vimes mentioned having to worry about some far-flung country going to war affecting Ankh-Morpork. Said war was the main conflict in the following novel, Monstrous Regiment, and Vimes had a significant (if largely unfeatured) part in sorting that out.
- Rabble Rouser: Discussed at length. Sam Vimes thinks of this as the poor bugger everyone stands behind going "yeah! right!" and then ditch when the law gets rough. Reg Shoe also tries to be this, very hard, but the people around Treacle Mine Road are too busy picking apart the holes in his revolutionary rhetoric to be properly inflamed.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Night Watch were the ones too scruffy, ugly, incompetent, awkwardly shaped, or bloody-minded for the Day Watch.
- Rain of Arrows: Reg's "death".
- Rats In A Box: Sped up brilliantly. Vimes finds he has three assassins in custody, two of whom are thoroughly professional but the third is a showoffy twerp that Vimes has dubbed "Ferret" for his weaselly demeanor. So, in a disturbing scene looking like actual torture, Vimes and his men drag the corpse of an assassin in front of them to the backroom, then drags the two pro assassins there but leave the door open so that the impressionable Ferret can hear all the screaming when Vimes performs the "Ginger Beer Trick". When it came to Ferret's turn, the guy immediately spilled his guts and Vimes manages to get a written and signed confession that they had been staging riots. — Then Vimes reveals that not only was the screaming staged and the two pro assassins were simply bound, gagged and in perfect health but that the two pro assassins had been listening to Ferret's entire confession and were now livid with rage at him. Ferret starts doing some mental arithmetic, then demands protective custody.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Vimes, of course, but also:
- The Abbot of the History Monks. He absolutely forbids Lu Tze to do what he's going to do, but follows it up by acknowledging that when he does, it will probably be for the best.
- The unnamed Captain who met Vimes's barricades during his patrol. Despite the fact that all barricades were ordered to be pulled down, he took time to understand the situation and listened to Vimes's argument that the area behind was much safer than the so called safe zones and eventually filed a report to his superiors that basically told them to ignore this area, estimating that the situation would resolve itself. In a moment of Fridge Brilliance, we realize that he was right all along as no amount of military force managed to tear down the barricade but when the amnesty was declared, the rebels disassembled the barricades themselves.
- Don't forget Major Clive Mountjoy-Standfast and Captain Tom Wrangle. They were the military officers in charge of pacifying the streets and were both decent, reasonable and competent men. Shame that they had to take orders from Carcer.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilised: Mentioned by Vimes numerous times.
"But here's some advice, boy. Don't put your trust in revolutions. They always come around again. That's why they're called revolutions."
- Right-Hand Cat: Vetinari instinctively feels that any cat you're going to stroke while discussing politics should be a white-haired, elegant thing, rather than a flatulent street moggy. His aunt doesn't seem to mind.
- Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Intentionally invoked and discussed.
- Rubber-Band History: Vimes and Carcer change many of the major events of the revolution and absolutely reverse the Glorious 25th of May, but the outcome of the revolution is the same: those seven graves are still filled, Snapcase replaces Winder, etc.
- Save the Villain: Vimes sets fire to the Particulars' HQ but remembers too late that he left one of their thugs strapped into a prisoner's chair inside. He runs back in, deciding that he'll only undo one of the straps before legging it, as it'll be more of a chance than any of their victims got. He runs into Swing, who's already killed him.
- Secret Police: The Unmentionables. A rather unfortunate nickname (a play on The Untouchables) since it's British slang for underwear, but it does manage to evoke "They Who Must Not Be Named" at the same time.
- Sesquipedalian Smith: Somewhat-comic gravedigger Legitimate First ("Leggy" to his friends).
"I've always wondered about his name. I mean... Legitimate?"
"Can't blame a mother for being proud, Nobby."]
- Serious Business: When even Colon and Nobby are deeply offended by someone who wasn't "there" wearing a lilac, and are completely serious in explaining the situation to him, you know this has happened.
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Played with- originally Vimes is encouraged to maintain the timeline as close to the original sequence of events as possible, but when the revolution starts he decides it's not in his nature to do anything less than his best to save the situation. As it happens, his efforts are countered more or less exactly by Carcer trying to Make Wrong What Once Went Right, so the end result is a Close Enough Timeline.
- Shadow Archetype: Carcer to Vimes. The book goes a long way to set them up as equal adversaries.
- Shout-Out: To John A. Keel, writer of The Mothman Prophecies.
- As the book is Discworld's take on Les Misérables, this is to be expected... but honestly, Gavroche's parallel turning out to be young Nobby Nobbs is somewhat unexpected. On the other hand, Reg Shoe as [ZOMBIE] Enjolras is made of all kinds of win.
- Carcer even claims to have only stolen a loaf of bread.
- Also contains a shoutout to Braveheart with the worst battlecry ever: "You may take our lives but you'll never take our freedom."
- Major Clive Mountjoy-Standfast is a possible reference to the Duke of Wellington as he was born in Quirm but considers himself a patriotic Ankh-Morporkian, just like how Arthur Wellesley was born in Ireland but thought of as the greatest English general of all time.
- The "...and a hardboiled egg" addendum to the revolutionaries' demands is likely a reference to "...and two hardboiled eggs" from A Night at the Opera, which already had a more obvious reference to it in Soul Music.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: Vimes to Carcer.
- Stable Time Loop: Averted, sort of. Lu-Tze explains John Keel was a real person and the Sam Vimes we know now was not tutored by himself, unlike Vimes had thought. However, Vimes and Carcer arriving in the past changed that timeline when Carcer killed Keel and so Vimes has to substitute for him as mentor.
Lu-Tze also claims that it is not quite a Stable Time Loop in the first place, that Vimes was trained by John Keel, that the rebellion was crushed as he remembered, and all that. Strangely, though, Vetinari remembers the events of the book's past, and not the one that Vimes remembers. Which means either the Sweeper was wrong, that the past and present changed but only Vimes remembers it, or that Lu-Tze was lying to make sure Vimes maintained the loop.
- Staged Populist Uprising: The rebellion against Lord Winder is being subtly masterminded by Madam Messerole.
- Sugar and Ice Personality: Carcer, as he's described, is basically what Dick Van Dyke's character in Mary Poppins would be like if he were a violent psychopath.
- Super Doc: Dr Mossy Lawn
- Sword Cane: Swing has one, and surprises Vimes by being dangerously good with it.
- Take That
- A gentle one on the subject of the kind of ostentatious patriotism that perplexes non-Americans (and some Americans):
"I'd be very worried if I saw a man singing the national anthem and waving the flag, sir. It's really a thing foreigners do."
"We don't need to show we're patriotic, sir... We don't have to make a fuss about being the best. We just know."
- Another at Braveheart: At one point, Reg Shoe turns to the enemy and shouts out, "You can take our lives, but you can never take our freedom!" There's a long pause and some mumbling while everyone runs that sentence through their heads again and decides that, yes, it's the stupidest battle cry they've ever heard. Finally, Carcer just shouts, "Wrong!" and shoots him.
- Subverted when it turns out that nope, Reg was right.
- Another is about the problems with weapon bans to deter crime; the law-abiding citizens disarmed themselves while the criminals couldn't believe their luck and robberies shot through the roof.
- Time Travel Tense Trouble: Vimes has some difficulty when "back then" becomes "back now".
- Title Drop
- Hardly counts, considering how integral the words "Night Watch" are to the story. However, in one scene Vimes is struggling with the violent side of his nature "that was the nature of the beast." Guess what one of the alternate titles which Terry and the publishers considered was.
- Notable, though, is a subtle Title Drop in the cover, which is a restaging of the Rembrandt painting nicknamed "The Night Watch".◊
- To Win Without Fighting: Inverted: Vimes wisely choosing not to fight is what defuses a mob situation without incident.
- Took a Level in Badass: Reg takes out about half a dozen of Carcer's thugs... after being shot full of arrows and dying.
- Torture Cellar: What the Cable Street Particulars have. The Torture Technician that Captain Swing employs, however, is not a sadistic self-declared "artist" but merely a big bruiser who — as Vimes suspects — thinks nothing of hitting people long after they're unconscious and beating (or raping) them to death. It's all just a job to him.
- Torture Is Ineffective: Sam Vimes, a man pathologically opposed to actual physical torture, gets results by subjecting captured members of the secret police to psychological warfare: he plays on their imagination, their knowledge, and their guilty consciences about torture to terrify the weakest-willed of them into confessing. (He's led to believe by sound and play-acting that the other members of his trio are, unseen but definitely heard, being given the "ginger beer" treatment in the next room over.)
- Verbal Judo: Vimes handles a Powder Keg Crowd amazingly, making sure not to provoke them in any of the ways almost anyone else in his position would have felt only the natural way to react.
- The Villain Knows Where You Live: At one point, Carcer tells Vimes: "I can see your house from here." Also counts as a Brick Joke & Shout-Out to Jingo; "Ab Hoc Possum Videre Domum Tuum."
- Villains Blend in Better: Carcer adapts to being sent back in time a lot faster than Vimes: although when Vimes catches up, he catches up rather spectacularly. It's reflected by Vimes that, in a time of chaos, those who remain firm and authoritative and full of conviction can rise to the top very quickly and dictate major events. Which is of course very similar to how "revolutions" can sometimes succeed despite what seem titanic odds. Justified when Carcer points out that while watchmen must be known to be watchmen to be able to do their jobs, it's actually quite beneficial to the criminal if no one knows they're a criminal.
- Verbal Tic
- Swing's unusuallypaced... speech pattern
- Captain Tilden, what.
- Snouty, hnah, too.
- Carcer's patronizing little chuckle, haha.
- What You Are in the Dark: The entire book is one giant one for Vimes, but especially when he takes Carcer down by the book, in one of the best Shut Up Hannibals ever.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Young Sam, to Vimes' great annoyance and disbelief.
- World Half Full: Past Ankh-Morpork sucks even worse than present, with insane rulers, tyrannical and cruel authorities and even more rampant crime. Vimes repeatedly calls the Watch "just another gang" in his monologues. And he's explicitly told upfront that he cannot, cannot change any major events, such as a clearly pointless war borne of the Patrician's insanity which will last just long enough to kill many innocent people, or the deaths of many watchmen. However, rather than sitting there and taking it, he makes efforts to reform the watch, prevents a bloodbath on Morphic Street, and changes history by holding his barricade through the entire night when the original Keel failed halfway through, reducing his side's casualties to perhaps a dozen (during the battle, anyway). And he takes down Carcer in the most lawful way possible.
- World of Pun
- The book contains a sequence describing the ornamental armour Sam Vimes has to wear, and how it makes him feel like a class traitor. The pune-chline: "It was gilt by association."
- And when the newold Patrician is appointed, a bilingual pun.
Slant: Ave! Duci novi, similis duci seneci.note
, or as we used to say in school, Ave! Bossa nova similis bossa seneca.
- You Will Be Beethoven: Vimes takes Keel's place after Carcer murders him. Subverted, though, as it's openly stated that the John Keel that Vimes knew was the real John Keel... but time travel works as it does in the Back to the Future series, meaning that Vimes' replacement of Keel and the much longer-lived barricade don't undo the fact that Vimes originally was taught by Keel himself. The book is then Vimes' attempt to replicate Keel as accurately as possible.