Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Book Review - Terry Pratchett's Jingo

Jingo (Discworld Book #21) by Terry Pratchett
Published by: Harper Torch
Publication Date: 1997
Format: Paperback, 437 Pages
Challenge: Terry Pratchett, Typically British
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy
Sir Samuel doesn't like the pomp and circumstance of his new job title and role of husband. And he really doesn't like tights. So when an assassination attempt is bungled during a parade, obviously for Sam it's an improvement. Because the chase is what it's all about. Worry about the details later. But why would anyone want to murder the Klatchian Prince? Could it be because a very strategic island has magically appeared between the two countries and war seems imminent? With the Guild leaders and other Lords becoming power hungry and war mad, forming up militias, it's short work for them to oust Lord Vetinari and even Sir Samuel. But the key to Sam continuing to keep the peace is that handy little "sir." That sir that means he must form his own band of merry men, and who could be merrier than the city watchmen? I mean watchtrolls, golems, dwarves, zombies, werewolves, kings and Nobby (you can't really categorize Nobby). Following the leads to one 71-hour Ahmed, who then flees with Angua, means there is a ship to be requisitioned and a friend to be rescued... even if that means going all the way to Klatch. Of course the Patrician has other plans for Sergeant Colon and Nobby in a mysterious underwater vessel. But once in Klatch things get out of hand, with the watchmen being held by the D'Regs, a nomadic desert tribe known for their ruthlessness and hospitality, as well as Nobby trying to pass for a woman. But will war be avoided and can life return to normal? And can Sam ever look at his butler the same after knowing he bit off a mans ear in bloody warfare?

Terry Pratchett is the ultimate in social satire and the skewering of political situations. His handling of war is no less acute and poignant. The majority of Pratchett books seem to take me awhile to get into, but once fully ensconced, it's one of the best books I've read in ages, and this was no exception. The beginning with the whole second bowman and allusions to the Kennedy assassination was not quite working. But once Sir Samuel's path was set as the head of his own private army, it being a lords duty to protect his land and county, the book just took off. Part raucous pirate story part Lawrence of Arabia I did not want to set the book down. It's not that it just shows the flaws of war and a society hell bent on just creating hell. It shows the humanity of not just one side but both sides. The children who end up fighting people who they thought of as their friends. The lack of justice in war and the real justice that doesn't exist and maybe should... also the pointlessness of it all. For centuries jingoism dominated all countries foreign policy. A policy bent on domination and control. But despite the more "racial" jokes, they are not used derogatorily, but to show the inherent racism that still exists without any justification. The blind hatred and stupid bickering over something that is there one second and gone the next is never shown more clearly than by Pratchett who makes us laugh at our own stupidity and history, but makes us think, and then, if we're smart enough to listen... change.


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