Guards! Guards!

1989 novel by Terry Pratchett

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Guards! Guards! is a 1989 fantasy novel by British writer Terry Pratchett, the eighth in the Discworld series.


"There are, always and only, the bad people, but some of them are on opposite sides."
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published in September 2008 by Harper, ISBN# 978-0-06-102064-3
  • They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, or the Patrol. Whatever the name, their purpose in any work of heroic fantasy is identical: it is, round about Chapter Three (or ten minutes into the film) to rush into the room, attack the hero one at a time, and be slaughtered. No one ever asks them if they want to.

    This book is dedicated to those fine men. (Dedication)

  • The relevant equation is: Knowledge = power = energy = matter = mass; a good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read. (p. 3)
  • To the axeman, all supplicants are the same height. (p. 5)
  • There was a thoughtful pause in the conversation as the assembled Brethren mentally divided the universe into the deserving and the undeserving, and put themselves on the appropriate side. (pp. 13-14)
  • It is said that the gods play games with the lives of men. But what games, and why, and the identities of the actual pawns, and what the game is, and what the rules are—who knows?
Best not to speculate.
Thunder rolled...
It rolled a six. (p. 21)
  • He is also bearing a sword presented to him in mysterious circumstances. Very mysterious circumstances. Surprisingly, therefore, there is something very unexpected about this sword. It isn't magical. It hasn't got a name. When you wield it you don't get a feeling of power, you just get blisters; you could believe it was a sword that had been used so much that it had ceased to be anything other than a quintessential sword, a long piece of metal with very sharp edges. And it hasn't got destiny written all over it.
It's practically unique, in fact. (p. 21)
  • Vimes opened his eyes. There was a moment of empty peace before memory hit him like a shovel. (p. 22)
  • "In a manner of speaking, yes," said his father. "In another manner of speaking, which is a rather more precise and accurate manner of speaking, no." (p. 23)
  • All dwarfs have beards and wear up to twelve layers of clothing. Gender is more or less optional. (p. 25)
  • "I don't think they have a king there," said Varneshi. "Just some man who tells them what to do."
The king of the dwarfs took this calmly. This seemed to be about ninety-seven percent of the definition of kingship, as far as he was concerned. (p. 28)
  • All dwarfs are by nature dutiful, serious, literate, obedient and thoughtful people whose only minor failing is a tendency, after one drink, to rush at enemies screaming "Arrrrrrgh!" and axing their legs off at the knee. (p. 28)
  • People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else." (p. 32)
  • The guard gave him what could loosely be called an old-fashioned look. It was practically neolithic. (p. 32)
  • Thank you for coming to see me. Don't hesitate to leave. (p. 43)
  • The Watch hadn't liked it, but the plain fact was that the thieves were far better at controlling crime than the Watch had ever been. After all, the Watch had to work twice as hard to cut crime just a little, whereas all the Guild had to do was to work less. (p. 45)
  • "You remember?"
Vimes tried to. It wasn't easy. He was vaguely aware that he drank to forget. What made it rather pointless was that he couldn't remember what it was he was forgetting anymore. In the end he just drank to forget about drinking. (p. 49)
  • His age was indeterminate. But in cynicism and general world weariness, which is a sort of carbon dating of the personality, he was about seven thousand years old. (p. 55)
  • He nodded to the troll which was employed by the Drum as a splatter. (pp. 63-64)
Like a bouncer, but trolls use more force
  • "'E's fighting in there!" he stuttered, grabbing the captain's arm.
"All by himself?" said the captain.
"No, with everyone!" shouted Nobby, hopping from one foot to the other. (pp. 67-68)
  • It was possibly the most circumspect advance in the history of military maneuvers, right down at the bottom end of the scale that things like the Charge of the Light Brigade are at the top of. (p. 70)
  • "Have another drink, not-Corporal Nobby?" said Sergeant Colon unsteadily.
"I do not mind if I do, not-Sgt. Colon," said Nobby. (p. 99)
  • He couldn't help remembering how much he'd wanted a puppy when he was a little boy. Mind you, they'd been starving—anything with meat on it would have done. (p. 106)
  • "A book has been taken. A book has been taken? You summoned the Watch," Carrot drew himself up proudly, "because someone's taken a book? You think that's worse than murder?"
The Librarian gave him the kind of look other people would reserve for people who said things like "What's so bad about genocide?" (p. 108)
  • It was amazing, this mystic business. You tell them a lie, and then when you don't need it any more you tell them another lie and tell them they're progressing along the road to wisdom. Then instead of laughing they follow you even more, hoping that at the heart of all the lies they'll find the truth. And bit by bit they accept the unacceptable. Amazing. (p. 116)
  • "The females are always the worst," said another hunter gloomily. "I knew this cross-eyed gorgon once, oh, she was a terror. Kept turning her own nose to stone." (p. 123)
  • "What exactly is it that they do eat?"
The thief shrugged. "I seem to recall stories about virgins chained to huge rocks," he volunteered.
"It'll starve around here, then," said the assassin. "We're on loam." (p. 126)
  • By and large medical assistance was nonexistent and people had to die inefficiently, without the aid of doctors. (p. 136)
  • Disgusting, really, her livin' in a room like this. She's got pots of money, sarge says, she's got no call livin' in ordinary rooms. What's the good of not wanting to be poor if the rich are allowed to go around livin' in ordinary rooms? Should be marble. (p. 139)
  • It always amazed Vimes how Nobby got along with practically everyone. It must, he'd decided, have something to do with the common denominator. In the entire world of mathematics there could be no denominator as common as Nobby. (p. 141)
  • "Anyway, we found we've got a lot in common. It's an amazing coincidence, but my grandfather once had his grandfather whipped for malicious lingering."
That must make them practically family, Vimes thought. (p. 142)
  • The reason that clichés become clichés is that they are the hammers and screwdrivers in the toolbox of communication. (p. 146)
  • Lady Ramkin's bosom rose and fell like an empire. (p. 147)
  • Going Up in the World is a metaphor, which I am learning about, it is like Lying but more decorative. (p. 153)
  • It's a metaphor of human bloody existence, a dragon. And if that wasn't bad enough, it's also a bloody great hot flying thing. (p. 165)
  • This seemed absolutely right, to Vimes's way of thinking. There was no difference at all between the richest man and the poorest beggar, apart from the fact that the former had lots of money, food, power, fine clothes, and good health. But at least he wasn't any better. Just richer, fatter, more powerful, better dressed and healthier. It had been like that for hundreds of years. (p. 173)
  • People were stupid, sometimes. They thought the Library was a dangerous place because of all the magical books, which was true enough, but what made it really one of the most dangerous places there could ever be was the simple fact that it was a library. (p. 183)
  • Noble dragons don't have friends. The nearest they can get to the idea is an enemy who is still alive. (p. 188)
  • "I thought, in Nature, the defeated animal just rolls on its back in submission and that's an end of it," said Vimes, as they clattered after the disappearing swamp dragon.
"Wouldn't work with dragons," said Lady Ramkin. "Some daft creature rolls on its back, you disembowel it. That's how they look at it. Almost human, really." (pp. 194-195)
  • "What're them fat saggy things on that shield?"
"Those are the royal hippos of Ankh," said the man proudly. "Reminders of our noble heritage." (p. 195)
  • "Disgusting, this sort of thing, really," mused Sergeant Colon. "People goin' around in coaches like this when there's people with no roof to their heads."
"It's Lady Ramkin's coach," said Nobby. "She's all right."
"Well, yes, but what about her ancestors, eh? You don't get big houses and carriages without grindin' the faces of the poor a bit." (p. 198)
  • The last rats of Brother Watchtower's self-confidence fled the sinking ship of courage. (p. 201)
  • He looked up at the hooded figure beside him.
"We never intended this," he said weakly. "Honestly. No offense. We just wanted what was due to us."
A skeletal hand patted him on the shoulder, not unkindly.
And Death said,
Congratulations. (p. 202)
  • The three rules of the Librarians of Time and Space are: 1) Silence; 2) Books must be returned no later than the date last shown; and 3) Do not interfere with the nature of causality. (p. 223)
  • If there was anything that depressed him more than his own cynicism, it was that quite often it still wasn't as cynical as real life. (p. 242)
  • He felt the sensation of the dragon rummaging around in his mind, trying to find a clue to understanding. He half-saw, half-sensed the flicker of random images, of dragons, of the mythical age of reptiles and—and here he felt the dragon's genuine astonishment—of some of the less commendable areas of human history, which were most of it. And after the astonishment came the baffled anger. There was practically nothing the dragon could do to people that they had not, sooner or later, tried on one another, often with enthusiasm.
You have the effrontery to be squeamish, it thought at him. But we were dragons. We were supposed to be cruel, cunning, heartless, and terrible. But this much I can tell you, you ape – the great face pressed even closer, so that Wonse was staring into the pitiless depths of his eyes - we never burned and tortured and ripped one another apart and called it morality. (p. 253)
  • A number of religions in Ankh-Morpork still practiced human sacrifice, except that they didn't really need to practice any more because they had got so good at it. (p. 265)
  • Possibly in the dark hours of a sleepless night some of them might have remembered the subsequent events and formed a pretty good and gut-churning insight, to whit, that one of the things sometimes forgotten about the human spirit is that while it is, in the right conditions, noble and brave and wonderful, it is also, when you get right down to it, only human. (pp. 267-268)
  • "You can't give me my job back," repeated Vimes. "It was never yours to take away. I was never an officer of this city, or an officer of the king, or an officer of the Patrician. I was an officer of the law. It might have been corrupted and bent, but it was law, of a sort. There isn't any law now except: "You'll get burned alive if you don't watch out". Where's the place in there for me?"
  • It must be something about high office. The altitude sends people mad. (p. 286)
  • "When you really need them the most," he said, "million-to-one chances always crop up. Well-known fact." (p. 292)
  • Now the air was gray with old smoke and mist shreds, but on a clear day it was possible to see Cor Celesti, home of the gods. Site of the home of the gods, anyway. They lived in Dunmanifestin, the stuccoed Valhalla, where the gods faced eternity with the kind of minds that were at a loss to know what to do to pass a wet afternoon. They played games with the fates of men, it was said. Exactly what game they thought they were playing at the moment was anyone's guess.
But of course there were rules. Everyone knew there were rules. They just had to hope like Hell that the gods knew the rules, too. (p. 292)
  • "What's up, Sarge? Do you want to live forever?"
"Dunno. Ask me again in five hundred years." (p. 293)
  • "What if it's just a thousand-to-one chance?" said Colon agonizedly.
"Anyone ever heard of a thousand-to-one shot coming up?"
Carrot looked up. "Don't be daft, Sergeant," he said. "No one ever saw a thousand-to-one chance come up. The odds against it are—" his lips moved—"millions to one." (pp. 295-296)
  • Right, you bastards, you're... you're geography— (p. 302)
  • "... a number of offences of murder by means of a blunt instrument, to whit, a dragon, and many further offenses of generalized abetting to be more specifically ascertained later. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to be summarily thrown into a piranha tank. You have the right to trial by ordeal." (p. 332)
  • This was one of those points where the Trousers of Time bifurcated themselves, and if you weren't careful you'd go down the wrong leg—(p. 335)
  • Something was very wrong. "Is that you, Brother Doorkeeper?" he ventured.
The figure reached out.
Metaphorically, it said. (p. 335)
  • "I believe you find life such a problem because you think there are the good people and the bad people," said the man [Vetinari]. "You're wrong, of course. There are, always and only, the bad people, but some of them are on opposite sides." (p. 337)
  • "Down there," he said, "are people who will follow any dragon, worship any god, ignore any iniquity. All out of a kind of humdrum, everyday badness. Not the really high, creative loathesomeness of the great sinners, but a sort of mass-produced darkness of the soul. Sin, you might say, without a trace of originality. They accept evil not because they say yes, but because they don't say no." (p. 337)
  • That was how you got to be a power in the land, he thought. You never cared a toss about whatever anyone else thought and you were never, ever, uncertain about anything. (p. 348)
  • Up in the gloom the heads of dead animals haunted the walls. The Ramkins seemed to have endangered more species than an ice age. (p. 349)
  • Perhaps the magic would last. Perhaps it wouldn't. But then, what does? (p. 355; closing words)

To be placed:

  • 'No one knows how to do officering, Fred. That's why they're officers. If they'd knew anything, they'd be sergeants.'
  • Each man thought: one of the others is bound to say something soon, some protest, and then I'll murmur agreement, not actually say anything, I'm not as stupid as that, but definitely murmur very firmly, so that the others will be in no doubt that I thoroughly disapprove, because at a time like this it behooves all decent men to nearly stand up and be almost heard… But no one said anything. The cowards, each man thought.
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