Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Jingo - Terry Pratchett

1997; 437 pages. Book #21 of the Discworld series; Book #4 of the City Watch sub-series. Genre : Comedic Fantasy. New Author?: Heavens, no. Overall Rating : 9*/10.
Commander Sam Vimes, head of the City Watch, has his hands full. First there's the investigation of an attempted assassination, and the assassination of the attempted-assasin. Then there's the invasion of Klatch, the overseas neighbor of Ankh-Morpork. Sam's mighty fighting force? About a half-dozen volunteers from the City Watch. But coppers are the same thing as soldiers, right? And one Ankh-Morporkian is worth a thousand Klatchians, right?
What's To Like...
All your City Watch favorites are here : Angua, Captain Carrot, Corporal Nobby, Sergeant Colon, and Detritus. For a change, the Patrician, Lord Vetinari, plays a major part in the story. It is always a treat to watch him in action. We're introduced to Leonard of Quirm, a combination of Buckminster Fuller and Leonardo Da Vinci, who creates mind-blowing inventions, but fails to come up with any practical uses for them.
There's also a flying carpet, a bit of dimension-hopping, and an imp-powered dis-organizer that reminds Sam of his appointments in the most inopportune ways and moments.
Once again, Pratchett explores a number of themes. The most salient is the senselessness of war. The book opens with a small island popping up in the sea, midway between Ankh-Morpork and Klatch. Neither country has any use for it, but they will fight to keep each other from occupying it.
The themes of racism and jingoism (hence the title of the book) are also prominent. Klatch obviously represents the Arab/Muslim world, and everyone in Ankh-Morpork knows all Klatchians are stupid, cowardly, have bizarre customs, eat strange food, worship the wrong gods, and collectively need a thorough whupping. You don't need to actually meet a Klatchian to know all this, do you?
Oh yeah, Pratchett also gives a wink and a nod to the themes of cross-dressing and guys getting in touch with their feminine side.
Kewl New Words...
Dekko : a quick glance (British slang). Caltrop : an iron anti-personnel device with 4 spikes, which is placed on the ground in such a way that at least one spike is always pointing up (a good weapon to hinder enemy cavalry). Judder : to shake or vibrate rapidly and intensely. Equerry : an official charged with the care of the horses of royalty or nobility. Juggins : a fool; a dupe. Scryer : one who tells the future via crystal-ball gazing.
There was a crash somewhere ahead of them, and a scream. Coppers learned to be good at screams. There was to the connoisseur a world of difference between "I'm drunk and I've just trodden on my fingers and I can't get up!" and "Look out! He's got a knife!" (pg. 56)
"This belonged to my great-grandad," he said. He was in the great scrap we had against Pseudopolis and my great-gran gave him a book of prayers for soldiers, 'cos you need all the prayers you can get, believe you me, and he stuck it in the top pocket of his jerkin, 'cos he couldn't afford armor, and the next day in battle - whoosh, this arrow came out of nowhere, wham, straight into this book and it went all the way through to the last page before stopping, look. You can see the hole."
"Pretty miraculous," Carrot agreed.
"Yeah it was, I s'pose," said the sergeant. He looked ruefully at the tattered volume. "Shame about the other seventeen arrows, really." (pg. 181)
Sergeant Colon cleared his throat. "I know something about seaweed, sir."
"Yes, sergeant?"
"Yessir! If it's wet, sir, it means it's going to rain."
"Well done, sergeant," said Lord Vetinari, without turning his head. "I think it is quite possible that I will never forget you said that." (pg. 269)
Veni, vermini, vomui. (I came, I ratted, I threw up)...(pg. 213)
As usual, Pratchett deftly interweaves the host of themes. As usual, he tells a fascinating story and ties up all the loose ends. As usual, there is laugh-out loud humor throughout the book. As usual, you come away feeling he's imparted a lesson or two to you, without feeling like you've been preached at.
This doesn't seem to be one of the more famous books in the Discworld series. I don't know why not. Nine Stars.


Steven R. Harbin aka coachhollywood67 said...

Excellent review Hamilcar. I don't need a Scryer to tell me that obtaining a copy of Jingo and reading it is somewhere in my immediate future...

Hamilcar Barca said...

i hope you find it! but it was one of the last Discworld books i came across. maybe i'm the only one knocked out about it.