I detest patriotism, and especially that breed of patriotism called jingoism. It's a special kind of stupid that does to people's brains what religion and alcohol does, instilling a kind of confidence that can be fatal. So a Discworld book that lampoons jingoism, amongst so many other things that are ridiculous and yet so integral to the world, would be right up my alley, right?
The tensions between Ankh-Morpork and Klatch begin to rise along with an ancient sunken island, Leshp. Anti-Klatchian sentiment in Ankh-Morpork coincides with a visit by a Klatchian emissary, whom Vimes and the Watch are meant to protect. After an assassination attempt gone wrong and misleading clues everywhere, Vimes struggles to find the truth. But with the upper class of Ankh-Morpork determined to go to war, no matter what the cost, the Watch will have a hard time keeping the peace, especially when they are disbanded. Vimes considers war itself to be a crime, but could he arrest an entire army for breaching the peace?
I have to confess, after the novelty of Guards! Guards! and the interesting mysteries of Men at Arms and Feet of Clay, Jingo appears to be the weakest of the Watch books. Not by much, mind, given the very common themes of racism and jingoism that are examined, deconstructed, and lampooned very thoroughly, but the assassination attempt seems to be more like an excuse for Vimes and the Watch to (eventually) end up in Klatch. This is one of the few novels where the beginning seems to become irrelevant later on, even though it proves to be a later vital part of the plot.
The Watch characters, including newcomer Reg Shoe, are mostly given something to do, although Cheery Littlebottom and Dorfl, after their debut in the previous Watch book, are not given as much, unfortunately. Of particular note, however, are Vimes, Colon, and Nobby, who are all given substantial adventures and character development. The new characters vary. The two assassins are one-joke wonders, and the fishermen from Ankh-Morpork and Klatch who settle on Leshp and spend all of the book bickering with each other and embarassing their children are annoying to the extreme. So is Lord Rust, who makes me want to rip his face off. However, 71-Hour Ahmed is a brillaintly devised character and wonderful foil and contrast to Vimes, and the Klatchian restaurant-owning Gorriff family adds very human faces to a dangerous situation. Vetinari has one of his most brilliant gambits yet, and Leonard of Quirm makes a welcome reappearance in a more substantial role.
The storyline itself, however, while addressing many issues, does have a rather shaky beginning. The depiction of anti-Klatchian sentiment is handled excellently and sensitively, but the assassination itself seems to be a contrivance to drive the plot forward even more than the rise of Leshp. Once Lord Rust takes over, however, things start to cohere more and become a little more interesting. And the concept of Vimes trying to arrest the leaders of an army for disturbing the peace is both funny and somehow very satisfying, even if parts of the plot resolution regarding the assassination doesn't sit right.
Jingo is a good Discworld book, but parts of it doesn't quite sit right. It feels vaguely unpolished in places. While above average, it sits at the lower edge of this above average part of the scale. That being said, it's still a rollicking good yarn, and a good aesop on war and race that many people, including many who run the world today, should take to heart.
Special New Utterance Rating Trial: Ooh.
First words: It was a moonless night, which was good for Solid Jackson.
Last words: (Not recorded due to spoilers)
Soon, The Last Continent! And being an Aussie, well...should be good.
No worries, right?
The Doctor: There's one thing you never put in a trap, if you're smart, if you value your continued existence, if you have any plans about seeing tomorrow, there's one thing you never, ever put in a trap... Me.
-Doctor Who: The Time of Angels