Guards! Guards!
Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett

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Guards! Guards!



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Guards! Guards!

Copyright © 1989 by Terry and Lyn Pratchett

The truth is that even big collections of ordinary books distort space [...] The relevant equation is:

Knowledge = power = energy = matter = mass;
a good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.


Books (general)

Black holes

“To the axeman, all supplicants are the same height.”


Capital punishment

Let the other societies take the skilled, the hopefuls, the ambitious, the self-confident. He’d take the whining resentful ones, the ones with a bellyful of spite and bile, the ones who knew they could make it big if only they’d been given the chance. Give him the ones in which the floods of venom and vindictiveness were dammed up behind thin walls of ineptitude and low-grade paranoia.

“Demarcation, they call it,” said Brother Plasterer. “Like, I don’t go around fiddling with the mystic interleaved wossnames of causality, and they don’t do any plastering.”

Letters rarely got written in that mine. Work stopped and the whole clan had sat around in respectful silence as his pen scrittered across the parchment. [...] His sister had been sent down to the village to ask Mistress Garlick the witch how you stopped spelling recommendation.



“Don’t we have to chant a mystic prune or something?”



“I shall deal with the matter momentarily,” he said. It was a good word. It always made people hesitate. They were never quite sure whether he meant he’d deal with it now, or just deal with it briefly. And no-one ever dared ask.

Over the door a motto in the ancient tongue of the city was now almost eroded by time and grime and lichen, but could just be made out:


It translated – according to Sergeant Colon, who had served in foreign parts and considered himself an expert on languages – as ‘To Protect and to Serve’.



Thick coils of smoke hung in the air, perhaps to avoid touching the walls.

There are many horrible sights in the multiverse. Somehow, though, to a soul attuned to the subtle rhythms of a library, there are few worse sights than a hole where a book ought to be.

He couldn’t help remembering how much he had wanted a puppy when he was a little boy. Mind you, they’d been starving – anything with meat on it would have done.
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.



“The Patrician announced a reward of fifty thousand dollars to anyone who brings him the dragon’s head. Not attached to the dragon, either; he’s no fool, that man.”

Colon was sulking because Vimes had forbidden him to use his bow and arrow.

These weren’t encouraged in the city, since the heft and throw of a longbow’s arrow could send it through an innocent bystander a hundred yards away rather than the innocent bystander at whom it was aimed.



The reason that cliches become cliches is that they are the hammers and screwdrivers in the toolbox of communication.
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.



Noble dragons don’t have friends. The nearest they can get to the idea is an enemy who is still alive.



[...] Lady Ramkin smiled the iron-hard blank smile of a high-born lady who is determined not to show that she has understood what has just been said to her.

“Might have been just an innocent bystander, sir,” said Carrot.

“What, in Ankh-Morpork?”

“Yes, sir.”

“We should have grabbed him, then, just for the rarity value,” said Vimes.



The three rules of the Librarians of Time and Space are: 1) Silence; 2) Books must be returned no later than the last date shown; and 3) Do not interfere with the nature of causality.



Time Travel

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.




City law said that only condemned criminals should be used, but that was all right because in most of the religions refusing to volunteer for sacrifice was an offence punishable by death.



“I mean, it wouldn’t want us to go around killing its own kind, would it?”

“Well, sir, people do, sir,” said the guard sulkily.

“Ah, well,” said the captain. “That’s different.” He tapped the side of his helmet meaningfully. “That’s ’cos we’re intelligent.”




“Never build a dungeon you wouldn’t be happy to spend the night in yourself,” said the Patrician, laying out the food on the cloth. “The world would be a happier place if more people remembered that.”



“Never trust any ruler who puts his faith in tunnels and bunkers and escape routes. The chances are that his heart isn’t in the job.”

“I believe you find life such a problem because you think there are the good people and the bad people,” said the man. “You’re wrong, of course. There are, always and only, the bad people, but some of them are on opposite sides.”

text checked (see note) Mar 2005; Feb 2006; Jul 2020

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