Thought I'd do some more in-depth reviews of The City Watch Books. I'll post one at a time starting with Thud! and going in the order of when I read them. Spoilers are ahead and I'll correct any spelling mistakes etc. that I find later on. Enjoy.
Cover: I own the American "25th Anniversary" version of Thud! and wow is the cover gaudy. Pratchett's name is written in bright orange against a light blue background that I can only describe as Smurf vomit. I can't help but feel that the artist behind this one originally wanted it to be all black and white because it has an otherwise 'New York Times comic' feel to it. You get to see a club with the word 'THUD!' carved into it about to hit a watchman over the head (the lower half of his face not seen). While this part looks okay it's a little weird that the club isn't about to hit a dwarf instead. You could argue that this is supposed to be symbolism or something though. What really got me to buy this one is the blurb on the back, done by someone better at his or her job. It has one snippet from a review and the rest is dedicated to describing the overall plot without giving away too much.
Protagonists: Vimes, for those who don't know, is like the Batman of Discworld: he's bitter as hell, snarky, has enough will power to power the sun for a million plus years and doesn't drink...yes, I am nerdy enough to know that Batman doesn't drink. The first time I read through this I honestly though Vimes was a dwarf because Carrot said something like "Dwarves consider me more of a dwarf than you!". Then I did some looking around and realized it was just pointing out that Vimes was shortish.
Carrot is like Superman. I know that it's lame to make these comic book hero comparisons but he really is like Superman! He's easily one of the best (if not THE best) fighter, believes there is good in all living things, and is incredibly moral. All he needs is a cape! Oh, and he's a human raised as a dwarf.
Angua is a werewolf who plays the straight woman to Carrot's odd behavior and gets her own subplot involving her interactions with a vampire. She's trained herself to be a vegetarian werewolf but, unlike in Twilight, this isn't stupid and there's even a joke about how she pays for the chickens she eats when she turns during a full moon. She seems to be one of the most normal people in the watch in that her way of thinking is much like how anyone in real life thinks (if we could turn into werewolves too, that is).
Sally is a vampire double agent. She has an ego but it's implied that all vampires do. I wish I could say more but all she really does is piss Angua off. Her character will probably be expanded upon in the next book.
Detritus is a troll with a giant crossbow that can cave in buildings. He's kind of like if Vimes was much less cynical. Like, I dunno, if Vimes was combined with a cute yappy dog.
Fred and Nobby is like a comedy duo that spouts non-sequitors. Their characters are much deeper than that (also Fred is a bit of a coward) and have years of experience behind them but I think I should describe the story already.
Story: Thud! starts off with someone getting clubbed on the head (obviously). A dwarf, specifically, and the only witness to the crime is a troll, the natural enemy to all dwarves. Vimes, the Commander of the City Watch, has to solve the crime fast because tensions have risen between an ever-diversifying city now full of trolls and dwarfs as the anniversary (meta) of Koom Valley approaches. Koom Valley is a point in history in which either the trolls ambushed the dwarves or the dwarves ambushed the trolls, leading to a battle in which nobody survived.
From what I can gather the main theme is how different cultures clash, especially within an ever-expanding and economically prosperous city. It's about how sometimes these cultures clash can 'badly' but how, in the end, we can reach an understanding and agreement with one another and, if not that, at least always strive for one. That we shouldn't define ourselves by our hatred of others (although that point is outright stated by a character).
As preachy as this sounds Pratchett actually manages to pull this off. He doesn't cram it down our throats and at no point does a character say something that would only apply only in real life. If you want to read it as just a fantasy novel there is nothing stopping you.
If you expect this to be full of violent action scenes or people yelling at one another then you'll be dissapointed. Yes, this is a precursor to a war and no there is no pointless action scenes. All of the main tension comes from how the characters are going to prevent a conflict from happening. That being said Vimes is an awesome bad-a**. Seeing him mentally and verbally tear people a new one is always entertaining and near the end of the story he does something so awesome that doesn't involve pointless action that it will make you forget all about the Terminator. Let's just say Vimes has a lot of will power. In fact, I bet that's what most people like about this book: Vimes walks around being awesome and something about trolls and dwarves.
My only real complaint about this one is that Angua's subplot feels a little unsatisfying. It is funny and she does find something that is vitally important but it just kind of peters out towards the end. Kind of like if in Lord of the Rings the hobbits destroy the ring and then go to a fast food retaurant.
Oh, and the plot also features a painting thing going on that kind of reminds me of The Da Vinci Code (except, you know, good).
So, that's my first review!