Jingo by Terry Pratchett (1997) 448 p.
Discworld #21 (City Watch #4)

Jingo-2

 

Jingo is one of the Discworld novels I remember best, since I think I started aged around 12 with The Fifth Elephant and, for some reason, worked my backwards through the City Watch books. I remember most of them fairly well, but this must have seared itself into my brain – I remember almost every scene and quite a lot of dialogue. Which makes it difficult to assess. Frankly it’s less interesting than I remember, but perhaps that’s because I remember it so well that there was nothing to surprise me?

Concerning a confrontation between Ankh-Morpork and its neighbour across the Circle Sea, Klatch (a stand-in for vaguely Middle Eastern countries), you’d imagine the fundamental theme of the book to be war. Not really. It has much to say about statecraft and patriotism and of course jingoism, but not about the business of war itself – though Pratchett returns to the subject in Monstrous Regiment. And despite the fact that the war is kicked off (or at least hastened along) by an assassination attempt on a visiting Klatchian dignitary to Ankh-Morpork, it feels like an odd book for Sam Vimes to be the centre of. (Though this is far more egregious in Monstrous Regiment, where even as a teenager, I thought he had no business being in.)

There’s some good stuff in here as always. A particularly clever plot trick is the use of Vimes’ magical PDA, which begins giving him more useful appointments by telling him what is about to happen in the immediate future; and the twist which occurs (which only Pratchett could pull off) when, at a critical moment of decision, two Vimes in alternate universes accidentally grab each other’s PDAs. And so while Vimes is going after one of his abducted officers, dragging along whichever members of the Watch he could round up to get to Klatch where Captain Carrot starts playing Lawrence of Arabia, he begins receiving rather eerie and brutal butterfly-effect updates of what’s happening in a parallel universe where he stayed in Ankh-Morpork. Put like that it seems confusing and silly, but on the page, Pratchett makes it work beautifully.

Next up is Carpe Jugulum, a Witches book which many consider to be excellent but which I don’t recall very well. Hopefully that’s actually a good sign.

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