Since the first novel, The Colour of Magic (1983), the series has expanded, spawning several related books and maps, five short stories, cartoon and theatre adaptations and even music inspired by the series. The first live action screen adaptation for television (Hogfather) was broadcast over Christmas 2006. Another one for the cinema (The Wee Free Men) is currently in development.
Sam Vimes is head of the Ankh-MorporkCity Watch. His full name and title (after his unwished-for promotion to the aristocracy) is His Grace, The Duke of Ankh, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes. Other titles include His Excellency, Ambassador for Ankh-Morpork, as well as Blackboard Monitor Vimes (The Fifth Elephant, Thud!). He first appeared in the novel Guards! Guards!. While no detailed description of his physical appearance shows up in any of the Discworld novels, Pratchett says in the companion work, Art of Discworld, that he has always imagined Vimes as British Actor Pete Postlethwaite.
Sam Vimes is the Commander of the City Watch, the burgeoning police force of the Discworld's largest city, Ankh-Morpork. His rise from drink-sodden, hopeless street copper to respected (if unwilling) member of the aristocracy, and the growth and development of the Watch under his command, have together been one of the major threads of the Discworld series. Born into poverty, he is now a highly reluctant member of the nobility; both a knight and a duke, and married to Sybil Ramkin, the richest heiress in the city.
The book alternates between a typical absurdistic Discworld story and serious scientific exposition. The science centers on the origins of the universe, earth and the beginnings of life, the fiction on the creation of a world (the Earth) in a jar. One of the themes is that most scientific explanations are in reality a good deal more complicated than most of us realize. It is explained that this is because their teachers use Lies-To-Children or, in Ponder Stibbons' case, Lies-To-Wizards.
The purpose of the book is both to entertain and educate. In having fictional sections in which observers from a very different world with a very different set of rules look with confused eyes upon the Earth, the authors are able to expand upon things we take for granted, such as planets being round and stars being far away, in a manner which is free of a line of thinking which states "But that's obvious".
'They say that the prospect of being hanged in the morning concentrates a man's mind wonderfully; unfortunately what the mind inevitably concentrates on is that it is in a body, that, in the morning, is going to be hanged.'
-- Going Postal
' Vimes had never got on with any game much more complex than darts. Chess in particular had always annoyed him. It was the dumb way the pawns went off and slaughtered their fellow pawns while the kings lounged about doing nothing that always got to him; if only the pawns united, maybe talked the rooks round, the whole board could've been a republic in a dozen moves.'
' Witches usually wear black, but as far as she could tell the only reason that witches wore black because they'd always worn black. This did not seem a good enough reason, so she tended to wear blue or green. '
'Taxation, gentlemen, is very much like dairy farming. The task is to extract the maximum amount of milk with the minimum amount of moo.'
-- Lord Vetinari, Jingo
It was all very well going on about pure logic and how the universe was ruled by logic and the harmony of numbers, but the plain fact of the matter was that the Disc was manifestly traversing space on the back of a giant turtle and the gods had a habit of going round to atheists' houses and smashing their windows.
-- The Colour of Magic