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Jingo
Terry Pratchett
HarperPrism Books, 324 pages

Jingo
Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett lives in Somerset, England, where he spends all his time, and more, writing his rigorously naturalistic, curiously entertaining, shamelessly popular Discworld novels which have earned him extravagant acclaim and puzzled stares from millions of readers around the world.

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A review by Todd Richmond

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Terry Pratchett continues to address the seemingly infinite aspects of modern culture in his Discworld series. Jingo takes a look at war, land disputes, assassination, science and weapons development, and prejudice. Of course, Pratchett does it in his typical way, sneaking it in here and there and occasionally hitting you full in the face with it.

Jingo focuses on some of my favorite Discworld characters: Commander Vimes; Captain Carrot and the rest of the Ankh-Morpork Watch; and Lord Vetinari, Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. The tale begins with the sudden appearance of the lost city of Leshp, rising up in the middle of the ocean between Ankh-Morpork and Klatch. Discovered simultaneously by fishermen from both sides, it is immediately claimed by both. Since neither side is willing to compromise, it is inevitable that war breaks out. The Guild Leaders of Ankh-Morpork don't seem to notice that they haven't had a navy or a standing army for over four hundred years (since Commander Vimes's ancestor led the city's militia in revolt). They decide to raise their own private armies and take what is theirs by force of might, against the wishes of Lord Vetinari.

In the meantime, someone attempts to assassinate the Klatchian Prince in Ankh-Morpork. Initially, the attempt seems to be the act of a lone Klatchian bowman, but Vimes soon discovers that there was a second bowman. There's conspiracy afoot in Ankh-Morpork. The city rulers proceed to force Lord Vetinari to step down and relieve Vimes of his command, then set off to make war with the Klatchians. Determined not to let the two nations come to all out war, Vetinari and Vimes both set out separately to stop it. Vetinari sets out with Sergeant Colon, Corporal Nobbs, and Leonard of Quirm, an absent-minded inventor, but not before conferring Knighthood on Commander Vimes. Thus empowered to raise his own army, Vimes and the rest of the Watch commandeer a ship and set out for Klatch. As you might expect, there is a lot of confusion, surreptitious action, and sheer bravado in the resulting adventure.

Of course, there is a lot more going on than just two nations setting out to wage war. Commander Vimes feels like he's out of touch and losing control of the Watch to Captain Carrot, who has been actively recruiting new guardsmen. Since Carrot joined the Watch, the number of guards has grown from three men to over forty men, or actually, creatures. Thanks to Carrot, the Watch now includes dwarfs, gargoyles, a golem, a troll, a gnome, a werewolf and a zombie. Carrot is, of course, totally oblivious to Vimes's concerns, as his only objective is to uphold the law and protect the citizens of Ankh-Morpork. He has the kind of charisma that lets him organize a football game between two armies poised at the brink of war, and make criminals beg to confess. As Vimes puts it:

"It's like hypnotism. People follow him to see what's going to happen next. They tell themselves that they're just going along with it for a while and can stop any time they want to, but they never want to. It's damn magic."
What else is there? How about (shudder) Corporal Nobbs trying to get in touch with his feminine side? Then there's Lord Vetinari's adventures with Sgt. Colon, Nobbs and Leonard of Quirm. Leonard is Ankh-Morpork's Leonardo da Vinci, whom Vetinari keeps locked away in the basement, as much for his own protection as for everyone else's. For as Lord Vetinari puts it:
"Leonard's incredible brain sizzled away alarmingly, an overloaded chip pan on the Stove of Life.... imprisoned in the priceless inquiring amber of Leonard's massive mind, underneath all that bright investigative genius was a kind of willful innocence that might in lesser men be called stupidity. It was the seat and soul of that force which, down the millennia, had caused mankind to stick its fingers in the electric light socket of the Universe and play with the switch to see what happened -- and then be very surprised when it did."
Leonard is one of those scientists who believes that his inventions could never be used for evil. When Nobby suggests that Leonard's "Going-Under-The-Water-Safely-Device" could be used to sink ships, Leonard is horrified that anyone would think of such a thing. There's a lot of humor centered around Leonard, his devices and ideas.

So where does Jingo stand on the Pratchett scale? Since I'm fond of the novels that feature the Watch, I would place it above Feet of Clay but not quite as good as Guards! Guards! More than once my wife asked me to leave the room because I was laughing too much while reading. Some of the funniest parts, as usual, are in the footnotes, liberally scattered throughout the book. Pratchett has a unique way of looking at things -- who else could make war and assassination hilarious? The story stumbles a bit, especially once the action moves to Klatch, and there are few nitpicky things here and there, but overall, Jingo is a fine addition to the Discworld series.

Copyright © 1998 by Todd Richmond

Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy Óla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.


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