Book:Night Watch

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Night Watch
Cover art by Paul Kidby
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date November 2002
ISBN 0385602642
Pages 368
Main characters Sam Vimes, Carcer, Lu-Tze
Series Watch Series
Annotations View
All data relates to the first UK edition.


This morning, Commander Vimes of the City Watch had it all. He was a Duke. He was rich. He was respected. He had a titanium cigar case. He was about to become a father.

This morning he thought longingly about the good old days.

Tonight, he's in them.

Flung back in time by a mysterious accident, Sam Vimes has to start all over again. He must get a new name and a job, and there's only one job he's good at: cop in the Watch. He must track down a brutal murderer. He must find his younger self and teach him everything he knows. He must whip the cowardly, despised Night Watch into a crack fighting force – fast. Because Sam Vimes knows what's going to happen. He remembers it. He was there. It's part of history. And you can't change history...

But Sam is going to. He has no choice. Otherwise, a bloody revolution will start, and good men will die. Sam saw their names on old headstones just this morning – but tonight they're young men who think they have a future. And rather than let them die, Sam will do anything – turn traitor, burn buildings, take over a revolt, anything – to snatch them from the jaws of history. He will do it even if victory will mean giving up the only future he knows.

For if he succeeds, he's got no wife, no child, no riches, no fame – all that will simply vanish. But if he doesn't try, he wouldn't be Sam Vimes.

And so the battle is on. He knows how it's going to end; after all, he was there. His name is on one of those headstones. But that's just a minor detail...


The story begins on the anniversary of the Glorious Revolution. Vimes arrives at Pseudopolis Yard in the morning to hear that another officer, Sergeant Abba Stronginthearm, has been killed by Carcer, a psychopathic murderer on the loose in Ankh-Morpork. Later that day, he receives news that the Watch are staking out Carcer at the Unseen University. Vimes succeeds in cornering the villain at the dome above the Library, when suddenly a magical thunderstorm strikes (the same storm appears in Thief of Time). This triggers a magical accident which sends the pair of them back more than 30 years in time.

Vimes wakes up at night time in the care of Dr. John Lawn and Rosemary Palm, having been attacked by muggers in The Shades. At first, he is surprised that they do not recognise him so he calls himself John Keel, the name of his old sergeant. Later that night he is arrested by the (old) Night Watch for breaking curfew, and finds himself in the Treacle Mine Road Watch House in a cell next to a gleeful Carcer, who has just bribed his way out. Whilst he is being interviewed by the Captain in charge, time freezes and Vimes finds himself waking up in the temple of the History Monks.

Vimes meets Lu-Tze (called Sweeper in the book), who explains that they cannot send him back home yet because he has work to do. The real John Keel was due to arrive in the city that night and join the Night Watch, but he was murdered by Carcer. Vimes must impersonate John Keel up until the time of his scheduled death and teach the young Sam Vimes the same lessons he learnt from the real John Keel. Sweeper explains that history naturally corrects itself, and the two separate timelines will eventually join together.

He is returned to the Captain's office, to find that no time has passed, and convinces Captain Tilden that he is the real John Keel. As a result, he joins the Night Watch and meets his younger self, who has just taken a share in Carcer's bribe. He begins to teach the same lessons that proved so important later in his life. During a patrol, the pair of them meet Carcer who has just joined the Unmentionables, the secret police of Lord Winder, led by Captain Findthee Swing.

Vimes is able to keep his part of the city relatively peaceful during the growing unrest in the city. He mutinies against the new Captain, Ronald Rust and takes charge of the watchmen and the revolutionaries. He breaks into the Headquarters of the Unmentionables and kills Captain Swing in a sword fight. The barricades grow until Vimes has one quarter of the city under his control. Originally, Keel and the watchmen were defeated when the barricades were torn down due to their failure to secure the gates. This time, Vimes-as-Keel guards both the gates and bridges and also successfully thwarts an attempt to demolish the huge barricades using a siege weapon. He begins to worry over what will happen if the revolution does succeed, and whether he can really return to the present where he belongs.

Meanwhile, Lord Winder is assassinated by a young guild student Havelock Vetinari. Lord Snapcase is sworn in and calls for a truce. However, believing that Keel is a threat, he sends Carcer and a group of guards to kill Vimes-as-Keel. In a resulting street fight, the same men who died in the original fight now die in a new battle. At the last minute, time freezes and Sweeper and Qu come to tell Vimes that his work is done, and he must grab Carcer to return home. They bring out the body of the real John Keel and tell him that they will dress the body in his armour (which will not come home with him) and leave it in his place. When time comes back, he grabs Carcer and they both vanish.

Vimes reappears before Captain Carrot, half an hour after the lightning struck. With the help of a slightly-older Doctor Lawn, Sybil gives birth to a son, who she names Sam. Vimes rewards the doctor with a large sum of cash and a freehold site in Goose Gate (for the founding of the Lady Sybil Free Hospital). He visits the grave of his old mentor in the cemetery, where he is attacked by Carcer. Vimes remembers what he taught his younger self and does not kill the murderer and instead succeeds in binding him. He promises Carcer a fair trial and a clean execution, at which point Vetinari appears. Vimes declines Vetinari's offer for a memorial to the Revolution, so the Patrician offers to rebuild the Treacle Mine Road Watch House (which was destroyed in Guards! Guards!). Carcer is dragged off to justice and presumably hanged the next day.


The cover was drawn by Paul Kidby, his first cover for Pratchett: It is a parody of Rembrandt's 1642 painting The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch (more commonly known as, funnily enough, Night Watch). The original features on the back of the hardback edition.

The exact identities of the characters on the cover are not exactly known, but are believed to be (roughly from left to right);


The Past and Present (Major Characters)

The Past and the Present (Minor Characters)

The Past (Major Characters)

The Past (Minor Characters)

The Present (Major Characters)

The Present (Minor Characters)


Things and Concepts



Night Watch was adapted into a stage-play by Stephen Briggs in 2004.


Night Watch has been turned into a BBC Radio 4 drama and was broadcast 27th February 2008.



First Edition Cover by Paul Kidby
Book Proof
Cover by Istvan Orosz
Audio Cassette
Audio CD
US Cover
US Cover-alt
Paperback 2012
Collectors Library
Paperback 2023

External Links

Night Watch Annotations - The Annotated Pratchett File

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