You may remember that my introduction to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series was the novel Guards! Guards!, which is the first book to feature the Ankh-Morpock City Watch, headed by Samuel Vimes.
To say I loved the book is something of an understatement; it’s become one of those that I push on people now (“What? You haven’t read Discworld? HERE TAKE THIS.”) and it inspired me to start making my way through the Discworld series.
However, I hadn’t read another City Watch book until I picked up Jingo from the library for this challenge. Within two chapters, I remembered why I loved Guards! Guards! so much and why Sam Vimes is my favorite Discworld character.
Jingo is the 21st book in the Discworld series, though I believe it’s the fourth book involving the City Watch.
Overnight, an island has appeared in the ocean between Ankh-Morpock and its neighboring city Al-Khali, the capital of Klatch. Both nations immediately lay claim to the island, which then escalates into a declaration of war.
Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpock City Watch may not be a soldier, but he is a police officer, and he believes this war is the biggest crime of them all. And he and the members of his Watch are going to catch the perpetrators, one way or another.
Neighbors…hah! But what did that mean? The Watch could tell you a thing or two about neighbors. So could lawyers, especially the real rich ones to whom “neighbor” meant a man who’d sue for twenty years over a strip of garden two inches wide. People’d live for ages side by side, nodding at one another amicably on their way to work every day, and then some trivial thing would happen and someone would be having a garden fork removed from their ear.
In a city where thieves and assassins have guilds and yearly budgets, the Watch was considered virtually useless at one point. Now, it’s grown to encompass a number of members, including a golem, a troll, a werewolf, a six-foot-tall dwarf, and a zombie, just to name a few.
Commander Vimes takes his job seriously (even if he tends to neglect the paperwork). He may not necessarily be the smartest man in Ankh-Morpock, but he knows how to survive on the streets and he pretty much always gets his man, though occasionally it’s a bit unorthodox as to how. He’s become known as “Vetinari’s terrier,” and he genuinely loves the police work he does.
I absolutely adore Vimes, and it’s not difficult to see why:
“No, indeed! It’s about time Johnny Klatchian was taught a lesson,” said Lord Selachii. “Remember all that business last year with the cabbages? Ten damn boatloads they wouldn’t accept!”
“And everyone knows caterpillars add to the flavor,” said Vimes, more or less to himself.
The Patrician shot him a glance.
“That’s right!” said Selachii. “Good honest protein! And you remember all that trouble Jenkins had over that cargo of mutton? They were going to imprison him! In a Klatchian jail!”
“Surely not? Meat is at its best when it’s going green,” Vimes said.
He’s just such a great character. Vimes isn’t perfect, and he knows it, but he’s always trying to do the right thing, even if sometimes doing so gets him in over his head. He’s also accompanied by an equally phenomenal cast:
Carrot, the six-foot-tall adopted dwarf, who is just so genuinely likable and optimistic that he can get two rival gangs to put aside their differences long enough for a game of football.
Angua, a werewolf and Carrot’s girlfriend, who provides a needed touch of cynicism and whose nose is one of the best investigative tools ever.
Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs, who have been with Vimes since the beginning but are still kind of like Two Stooges when it comes to getting anything done. In fact, this quote (that I posted on Facebook) sums up Colon rather succinctly:
Sergeant Colon had had a broad education. He’d been to the School of My Dad Always Said, the College of It Stands to Reason, and was now a postgraduate student at the University of What Some Bloke In the Pub Told Me.
Sadly, Vimes’s wife, Lady Sybil, doesn’t make much of an appearance in the story, which is a shame because I loved her character so much in Guards! Guards!. When she and Sam are working together, they make a great team, and you do get to see a very little bit of that here.
And then there’s the Patrician, Havelock Vetinari, who rules Ankh-Morpock because nobody else could do the job half as well. He’s a fantastic strategist, constantly thinking several moves ahead. (And really, ever since I saw Jeremy Irons play the Patrician in The Colour of Magic, that is who I picture while reading the character and IT IS ABSOLUTELY PERFECT, YOU GUYS.)
Pratchett is utterly brilliant at combining hilarity and humor with a story that actually is very serious. They’re trying to stop a war, and as such there’s a lot of Very Bad Stuff that happens. Pratchett handles it fantastically, so that even when you’re laughing, you still care about the characters and what happens to them. That is not easy to do, and it just highlights how well this man has mastered his craft.
Things get a little slow about 60% of the way through, though I think that’s because Pratchett started juggling several different story threads and had to keep breaking them up to show us what was going on with each one. It all pays off wonderfully in the end, though, so it didn’t bother me too much.
If you haven’t ever read a Discworld book, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend starting here, if only because it’s not that far down the City Watch storyline and you’d probably enjoy it more if you read them in order.
That being said, the stories in Discworld are so loosely connected that you could easily read them all out of order and not ever feel lost. Jingo is an excellent entry in the series, and anyone who enjoys comic fantasy should add it to their “to be read” list.