Terry Pratchett,
(Victor Gollancz, 1997;
HarperPrism, 1998)

The Discworld goes to war and, by Jingo, you are there with Terry Pratchett as he takes a shot at patriotism, nationalism, fanaticism and just about any -ism you care to name. Pratchett also brings back the long-suffering Commander Vimes of the City Watch and his oddball assortment of officers of the law, including (among others) a zombie, a gargoyle, a golem, a werewolf, Captain Carrot and, well, Corporal Nobbs.

First of all, there's Leshp, an island which rises from the ocean and is claimed by both Ankh-Morpork and Al-Khali, Ankh-Morpork's rival city in Klatch. Acting on the principle of Acquiris Quodcumque Rapis ("You Get What You Grab") both sides are happy to resort to assassination attempts and murder to gain control of an uninhabited heap of moldering buildings with no fresh water or other natural resources to speak of. Naturally.

Anti-Klatchian feelings run high in Ankh-Morpork, and it is no surprise to anyone that an assassination attempt is made on the Klatchian Prince Khufurah, sent to negotiate the rights to the island. While it appears obvious who the would-be assassin was, Commander Vimes refuses to subscribe to the "lone bowman" theory.

Meanwhile, the Lords of the City are hot to raise private armies and stomp the, um, sand out of the Klatchians. The quietly crafty Lord Vetinari, Patrician, has already enlisted Commander Vimes and his Watch to intervene, but he has also has an alternate plan: an eccentric inventor called Leonard of Quirm who's long on design, but short on clever names for his inventions. Accompanied by Corporal Nobbs and Sergeant Fred Colon, Vetinari and Leonard set out in the "Going-Under-Water-Safely-Device" or "Boat" to uncover the secrets of Leshp and put a stop to the war.

Somehow, everyone gets over to Klatch, Vimes gets answers and gets rid of his pocket Dis-Organizer, Nobbs discovers his Inner Woman, Veterinari prevails, and peace is restored. Death gets to pick up a couple of people as well.

Pratchett ably skewers rampant nationalism which will be wincingly familiar to anyone who was breathing and conscious during the Persian Gulf War. The humor is vintage Pratchett and very funny indeed, but I think it would be even funnier if you have already read some of the previous books about the Watch (Guards, Guards, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay -- which I haven't -- yet) because I got the feeling that I was missing out on some running jokes. Overall, though, Jingo stands well on its own, and makes the reader hungry for other Discworld books -- and that's always a sign of a successful series.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

Buy Jingo from Amazon.com.