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War comes to Discworld!
on March 15, 2002
Jingo is yet another book that takes place in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. It's the fourth book to feature the City Watch, which is the police force of Ankh-Morpork, a city on the Disc. It's also one of the best. The City Watch, in its initial incarnation, was an homage to those no-name soldiers, troopers and other various cannon-fodder that inhabit adventure and sci-fi movies. They're usually hapless, the hero runs right over them, and their survival rate is fairly low. Originally, it consisted of three people, Samuel Vimes, Nobby Nobs, and Sergeant Colon.
This was until Carrot joined. Carrot is a human who was raised by dwarves, thus he considers himself a dwarf. He's the ultimate innocent, but yet he has a way of getting people to listen to him and follow him. By the time of Jingo, he's been raised to Captain (no comic book jokes, please). This all happened in the first City Watch book, Guards Guards. In subsequent books, the Watch has grown almost exponentially. It now has over 50 members, with more joining all the time. In fact, Jingo jokes a couple of times about how Vimes, the commander of the Watch, doesn't know that somebody's joined. It's very common for him to say "Who's that?" and be told that he signed the paperwork.
Jingo involves an island that has suddenly appeared between Ankh-Morpork and the land of Klatch. Klatch is based on the Arab countries of our world, and there are quite a few jokes about how something that was supposedly invented in Ankh-Morpork has been used in Klatch for years. The people of Ankh-Morpork have a lot of the same stereotypes of Klatchians as exist in the real world about Arabs as well. Pratchett goes to great lengths to show just how stupid this is. He portrays the actual Klatchians very well, with no actual stereotypes that I saw.
Anyway, both Ankh-Morpork and Klatch lay claim to this island, and thus talk of war begins. There's an attempt on the life of a Klatchian prince and other sorts of violence start to break out in the city. Samuel Vimes is trying to deal with all of this. He's a simple cop who just wants to solve crimes, but sometimes the crimes are too big for one man to solve. Events start to spiral out of control and Vimes and some of his troops find themselves in Klatch trying to stop things before the war gets out of hand.
There are so many wonderful characters in these City Watch books, and this one even adds some more. The main new character is 71-hour Ahmed, a Klatchian who's more than what he seems. Vimes has to deal with him a lot, and while he starts out seeming stereotypical, but he eventually develops into a well-rounded character. There's Reg Shoe, who I understand is introduced in a non-City Watch book, but becomes a member of the Watch in this book. He's a zombie. Then there are the regulars, such as Carrot, Detritus (a troll), Constable Visit, Colon, Nobs, the Patrician (who, uncharacteristically, takes an active role in events after he's deposed from power), and finally Vimes himself. There are just too many of them to describe them all, but they all have their hilarious moments.
Vimes is who the books are essentially about, and he gets the most character development. He used to be a drunk who barely got by, and didn't have to do anything in his job. He wasn't required to, because nobody gave the Watch any respect anyway. Carrot gave him a sense of duty, though, and he's progressed well since then. Jingo continues this progression, as he tries to stop the madness. Vimes is always an interesting person to read about. He's not a violent man, and he's trapped in a violent circumstance. Watching him get out of it is very entertaining.
Discworld is known for it's humour, and this is a very funny book. Pratchett usually cloaks his philosophical points in the laughs. This book isn't quite as funny as the previous ones, though, and the philosophy sticks out even more in this one because of it. It basically points out the pointlessness of mindless militarism, nationalism and patriotism. The closest thing it is a parody of is the Falklands conflict, with a war over a worthless piece of land that nobody in their right mind would want anyway. Along the way, though, many jokes are cracked. The best thing about the City Watch books is that the humour seems to come from within the characters, which makes for very zany, yet almost believable, events. That's why I prefer them.
This book is definitely worth a read. You could start with it, but I would suggest that you read the first three: Guards Guards, Men at Arms, and Feet of Clay. There is a progression of character that you will miss if you start with Jingo. But don't miss this one. It's a keeper.