Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Genre Character of the Week: Samuel Vimes

One of my favourite times of the year is in January, when I go looking through all my lists to figure out which new books by my favourite authors are due out over the next year. In 2011 I had a list of six books I was looking forward to above all others, all of which except two ended up as reviews on my blog (the first missing title was Dead Reckoning, by Charlaine Harris, but as it was book 11 of an ongoing series, I couldn’t figure out how to review it without giving away massive spoilers). The final book was Terry Pratchett’s Snuff, featuring my favourite character in his Discworld stories, Samuel Vimes.

A few years ago I reviewed Matthew Scott’s Thraxas, a novel which paired the hard-boiled detective novel with a fantasy setting. In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, the author has satirized and parodied so many types of stories with his own fantasy world I wouldn’t know where to begin (but I suppose if you want to, you should start with The Colour of Magic, which parodies everything from classic fantasy to tourism and even Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser), but for me my personal favourite novels are his cop stories, which he calls his City Watch novels (including, Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo, The Fifth Elephant, Night Watch, Thud!, and Snuff) and a major part of this is the captain of the city watch, Samuel Vimes.

Now, a huge part of what I like about Sam is his growth throughout the series of books he features in, and like one of my favourite SF Genre characters, Miles Vorkosigan, Sam does an awful lot over the course of these stories. But looking back at his character in his first book,Guards! Guards!, Sam comes across as a good cop, trying to balance his own views about the importance of law and order with his experience in leading the city watch of Ankh Morpork, a wretched hive of scum and villainy if there ever was one.

In the end, he’s a decent guy trying to do his best in a less than great situation, something we can all aspire to.

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