Terry Pratchett – Jingo

Moving right along with the Great Terry Pratchett Re-read-athon, and we come to one of the most serious books in the series. Serious in its evident intent, but still as funny as ever, of course.

An island, rapidly given the name Leshp, rises from the Circle Sea between Ankh-Morpork (powerful city state, as we’ve come to know it) and Klatch (sort of arabian-ish empire composed of lots of places whose inhabitants don’t get on too well). Quite naturally, the sort of people who like to think about that sort of thing in both places think that this island is naturally their territory, and war between the two powers seems quite likely.

It seems even more likely when there’s an attempt on the life of the brother of the Klatchian ruler while he’s on a visit to Ankh-Morpork.

It seems inevitable when, against all expectations, the Patrician, Lord Vetinari, apparently steps down from power in favour of the moronic militaristic Lord Rust.

And so it’s up to Sam Vimes, commander of the City Watch and Knight, to deal with the whole messy business. Can he prevent the most serious crime of all from being carried out? Can he, and his nicely varied team prevent an all-out war from taking place? And what exactly is the Patrician up to? And why does it involve Segeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs of the Watch? And is Leonard of Quirm’s invention altogether safe? All these questions, and a few more, are answered in Jingo.

On re-reading this book for the first time in, err, quite a long time, my initial impression was of there being a degree of anger behind it. Anger at the damn foolish notion of it being a Good Thing to die for not so much you country as whatever the twits currently running it think is worth you dying for, and much more besides. But there is, of course, still a lot to laugh at, and a fair amount to think about, too. For instance, Vimes is trying to persuade Mr Jenkins to let him use his boat

Mr Jenkins tried to look away but Vimes’s stare kept pulling him back. The occasional tremble of a lip suggested that he was preparing a riposte, but he was bright enough to spot that Vimes’s grin was as funny as the one that moves very fast towards drowning men. And has a fin on top.

Then there’s a discussion about the various people going to Leshp

“Why are our people going out there?” said Mr Boggis of the Thieves’ Guild.
“Because they are showing a brisk pioneering spirit and seeking wealth and … additional wealth in a new land,” said Lord Vetinari.
“What’s in it for the Klatchians?” said Lord Downey.
“Oh, they’ve gone out there because they are a bunch of unprincipled opportunists always ready to grab something for nothing,” said Lord Vetinari.
“A masterly summation, if I may say so, my lord,” said Mr Burleigh, who felt he had some ground to make up.
The Patrician looked down again at his notes. “Oh, I do beg your pardon,” he said. “I seem to have read those last two sentences in the wrong order…”

Which reminded me of a skit from, umm, well, it might have been Spitting Image, or maybe something else, from the time of the 1982 Falklands War, which had some US person or other referring to an unpopular right-wing government trying to build up popular support at home with a war over the islands, with the punchline being along the lines of “oops, wrong file”.

There’s a quite blatant Dr Strangelove reference:

“Gentlemen, please,” said the Patrician. He shook his head. “Let’s have no fighting, please. This is, after all, a council of war.”

Which bears a certain resemblance to :

And there is, of course, much more. Vimes finds an unexpected ally, has problems with his Personal Dis-organiser, which seems to be operating in a completely different leg of the Trousers of Time, and continues to subvert everything he touches.

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying that things pretty much work out in the end, but this is at a price for Vimes, who suffers the terrible fate of being ennobled at the end. This isn’t related to Nobby Nobbs, I should add. It’s worse..

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