I’ve just finished re-reading Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett. It’s been a long time since I last read it so it was fascinating to re-experience the story in the light of the last decade or so.
There’s a key character, Lupine Wonse (spoiler alert) who plays quite a clever role in manufacturing a political crisis and staging a solution which he conducts from (to start with) a fairly invisible position in the political map of Ankh-Morpork, the sprawling Discworld city this story is set in.
Wonse’s staged solution involves creating a fake king and summoning a huge, fire-breathing dragon from a different dimension for him to fight. When said fake king appears with a shiny sword and swings at it, Wonse sends the dragon back to its own dimension, concealing the deception in a cloud of coloured smoke.
Unfortunately for Wonse, the dragon finds a way to return to his dimension, and wreaks terror on Ankh-Morpork and surrounding countryside before demanding that the city feeds him once a month on a diet of well-born ladies who have retained – ahem – their virtue.
The dragon being somewhat bigger, fiercer, more powerful and far more intelligent than Wonse, exerts full control over him in order to ensure that he carries out its bidding. Wonse is naturally scared, trapped, desperate and generally not a happy fellow at this point – and there’s worse to come.
“But what,” I hear you cry, “is the point of telling me this nonsensical plot when I’m in the middle of trying to solve a particularly delicate political situation at a time of national crisis? Why on Earth are you distracting me with this pointless twaddle?”
I mean, mainly it’s just because it’s a fantastic story with some cracking characters in it. Oh and yes, it’s the first of the series of Discworld books about the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, which is being turned into a television series that will be screened in the sadly not-too-near future. But I believe filming has only just begun, so I do have to exercise a little patience there.
And, of course, I couldn’t help but notice the odd parallel to our own sorry political situation as I read through it.
I haven’t given the whole plot away, of course, since I don’t want to spoil it for you if you do choose to read it. And it really is fantastic; I can’t recommend Mr Pratchett’s works highly enough. But just wait till you find out what happened to the fake king…