Newsgroup Discussions: Jingo Reassessed

Jingo Reassessed


Subject: Dangerously Controversial post
Date: 02 Dec 2000
From: James Quincy Morrissey

Did anyone else feel that some of the DW books have 'rushed' endings? Like he only made it that way to finish it off, like a TV show where everything returns to normal at the end? I speak in particular of Jingo . . .

Couldn't Pterry have made the war a bigger, longer and altogether more interesting theme?

He said himself that wars don't happen for specific reasons, they happen because two sides hate each other enough to start a war (or summut along those lines). I was very disappointed with the ending, and having read the book a few times feel it is rather ludicrous, even for DW. Arresting the armies?

I repeat, Arresting the ARMIES?

From: Tamar

Wasn't the whole point that starting a war is a crime, or ought to be?

And possibly that there's a natural cycle of some sort involved, but it's one that is unpleasant and civilized people try to ignore/ prevent it.

As for having the end be essentially the same as the beginning, that's happened often enough in real life. Besides the Falklands, there was the War of 1812.

Date: 03 Dec 2000
From: James Quincy Morrissey

My point being that Pterry seems very reluctant to carry a plot over from one book to another. Why not? I would've enjoyed seeing the war from the characters point of view (Wizards, Rincewind, Death, etc) over several books.

I can't see, for example, a trilogy of "war" books.

From: Sophie Sensat

As far as I can tell, for the most part the Discworld books are meant to be self-contained. There are little changes, such as Magrat becoming queen and all, but I can't see, for example, a trilogy of "war" books.

The Disc resists change. It knows what it is.

From: Beth Winter

Agreed, this war (between, let's face it, the two most prominent powers of the region) if allowed to go full-scale, would leave the Disc changed forever. Sooner or later in the face of general war-like atrocities the magical potential of both countries would be released, and we all know what'd happen then...

From: Miq

My point being that Pterry seems very reluctant to carry a plot over from one book to another.

Plenty of plots do, though. The 'King Carrot' idea. The werewolf-in- the-watch story. The Legend of the Talking Dog of Ankh-Morpork. Death's life-wish. Rincewind's career.

I can't see, for example, a trilogy of "war" books.

They needn't be "about" the war. Having had one book in which the war breaks out, it could have formed a background to as many more stories as Terry wanted to write.

However, evidently he didn't fancy that idea, so the whole question is academic now.

The Disc resists change. It knows what it is.

Hmmm... I'm not sure you can quite justify that. A lot of things do change - I don't see why the war didn't have much more far-reaching effects.

From: David Tiemroth

Plenty of plots do, though. The 'King Carrot' idea...

I'd say they were character developments, not plots. None of the above have been what a book has been about, unlike the AM/Klatch war.

I honestly can't think of two Discworld books where the plot has been carried over, save perhaps Light Fantastic -> Eric. But even then, the plot of LF wasn't "Rincewind gets lost in the Dungeon Dimension".

I can't see, for example, a trilogy of "war" books.

Stretching the war out would also ignore large parts of Jingo where we find out that, hey, Lord Rust really couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag, he brought an army that's untrained and near-delirious due to lack of food, while the Klatchian army consists of a great many soldiers who have found the secret to successful soldiering. Staying alive. If Vimes hadn't arrested both armies, the 'war' would have lasted all of one week, buzzards picking at the dead included.

From: Charles A Lieberman

Also, I'd be surprised if we don't see self-proclaimed veterans doing stuff in future books. There are Gulf War vets in the US and possibly the UK, and I'll bet Mal^H^H^HFaulklands vets in the UK, who mention their service when it's relevant.

Date: 04 Dec 2000
From: Terry Pratchett

The war did happen. Hundreds of thousands died, including all of the Watch....Vimes heard it happening. Ankh-Morpork was invaded...

It just didn't happen in this version of Jingo because Vimes made a certain choice.

From: Victoria Martin

My point being that Pterry seems very reluctant to carry a plot over from one book to another.

Two slightly different issues here. If the war hadn't been the plot of J, then it would have had the potential to be part of the background of other books (like the clacks towers, or immigration to A-M).

However, the war was what the entire book revolved around, it sucked in all the characters (heck, even Vetinari left the bridge and beamed down on planet Klatch) and would have had to demand their full attention for as long as it continued. Frankly, I didn't find the war so fascinating that I would have wanted to see another two volumes in which A-M's finest skulked around the deserts, engaging in the occasional battle or humorous undercover skullduggery, yet it's hard to imagine a convincing scenario in which the war suddenly became so unimportant that they could all go back to their day jobs allowing it to continue as background music.

As for major plot lines carrying on over three volumes ('cos it's never less than three, is it?), I hate it. I have rarely read a trilogy of this kind (as opposed to more loosely associated trilogies, linked only by theme or character) which wouldn't have benefited from trimming to fit it into a single book.

From: LaoWombat

Hear, Hear! [What?]

I would suggest that King Carrot is more than character development, it is a plot line.

Vimes's ancestors involvement in overthrowing the King is a plot point that appears most recently in Jingo.

WHATTHEHELLHAPPENEDTORINCEWIND is a plot point that keeps things going. As a matter of fact, the ending of Interesting Times leads directly into the Last Continent.

The ongoing relationship between Carrot and the Werewolf (what is her name) and so on.

I, for one am quite pleased that I can drop in at any point in the series and understand things. However, starting in the middle (Interesting Times) I had the good sense to start over from the beginning and I can tell you, that it works a lot better to read them in sequence.

Moreover what Pterry does, works, I feel no particular need to kick him into Tolkien gear (speaking as one involved in the scholarly Tolkien e-text project).

If the need for continuity between several books concerns the original poster, he need only take a couple of binder clips, rip a single book into three parts and clip them appropriately. Seems to be what many fantasy and SF writers do.

The Fellowship of the Unseen University

The Two Ankh-Morpork meat pies with extra gristle

The Return of King Carrot

and of course,

Undigestible Tales.

From: Tamar

As for major plot lines in Pratchett books: How about the Magrat-Verence romance? That goes from WS/WA/L&L. L&L has repercussions that cause the M!M plot, and the relationship continues to be important in CJ. So it is part of the entire witch series (except ER), five books so far.

From: James Quincy Morrissey

Yes, but that's more character development.

I'm just saying that It would be interesting for something major to happen, and to see it from different character's points of view.

And it wouldn't have to be finished for the sake of ending it within one book.

Date: 05 Dec 2000
From: zhuge_liang

Ah, now I understand, you want Pterry to write the Alexandria Quartet.

I dunno, I think it's been done already.

Seriously your definitions of character development vs plot seem as rigid as blancmange, care to state specifically what you mean?

From: James Quincy Morrissey

Well, plot is the events that affect the characters, character development is how the characters react and change due to these events. Geddit?

From: zhuge_liang

Well, since you were the one that talked about seeing how different characters react when you were talking about plot I thought you might be confused. Thanks for clearing that up.

From: Miq

it's hard to imagine a convincing scenario in which the war suddenly became so unimportant that they could all go back to their day jobs allowing it to continue as background music.

Yes but, it could have been an entirely different kind of war. I can well imagine Ankh-Morpork fighting wars on the pattern of Elizabethan England's long-running war with Spain - i.e. waged mostly by piracy, plus a bit of subversion and half-hearted support to any odd bits of the enemy empire that want to revolt, such as the Netherlands. This has the huge advantage of being pretty much self-financing, and could go on for decades. The climax of 'Jingo' could have involved the Klatchian Armada landing on Leshp and then sinking...

But no, nothing would do but they had to raise an army and invade. That's Lord Rust's strategic thinking for you.

Of course, a war like that would have been a completely different book. The book characterises war as "a crime so big there isn't even a law against it" - and that meant that the war had to end before the book did.

Date: 06 Dec 2000
From: Victoria Martin

Now be fair, it isn't all down to Lord Rust's unstrategic thinking. The war is set up right from the start to be an entirely different kind of war from Elizabethan acts of piracy, and Cadram is clearly planning to invade A-M as part of his long-term goal of uniting the warring tribes (he's obviously been building up his navy for years in preparation). Perhaps if A-M had surrendered Leshp, that would have been a sufficiently big propaganda coup to delay the next act of aggression for a few years, but what we see of Klatchian politics does rather suggest that Cadram would have a more or less constant need for an external enemy figure against whom all the tribes could unite. Lord Rust may have been extraordinarily incompetent, but even Vetinari appears to believe that diplomacy isn't going to help given Klatch's determination to start a war (and this is the man who believes he can out-negotiate even a dragon). Lord Rust's plan may not have been all that stupid in itself, where it floundered so dreadfully was in the details.

Subject: Jingo reassessed
From: Victoria Martin

I'm as bad as Miq, following up to my own post, but this got me thinking...

One of the things that's always troubled me about J is the way Vetinari acts so out of character, dropping the helm of A-M and charging off on what is more than likely to be a wild goose chase (and one which, on the "real" leg of the trousers of time, turns out to be a failure, with A-M invaded). But then this discussion of the war got me wondering if it made any difference to my interpretation of Vetinari's behaviour if I assumed that he knew from the beginning of the book that Klatch was determined to invade. And it turns out it does.

It's easy to overlook what Vetinari is thinking in the opening chapters because we see him almost exclusively through Vimes' eyes, and Vimes perspective is utterly different - he's wrapped up in the here and now, wholly preoccupied with events in A-M, and misses the bigger picture altogether. His obsession with thinking of the Klatchians as the "good guys" is a clear warning to the reader that his perspective is unreliable, but it's all too easy to get caught up in his viewpoint just the same.

When J opens, Klatch has been preparing for war for some time. Vetinari must know this. Cadram couldn't keep the building of so many warships secret from anyone with an intelligence service half as efficient as Vetinari's (and we know from T5E that he doesn't only use his intelligence systems to spy on his own people), and anyway, in the council in the Rats Chamber Vetinari shows that he knows that the Guild of Armourers has been supplying Klatch with weapons for some time (Corgi, p.23). All the cities of the circle sea know of Klatch's "current expansionist outlook" (p.28) and are watching political events there nervously. Doubtless some of them, especially those with standing armies, are increasing their defence budgets, but this isn't an option open to Vetinari because

(a) maintaining an army for as long as it takes Klatch to decide to attack would have to be funded by punitive taxation at a level the citizens of A-M would simply not accept;

(b) it would probably push Klatch into starting a ruinously expensive arms race; and

(c) A-M has always been 'violently against a standing army' (p.29).

So at the start of J Vetinari is keeping an extremely close eye on events in Klatch and worrying about the use Cadram's navy will be put to when it's ready, fully aware that the Seriph is seeking an external enemy to distract from the mess he's making in his attempt to "pacify the outlying regions" (p.24) and to unite the warring divisions behind him. And then he has the huge ill-luck that Leshp rises out of the sea and some wretched fisherman from A-M stakes a claim to it, giving Klatch the perfect excuse to begin a diplomatic dispute with A-M that can only be the prelude to an act of aggression.

This is the moment when Klatch decides definitively to pick on A-M. Vetinari knows A-M won't be able to resist militarily. His one hope is to buy time by persuading the council to cede Leshp to Klatch - this will give Cadram a propaganda coup that might reinforce his position sufficiently to postpone external acts of aggression for a while (what might Vetinari do with this extra time? Try to forge alliances with the other cities of the Circle Sea, perhaps). The whole scene with the council, in which he really looks very ineffectual, at least through Vimes' eyes, has a different impact when you realise that he is trying to prompt the others present into suggesting that they give up their claim to Leshp - he lets them see that Klatch is extremely well armed (p.24), that A-M has no convincing legal claim to Leshp (p.26), that no other states will come to A-M's aid should it declare war on Klatch (p.28), that A-M has no army (p.29) and that it lacks the financial resources to employ mercenaries (p.30).

Vimes doesn't pick up on what's going on in this scene at all - he's too busy feeling hatred and contempt for the Guild leaders to see where Vetinari is trying to lead them. The attempt fails, because Lord Rust suggests reviving the private regiments; at that point Vetinari knows he has lost them, and ends the meeting, saying revealingly

The precedents are clear enough. I can't go against them. I have to say I cannot afford to (p.33)

Here he is speaking no less than the truth - when Klatch invades, as he knows it now will, the private regiments are A-M's only hope of defence, a point he presses home to Vimes:

Every official gentleman is entitled, in fact I believe used to be required, to raise men when the city required it. And, of course, any citizen has the right to bear arms. Bear that in mind, please

At the end of the council meeting, Vetinari reveals that the Klatchian ambassador is about to arrive, a fact he appears to have kept secret from everyone, even Vimes, who is responsible for security and hence understandably annoyed that he hasn't been informed. The ambassador has been invited by Vetinari, who has offered him an honorary doctorate from UU.

Why would Vetinari go to the trouble of inviting the ambassador to A-M at a time when anti-Klatchian feeling is running high and there is all sorts of potential for diplomatic incidents (as he is well aware - p.36?)

I would consider it a favour if you could see to it that no one throws eggs or something at the Prince. That sort of thing always upsets people

My guess is that Vetinari invited the ambassador over in the hope of being able to cede Leshp to him - when his gamble doesn't pay off, he's forced to entertain the man, with nothing to offer him, and a terrible worry that something will happen to upset him and thereby trigger a declaration of war. Vimes thinks he has to wear his red tights because Vetinari enjoys annoying him, but in fact I rather think Vetinari is terrified that anything less than full honours will be interpreted as a diplomatic slight to Klatch (as Vimes learns in Uberwald, if the ambassador is slighted by the Commander's refusal to appear in full regalia, Klatch is slighted).

What Vetinari doesn't know, of course, is that Cadram has planned to have his brother assassinated on A-M soil. This has two advantages

(i) it rids him of a political problem (only hinted at) and

(ii) it provides the perfect excuse for an invasion. Leshp is sufficient justification for the purposes of internal politics, but an invasion over Leshp might nonetheless encourage other countries to come to A-M's aid because

they all have rocks off their coast

Invading on the pretext of Kufurah's assassination allows them all to breathe a sigh of relief and continue a policy of appeasement a la Chamberlain.

Although Vimes foils the assassin, the attempt to cede Leshp has proved an unmitigated disaster and Vetinari is almost at the end of his resources. Even Vimes notes that

the man was looking harassed

and feels

a pinch of sympathy (p.91)

Indeed, he clutches visibly at straws when Vimes offers him the "lone bowman" theory:

A lone bowman," said Vetinari, "an idiot with some kind of grudge [...] If Commander Vimes had not slowed down the procession, the wretch would undoubtedly have got a much better shot [...] Yes... the Prince, possibly, would accept that.(p.89)

In spite of this, he holds out no real hope that a Klatchian invasion can be prevented, which leaves him one last long shot.

When Vimes had gone Lord Vetinari sat at his desk for a while, staring at nothing (p.92)

Presumably he is here weighing up the pros and cons of using some hideous weapon of mass destruction against Klatch, a gonne writ large, for immediately he emerges from his reverie he goes to see Leonard, and the word that he uses over and over again in their discussion is "weapon". As soon as he has sat down, he picks up a sheet of Leonard's drawings and scans it for a sketch of a weapon (this is presented by the narrative as a comment on Leonard's psychology, but it is deliberately ambiguous:

Vetinari found what he was looking for in the bottom left-hand corner [...] It, or something very much like it, was always there somewhere. (p.96)

He asks for a detailed explanation of the "war machine", paying particular attention to whether it could actually be built, whilst being careful not to let Leonard know what he's up to, although he does start to prepare the ground by trying to explain the threat Klatch poses

Have I told you that the Klatchian situation is intensely political? Prince Cadram [...] needs to consolidate his position. (p.98)

Then he finds the sketch of the mountain mover and knows he's found what he's looking for. But, because using such a thing goes against all his instincts, all his abhorrence of waste, he clutches again at a straw and tries to get Leonard to tell him that Klatch is so technologically backward that something less extreme would do the job as well

But the way you put it, these major achievements were some considerable time ago..." Lord Vetinari sounded like a man straining to see a light at the end of the tunnel, (p.100).

When this hope, too, is confounded, he believes he has no choice but to unleash a Hiroshima on Klatch

There is a small problem developing. I thought perhaps you could help. Unfortunately," the Patrician glanced at the sketches again, "I suspect that you can. (p.100)

And then, as he is leaving, he suddenly realises the significance of what Leonard has told him about Leshp and for the first time feels real hope that there could be another way of dealing with this.

He goes to Leshp himself, rather than detailing someone else, for two reasons. Firstly, he doesn't trust anyone else to improvise a plan should his hunch about Leshp prove to be right. Whether he has already formed the idea of surrendering, in which case he will have to be there in person anyway, or whether this only occurs to him on the Boat, isn't really relevant because (and this is reason number 2) he can't do any good in A-M anyway. Inspiring men to a heroic, last-ditch defence simply isn't one of Vetinari's strengths (FoC and TT make it clear that he inspires personal loyalty in almost nobody), and in any case he would have very little control over the private regiments, so he leaves the defence of A-M to those who want to play at soldiers, whilst letting the Watch, who are the only hope of a realistic defence, know that this is what they, too, should be doing.

Alas, in the other leg of the trousers, this gamble, too, does not pay off, and the Watch die heroically but in vain in defence of the city they love. But on this leg, he has the huge stroke of luck (to match that awful one that raised Leshp at exactly this politically tense moment) that Vimes takes ship in pursuit of Angua, thereby persuading Cadram to delay the invasion and buying him time to get to Leshp and thence to Gebra.

From: Dave Gerecke

Dear Lady,
That was a masterful breakdown of what was going on in Jingo.
Thank you
I will be keeping this one.

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