‘You know we’re better’n Klatchians. Otherwise, what’s the point?’
There aren’t many Terry Pratchett books I haven’t read, through the sole luck of living many years in mixed shared housing with (on average) four copies of each of his books available at any given time. When I chanced across Jingo in one of the hazardous book-piles of the hallway, I realised I had to read it at once. If I had to read a book written by an author whose name began with the letter ‘P’, I might as well catch up on an old Pratchett I missed the first time around. This puts me in the awkward position of having to review a book by a writer whose work has been pretty omnipresent in my life since childhood. I do not think my review will be objective or perhaps even interesting. I apologise in advance for squee.
Jingo like many of Pratchett’s books, is light-hearted parody fantasy (which most people already know) chock full of pessimistic social commentary (which people always seem surprised to find, even though it’s right there on the surface and at the core of most of the humour and fantasy). There were a lot of issues in this book, perhaps squeezing out some of the larger footnotes we see in other Discworld novels, but the one that really struck home to me was one of the core plot issues and one that’s in big media focus in Australia right now under the guise of refugee issues, attitudes towards foreign students, and the ever present indigenous land arguments. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, that good old us-versus-them mentality of racism. Remember, it’s not that we’re xenophobic, we’re just afraid of people from other countries.
What really got to me is that often parodies, especially of racism and war, end up being less extreme and ludicrous than the real thing. In Jingo the characters who are visibly biased, to an exaggerated and irrational state at times, would come across as calm and tolerant compared to a lot of Australians. I know some people in real life who would be in that Ankh-Morporkian street mob, and a lot of them would be Terry Pratchett fans who would consider themselves progressive and tolerant. I also know a lot of people who would be being lynched by the mob. Maybe that’s why some scenes had me feeling like a member of a very petty and small species instead of laughing out loud(though that could just be my usual end-of-year cynicism showing from under my hat). Vimes and his ‘Us and Them and Us’ thoughts hit the nail on the head.
Personal issues and contemplation aside, I can’t do much but grin and point at the characters that I have known and loved for some time. Since I’m hardly able to review with distance and critical eye, I should really just nod emphatically, say it’s a very enjoyable book, recommend Pratchett to everyone, and get going with some links. There’s a lot of reviews out there, but I suspect a lot of them will be gushing and slightly off-topic like mine.