Jingo by Terry Pratchett. ★★★★
Jingo is the twenty-first book in the Discworld series and is best read as part of the City Watch “arc”, which starts with Guards! Guards!.
In the Circle Sea between Ankh-Morpork and Klatch, a new island appears. Suddenly, the two nations are at each other’s throats over who will own the island (which has no fresh water and is covered in salt…).
“It is always useful to face an enemy who is prepared to die for his country,” he read. “This means that both you and he have exactly the same aim in mind.”
This being a Watch book, there’s also a crime to solve. On that front, I don’t think the book works so well as a mystery. There’s just not much focus on it, and it doesn’t provide much of the drive to the book.
On the other hand… Jingo may be suggesting that the real crime is war.
“Sometimes I dream that we could deal with the big crimes, that we could make a law for countries and not just for people,”
As always, I love the characters. Pratchett has such a gift for creating good characters. Vimes remains my favorite protagonist, and I love the supporting cast of Vetinari, Angua, Carrot, Cheerie and the rest.
He also starts using the Nobby/Colon dynamic to approach topics here, and I think it’s hilarious and works well (their conversation about how to identify art in Thud remains one of my favorite Discworld moments).
Jingo is a book about nationalism, racism, and war. It veers towards black humor at times, but always keeps the heart and humanity that I love Discworld novels for.
“It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was us, what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do the bad things.”
I would recommend Jingo for people who’ve read the previous Watch books.