The fifteenth novel in the Discworld Series
UK hbk: Victor Gollancz, 40,000 printed 11 November 1993 (0-575-05503-0) repr. twice (1st reprint 7,500), then reissued, 6 August 1998 (0-575-06577-X). Copies of the second reprint were rejacketed for the initial publication, but Gollancz did print 750 copies in July or August 1998.
Book proof: 150 copies
Discworld Collector’s Library: The City Watch Collection (hbk, cover engraving by Joe McLaren): Gollancz, 28 February 2014 (978-1-473-20019-7)
Book Club: BCA, 1994 (CN 6731) The first Discworld novel issued by BCA in the small format. Hitherto all copies had been printed for them by Gollancz.
BCA’s Unseen Library: c.3,500 copies in January 2006 (CN 142976)
Pbk: Corgi, 250,000 copies on 10 November 1994 (0-552-14028-7), reprinted 1994 (twice), 1996, 1997, 1998 and numerous occasions since.
B-format issue, with black/gold photographic design cover, on sale at same time as Kirby edition, July 2005 (0-552-15316-8)
Reissued B-format with modified Kirby cover: Corgi, 2013 (978-0-552-16753-6)
USA: HarperPrism (jacket design by Michael Sabanosh), March 1996 (0-06-109218-5)
Proofs: issued September 1995. Quantity not known.
Pbk: HarperPrism (cover illus. Michael Sabanosh), 3 April 1997 (0-06-109219-3)
Premium pbk: Harper Premium, 29 October 2013 (978-0-06-223740-8)
US book club: Science Fiction Book Club Selection May 1996 (Jacket art by Lissanne Lake) 1 April 1996 (ref.11518)
Brazilian: Bertrand Brasil [not yet published]
Bulgarian: Вьоръжени Мъже, trs. Mirela Khristova, Vuzev/Akhont-V, 5,000 copies in December 1998 (954-422-051-8)
New translation: trs. Vladimir Zarkov, Vuzev/Arhont-V, 2003 (954-422-079-8)
Chinese/complex (Taiwan): Solo, February 2013 (978-986-89002-1-9)
Czech: Muži ve Zbrani, trs. Jan Kantůrek, Talpress, 10,000 copies in November 1997 (80-7197-122-7)
Double volume, with Soul Music, pencil drawings by Paul Kidby, Talpress, 2012 (978-80-7197-441-3)
Dutch: Te Wapen, trs. Venugopalan Ittekot (pseud. of Ruurd Groot), Het Spectrum, 5,000 copies in August 1996 (90-274-4784-5)
Reissue: Mynx, 2008 (978-90-225-5127-1)
Estonian: Relvis Mehed, trs. Kaaren Kaer, jacket illus. Hillar Mets, Varrak, December 2003 (9985-3-0785-2)
Finnish: Vartiosto valmiina palvelukseen, trs. Mika Kivimäki, Karisto, March or 25 May 2005 (951-23-4605-2)
Pbk: Karisto, January 2008 (978-951-23-4979-1)
French: Le Guet des Orfèvres, trs. Patrick Couton, L’Atalante, May 2000 (2-84172-138-8)
Reissue, with new introduction by Terry Pratchett (dated September 2014), 19 May 2016 (978-2-84172-763-6)
Omnibus, with Guards! Guards! and Feet of Clay: Le Guet d’Ankh-Morpork, L’Atalante, October 2010 (978-2-84172-522-9)
Pbk: Pocket, February 2004 (2-266-13698-4; 5826)
Pbk with Simonetti cover: Pocket, August 2011 (978-2-266-21195-6)
German 1. Helle Barden, trs. Andreas Brandhorst, Goldmann, 22,000 copies on 1 February 1996 (3-442-43048-8)
mass market pbk: Goldmann, November 2000 (3-442-44873-5)
Pbk: CBT, October 2009 (978-3-570-30607-9)
2. New translation by Gerald Jung, Manhattan, 24 March 2014 (978-3-442-54719-7)
Hebrew: 7?!95 *9), טדי מדא׳ע, trs. , Kinneret, Zmora-Bitan Dvir, 2006 (42-4100118)
Hungarian: Fegyvertársak, trs. Csaba Járdán, Delta Vision, 28 November 2012  (978-963-9890-20-6)
Italian: Uomini d’arme, trs. Antonella Pieretti, cover illus. Paul Kidby, Salani c. October 2003 (88-8451-283-2). Incorrectly called on the title page ‘il secondo volume della trilogia della Guardia Cittadina’, the trilogy aspect only being dreamed up later as a marketing tool by Gollancz – as with their other trilogies.
Mass market paperback: TEA, March 2006 (88-502-1044-2)
Polish: Zbrojni, trs. Piotr W. Cholewa, Prószyński i S-ka, 2002 (83-7337-201-6)
Romanian: Rao [not yet published]
Russian: К Опужи! К Опужи!, trs. N.Berdennukov, Eksmo, ?5 May 2002 (5-699-00379-7)
Double volume with Guards! Guards!: Eksmo, 5,000 copies printed on 14 April 2003 (5-699-02859-5)
Three book volume with Guards! Guards! and Feet of Clay called Стража! Стража! Eksmo, 28 January 2015 (978-5-699-62981-7)
Serbian/Yugoslav: Oružane Snage, trs. Aleksandar Milaji*, Laguna, 1,000 copies in 2002 (86-7436-123-4)
Spanish: Hombres de armas, trs. Albert Solé, Plaza y Janés, July 2003 (94-01-32993-0)
Pocket book: Debols!llo/Plaza y Janés, April 2005 (84-9793-623-X; vol.342/15)
Bestseller edition; Debols!llo, November 2010 (978-84-9793-623-1), 1st edition with new cover October 2013(same ISBN),
Kiosk edition: Altaya, 2008 (978-84-487-2619-5)
Swedish: En Man på Sin Vakt, trs. Peter Lindforss, Wahlströms, 1995 (91-32-31990-8)
pbk: c.January 1998 (91-32-43081-7)
Pratchett’s Men at Arms picks up the tale of the City Watch from his previous book Guards! Guards! The Corporal is breaking in the new guards, recruited to reflect the diverse ethnic population of the city. A member of the ancient Assassins Guild is preparing to reinstate the monarchy, while full-scale interspecies war looks likely to break out between the Trolls and the Dwarves. The last thing that anyone needs, in a world where life is not only cheap but available at zero interest repayments, is for someone to discover the gun, which is exactly what they do. All this is interwoven with tales of love, friendship, betrayal and naked ambition, creating perhaps the most timely book Pratchett has ever written. Mark Thomas, Night & Day (Mail on Sunday)
Men at Arms is the sequel to Guards! Guards!, perhaps the best of Pratchett’s previous fourteen books. It is a Night Watch procedural, with a proper whodunit plot although it bulges, like a pantomime, with all sorts of other stuff: a canine revolutionary movement; an eerie look inside the Clown’s Guild; a virtuoso tour of the city of Ankh-Morpork by smell. The Watch, who make Dogberry and Verges look like Bodie and Doyle, now employ labour under equal-opportunity employment policies, which means Corporal Carrot (the friendly giant, although technically a dwarf) must pound his beat in company with a troll, a real dwarf, and a woman who gets unusually stimulated by moonlight.
The joke is that whatever they appear as, wizards or watchmen, the minute the citizens of Ankh-Morpork open their mouths they stand revealed as a much later model of urbanite: British definitely, and perhaps from the third quarter of the 20th century. They can be small-minded or idealistic, but they are people who expect things to be run properly, who grumble a lot, and are more prone to indignation than violence. They run sanctuaries for sick dragons and patronise cafes that serve ‘meals properly balanced between the four food groups: sugar, starch, grease and burnt crunchy bits’.
The vileness of Ankh-Morpork, where the river is rigid with pollution and the muggers charge a fee for not robbing you, remains a running gag, chugging along in the background. The foreground action is never sick or nasty. The shock and distress of the new watchmen on finding a corpse give the lie to the facetious allusions to routine random mayhem. More importantly, their tenderness reveals the moral sensitivity inside the skin of the farce.
Despite the hype, Pratchett’s books are not ‘screamingly funny’. What they are is persistently amusing, good-hearted and shrewd. They are kind to the jaded palette or flu-stuffed brain. They are a great and reliable relief, which makes us feel better about ourselves and our follies, for a day or so, without recourse to idiocy, cynicism or moral anaesthesia, and he writes two of them a year? What more could you ask? Perhaps that he should write them alertly, engagingly and boldly, and work hard at it. After 23 books, the last dozen all bestsellers in both hardback and paper, Pratchett is still pushing out the boundaries of his talent.
He has conquered his squeamishness, for example. Reputedly, it was Neil Gaiman who did all the bits about sex or evil in Good Omens, their 1990 collaboration. Yet there is sex in Men at Arms. It is conscientiously veiled, but unequivocally sex, quite delightful and really very romantic. It is happy sex. The book later permits a well-known character to be killed; and if that is not acknowledging evil, evil is here, too; for Pratchett it is still a hot potato, to be shuffled quickly from one character to another until it can safely be attributed to an object and allowed to lurk, rumbling malignly through the plot.
That the object is a gun, a device unknown in this age of crossbows and swords, is characteristic of Pratchett’s imagination: the joke city, the real threat. It is characteristic, too, that the gun’s inventor is an unworldly innocent who looks forward to flying machines. ‘There could be no more war, because the sky is endless.’ It is a beautiful line, its sweetness and bitterness very precisely judged.
That is where Pratchett stands, on the side of the humans, who eternally deserve better from each other. The friendly and popular Corporal Carrot is not the only one to make his patch a nicer place than the rest of us have any right to expect. Colin Greenland in The Sunday Times
Pratchett has been compared to P.G.Wodehouse for the skill with which he manages very tricky ensemble humour. But, however unpretentious, these novels have roots in the bedrock of English literature. Men at Arms is the funniest and best crafted book I have read all year. Paul Pickering, Sunday Express
Terry Pratchett is given to expansive fantasies like Don Quixote, but there is also in his imagination a streak of Sancho Panza’s realism and sense of fair play…. Pratchett keeps these two views of life in companionable partnership with so little apparent strain that both children and adults laugh at his jokes…. His 15th novel in 10 years is one of his most inventive…. This genial fantasy have everything to recommend it but the title: Men at Arms must surely belong exclusively to Evelyn Waugh. Sylvia Clayton, Daily Telegraph
This sequel to Guards! Guards! is Terry Pratchett’s most intriguing yet. It sticks closely to the usual template of cartoon medievality, set on a Discworld lolling on the back of a vast turtle, and in the city of Ankh-Morpork whose river is pollution-gelled and whose people are our own burlesqued mirror-images….
Pratchett’s neo-Wodehouse technique could be called The Exploding Boot Effect. He kicks a joke into play, the reader watches it detonate on impact, but then realises that the original site of launch has also been booby-trapped. Here is a comedian who thinks upon thought, as sweetly woozy asides mingle with spicy issertations on philosophy, to combine with the wincemeat of monstrous puns (‘it was more highly bred than a hilltop bakery’).
So, the lovable Corporal Carrot leads a Pilgrimage through a world very like ours, what with inter-species hatred and the snobbishness of aristo-power to become a Carrot destined for higher things. The art of Pratchett parcels up modern acrimonies to place them on a cosier plane.
Sex rears its enjoyable head only to be made hurtful by what it entails in the way of love. Somebody has to give up something; in this case, life.
To that extent this is a new beginning for Pratchett, hitherto escape-team leader from grim reality. For once he brings us down to Earth from Discworld with a bump of self-sacrifice. Not that we should despair. Hope springs eternal: from an optimistic talking dog to a Thief of Baghdad finale via that so-rare charm that tells us all is well. Tom Hutchinson, The Times
When does a writer sell out? If the proverbial soul is tossed to the wind when he/she succumbs to the dubious delights of the increasingly voracious weekend supplements, Terry Pratchett’s recent multi-page spread in The Guardian must surely have kicked any aspirations towards cultdom out of the stadium, let alone into touch. And of course, after selling a few million books, cultdom is precisely what this author needs, right?
Right! The odd thing is, against all the statistical evidence, Pratchett is still a ‘cult’ writer in the sense that he has defined his own crazed style and – more importantly – invented his own bloody planet. If the Discworld was designed for a flippant literary one-off, ten years and fifteen startling attempts to nail down its contours and characters have conspired to blow those transient ambitions apart.
To whit, Men at Arms takes the discerning Discworldite back to the splendidly grim climes of Ankh-Morpork (imagine a third world Hackney thrown back to Victorian times), where the normally resolutely useless Night Watch patrol suddenly has an attack of conscience and, armed with a dwarf, a troll, a werewolf, assorted misfits and the mysteriously popular Corporal Carrot, unites to attempt to save the city from several fates worse than death.
The morals come thick and fast: there’s racial tension between dwarves and trolls; there’s a geezer banging around town blasting people away with something called a gonne, which is apparently A Very Bad Invention; and, when there’s a chance that the hero of the piece could well be the king that the city has lacked for so long (check out the sly Arthurian references to pulling swords from stones), our hero decides that, hey, who really needs a monarchy?
All of which is delivered at breakneck speed, replete with Pythonesque puns, characters worth having a few ales with and a plot that demands a mad Gilliam film production. And if that isn’t enough of an encouragement to visit the Discworld, I’m an orang-utan librarian. Excellent. Again.
Simon Williams, New Musical Express
It’s difficult with such a great literary name such as Terry Pratchett to say one book is better than another, but Men at Arms is indisputably his best yet (apart from Good Omens). Fly Magazine
Holiday Reading. I would take John Sutherland’s excellent biography of Sir Walter Scott (Blackwell), and Terry Pratchett’s Men at Arms. It is not just dungeons and dragons, but full of wit and imagination. I am a narrative addict and love books which zip me along. A.S.Byatt in Sunday Times
Background illustration © and by courtesy of Marc Simonetti