Night Watch is the 29th novel in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, published in 2002. The protagonist of the novel is Sir Samuel Vimes, commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. A five-part radio adaptation of the novel was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 from February 27 2008 - it featured Philip Jackson as Sam Vimes and Carl Prekopp as young Sam, and referenced the similar theme of a policeman unexpectedly being sent back in time from the series Life on Mars.
The cover illustration of the British edition, by Paul Kidby, is a parody of Rembrandt's painting Night Watch. This is the first main-sequence Discworld novel not to have a cover by Josh Kirby. Kidby pays tribute to the late artist by placing him in the picture, in the position where Rembrandt painted himself. The actual painting by Rembrandt is used as the back cover illustration.
On the morning of the 30th anniversary of the Glorious Twenty-Fifth of May (and as such the anniversary of the death of John Keel, Vimes' hero and former mentor), Sam Vimes is caught in a magical storm (briefly implied to be connected to the events of Thief of Time) while pursuing Carcer Dun, a notorious criminal. He awakens to find that he has been rescued by Miss Palm (whom Vimes knows as Mrs Palm, Head of the Guild of Seamstresses). He determines that he has somehow been sent back in time.
Vimes's first idea is to ask the wizards at Unseen University to send him home, but before he can act on this, he is arrested for breaking curfew by a younger version of himself. Incarcerated in a cell beside his, he finds Carcer, who after being released joins the Unmentionables, the secret police carrying out the paranoid whims of the Patrician of the time, Lord Winder.
When he is taken to be interrogated by the captain, time is frozen by Lu-Tze, who tells Vimes what has happened and that he must assume the identity of his mentor Sergeant-At-Arms John Keel (who was to have arrived that day but was murdered by Carcer). It is stated that the event which caused Vimes and Carcer to be sent into the past was a major temporal shattering. Vimes then returns to the office, time restarts and he convinces the captain that he is Keel.
Young Vimes believes Vimes to be Keel, allowing Vimes to teach Young Vimes the lessons for which Vimes idolised Keel. Essentially this means that Vimes taught and idolised himself, not Keel, although alternate histories and the "Trousers of Time" mean this may not be the case ("You were indeed taken under the wing of one John Keel, a watchman from Pseudopolis," says Lu Tze. "He was a real person. He was not you." Lu-Tze also makes reference to the idea that the Monks of History have created an alternate present for the events of the novel to happen in).
The novel climaxes in the Revolution, hinted at since the start of the book. Vimes, taking command of the watchmen, successfully avoids the major bloodshed erupting all over the city and manages to keep his part of it relatively peaceful. After dealing with the Unmentionables' headquarters he has his haphazard forces barricade a few streets to keep people safe from the fighting between rebels and soldiers. However, the barricades are gradually pushed forward during the night to encompass the surrounding streets until Vimes finds himself in control of a significant part of the city.
The ruler, Lord Winder, is effectively assassinated by the young Assassin's Guild student Havelock Vetinari when he influences what seems to be a heart attack, and the new Patrician Lord Snapcase calls for a complete amnesty. However, he sees Keel as a threat and sends Carcer and the palace guard to murder the Night Watch. Several policemen (the ones who died when the barricade fell in the original timeline) are killed in the battle; Vimes manages to fight off the attack until he can grab Carcer, at which point they are returned to the future and Keel's body is placed in the timeline Vimes has just left, to tie things up, as in the "real" history, Keel died in that fight.
Vimes' son is born, with the help of Doctor 'Mossy' Lawn (whom Vimes met while in the past), and Vimes finally arrests Carcer, promising him a fair trial before he's hanged. A subsequent conversation with Lord Vetinari reveals that the Patrician knows Vimes took Keel's place. He proposes that the old Watch House at Treacle Mine Road (where Keel was sergeant, and which was destroyed by the dragon in Guards! Guards!) be rebuilt.
One of the central themes of the novel is the concept that "nothing changes." This is shown in two major ways: First, that even though there is a revolution to overthrow the current patrician, when the revolution is finished people go on with their lives exactly as they had done before, and the government continues behaving as it had done before; Second, that while the past has been slightly changed by Vimes and Carcer, the present remains exactly the same.
Another theme is the idea of acting in a way that you would want to become. Vimes has to teach his younger self about good police work, and in so doing has to be very careful about not doing things that he considers to be over the line (such as murdering unarmed men). It's interesting to note that when Vimes returns to the present, he continues to think of the younger version of himself and how that younger version would see what he is doing, so that he must continue to act in moral ways.
- Нощна стража (Bulgarian)
- Noční hlídka (Czech)
- Ronde de nuit (French)
- Die Nachtwächter (German)
- De Nachtwacht (Dutch)
- Öövahtkond (Estonian)
- Straż nocna (Polish)
- Guardia de Noche (Spanish)
! colspan="3" | Reading order guide
! colspan="3" | Awards