Sam Vimes has changed a great deal since he was introduced in Guards! Guards!, the first DISCWORLD novel to feature the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork. He has given up booze, he is happily married, and he is now wealthy. The Watch has grown under his leadership as well. Its ranks now include werewolves, gargoyles, dwarves, trolls, and even zombies. As Commander, Vimes should devote most of his time to paperwork, but he prefers to spend his time on the streets, which have grown restless.
War is at hand. Tensions begin when Solid Jackson and his son discover an island rising out of the sea while they are fishing for Curious Squid. Both Ankh-Morpork and Klatch claim the island because, as one politician explains, it’s “a few square miles of uninhabited fertile ground with superb anchorage in an unsurpassed strategic position.” War has come, and the people of Ankh-Morpork and Klatch are ready. Even Vimes’s butler, Willikins, is ready to fight, though he assures Vimes that he will return in time for Hogswatch.
Only Vimes seems inclined to view war as a crime rather than politics by other means. Vimes has a hunch that someone is plotting against peace. When a visiting Klatchian prince is assassinated, Vimes is determined to find the murderer and hopes that he will be able to stop the war before it starts. Meanwhile, aristocrats like Lord Rust are pulling their swords down from above the fireplace and forming regiments.
Jingo is an enjoyable DISCWORLD novel from start to finish. Though it is often funny, I was most impressed by the numerous subplots that Pratchett weaves into the larger narrative. Nobby has begun to think about his future — will he ever marry? — so he is going through an “emotional wossname.” Leonardo de Quirm is an inventor and he, Nobby, and Sergeant Colon join Lord Vetinari on a secret mission in a submarine, or rather, a “Going-Under-Water-Safely-Device.” Vimes tries to keep the peace, though he is constantly distracted by his Dis-Organizer. The Dis-Organizer contains a demon that is always trying to remind Vimes of his appointments. Unfortunately, the Dis-Organizer never gets them right.
Something about Vimes brings out the best in both Discworld’s characters and Pratchett’s writing. Though a lot of characters are involved in subplots, Jingo’s plot feels streamlined compared to many of Pratchett’s other, and often shorter, novels. Many of Pratchett’s fans will be pleased to read that Jingo features a lot of Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. Vetinari is a trained assassin and a cunning politician, and Pratchett uses him to deliver one of his best resolutions to date. Although Jingo is very much Sam Vimes’s story, Vetinari steals the final act. As he puts it: “Veni, vidi… Vetinari.”
The characters all face engaging conflicts, but I often enjoyed how warmly Pratchett writes about much of his cast in Jingo. I particularly liked how Pratchett describes Vimes on patrol one rainy night:
He was, temporarily, a happy man. He was cold, wet and alone, trying to keep out the worst of the weather at three o’clock on a ferocious morning. He’d spent some of the best nights of his life like this. At such times you could just… sort of hunch your shoulders like this and let your head pull in like this and you became a little hutch of warmth and peace, the rain banging on your helmet, the mind just ticking over, sorting out the world.
That’s Samuel Vimes, folks. I’m not sure Pratchett writes any of his other characters with such admiration.
Jingo is the twenty-first DISCWORLD novel, and the fourth to feature Commander Vimes and the City Watch as its protagonists. Readers may find it difficult to follow these characters without already having read other City Watch novels. Having said that, Jingo is one of the best Watch novels and worth looking forward to. It is humorous, often a pleasure to read, and features one of Pratchett’s best endings. Recommended.