Terry Pratchett Book Club

Terry Pratchett Book Club: Jingo, Part IV

It’s time to stop a war, which is a tall order for a Friday, but that’s just how we do in the Watch…

Summary

Nobby is invited to talk by a group of Klatchian women who are sad because all their men are heading off to war and leaving them alone. The men in the pub quickly figure out that Colon is a spy (and a moron) and make to mislead him, but they’re distracted because Nobby is making all the women outside laugh. They notice that their donkey slipped her rope and has made her way up a winding staircase to the roof of a minaret, which she will not be able to get down from. Nobby (insisting that she is Beti now) threatens everyone with a big old kiss if they don’t help them get the donkey down safely. A group of guards go to get a magic carpet to help while Vetinari heads up the tower to retrieve the donkey. When he makes it back down with her, the crowd is so stunned at the impossible feat that they press around to find out what the “trick” is… giving Vetinari the opportunity to steal the magic carpet and hightail it away with Fred and Nobby. Jabbar blindfolds Vimes and rides him out to the place where he can meet 71-hour Ahmed (and explains that his name came from killing a man one hour before his three days of hospitality were up), which turns out to be the remains of an Ankh-Morporkian city called Tacticum, after the great general. On the magic carpet, Vetinari learns that the army is gathering at Gebra, not from Fred’s intel, but from Nobby’s.

Vimes talks to 71-hour Ahmed, who reveals that the plot against Prince Khufurah was created by the man Ahmed works for: Prince Cadram. He means to unite Klatch, and nothing unites people like war. Suddenly, Vimes and 71-hour Ahmed are attacked by Willikins’ brigade, and Vimes has to let the man know who he’s attacking in order to stop him. Lord Rust’s men are formed up waiting for the war to begin, but Rust has no plan. Vimes and Ahmed take Willikins’ group back to the D’reg camp. Carrot gives a speech and scolds people when they start scraps. Vimes prepares to head into battle insisting to Ahmed that a crime has occurred and they are policemen. Prince Cadram and his men go to meet with Lord Rust before the beginning of battle because Rust believes this is how war is done. As they are meeting awkwardly, word arrives that a group on camels was approaching carrying a white flag, and both Rust’s and Cadram’s men head out to meet and possibly fight the group. Vimes overshoots by a lot (Ahmed gave him deliberately wrong instructions for camel-riding), and Carrot reaches him as all the groups begin fighting each other. Vimes heads into the tent where the prince and Rust are waiting and decides that they will all be arrested and so will both armies.

As Carrot reads the armies their rights, Vimes realizes that he never imagined they’d get this far, and that there’s no court in Klatch that can try Prince Cadram for attempting to murder his own brother. The dis-organizer begins chiming with events from another timeline that are even more dire: building barricades, the death of all his constables, his own death. He is about to unload the crossbow when Lord Vetinari arrives, pulls the arrow from the thing and drops it. The Patrician also brings forward the cylinder he’s been carrying this whole time, opening it to reveal the terms of Ankh-Morpork’s surrender, which will offer reparations, favorable trade, and the ceding of Leshp. Vimes is in shock, Rust is furious, but Vetinari tells the commander that the war is over for him now, and that he must abandon his quest and leave the rest of this farce to men of words rather than men of action like himself. Vimes and Ahmed say their goodbyes, and Ahmed rides off into the desert, unconcerned about the men the prince will undoubtedly send after him. Vimes goes and has a meal with his very alive officers. Eventually, Lord Rust comes out of the tent to inform Vimes that both he and Vetinari are finished. Everyone sails back to Ankh-Morpork in their various vessels (Colon has loaded the submarine with gifts for his wife). When they arrive, Vimes is given orders to arrest Vetinari for treason and bring him to the Rats Chamber. Vimes doesn’t want to do it, but realizes he has to. Vetinari arrives on shore and not only insists on being arrested, but also on being handcuffed.

The dis-organizer is collected by Death in Gebra. Vetinari is brought into the Rats Chamber and Rust tries to bring him up on charges against the city, but Vetinari points out that far from having ceded Leshp to Klatch, the island is no longer there… it sunk back into the sea. The terms of their surrender are effectively nulled, and though Rust insists that Vetinari somehow engineered all this, since there is no longer anything to charge him for, Vimes lets the Patrician go. He heads home to find Willikins is already back and fretting over the state of the silver. Then he checks on Sybil, who is very glad to have him home, and decides to go have a bath. While he’s there he’s summoned by Vetinari again, which Sybil isn’t pleased about, and she decides she’s going with him to the palace to tell the man off. Leonard sinks his submarine sadly and heads back to the palace to begin designing things he hopes can’t be turned into weapons. In the Patrician’s office, Vetinari tells Vimes that he wants a new traffic division for the Watch and for Colon and Nobby to head it up. He also insists on making Vimes a Duke, leading to a fight where he insists the Patrician has nothing to bribe him with—but Vetinari agrees for funds to the families of the men who fell in the not-war and also to erect a statue of Stoneface Vimes in light of reconsidered history. There’s a procession again later with Vimes now decked out in ducal regalia, but an unlicensed theft occurs as they enter Sator Square, and Vimes gives chase with the whole procession following him…

Commentary

I did genuinely forget how saucy Vetinari is throughout the entire ending of this book, help me??

No handcuffs, he wants shackles and a hurdle and he’s practically disappointed that no one is obliging him and that Vimes isn’t excited about arresting him, which, you know, fair point, we would have thought the guy would leap at the chance, guess he kinda likes the man and feels weird about it, huh…

…and then Vimes is back in the man’s office before the end of the day, with his wife and Carrot (and if Sybil does tell Vetinari off for the summons, we never see it, which is a crime really), and is suddenly being instated as a duke? And when he tries to send Sybil off so he can have a proper fight with the man—while Carrot looks on, which makes me wonder if Vimes entirely forgot he was there—the Patrician offers to change some history and give Vimes’ ancestor a statue, which Sir Samuel then negotiates to have it put in a place where Vetinari will see it every damn day. And the Patrician responds that he will “enjoy looking at it,” which…

Like, if you were a denizen of Ankh-Morpork, this shit would be everything you ever talked about. He’s building him a statue in front of the palace. His loyal terrier, he’s a duke now. Lord Rust is beside himself.

And this is without getting into the carpet-stealing escapade because I’m going to stop being self-indulgent and get back to story things. (But I really want to get into it. I’m behaving.)

The mystery of it all was seeded at the start and so subtly that I want to high five the air. There’s literally a bit early on where Vimes is thinking that there’s “no reason at all why a Klatchian couldn’t be a pompous little troublemaker,” but he feels uneasy about that thought and veers sharply from it. And later Ahmed explains that this impulse and the fact that he only ever suspected his own people of the assassination attempt proves that he’s a good man, but also prevented him from figuring the plot much sooner. Vimes went so macro in his thought process, he allowed himself to be fooled right out of solving the crime.

It’s an extremely practical piece of advice Ahmed is offering by way of explanation; racism is wrong, full stop in huge blinking letters, and stereotyping is a detriment to so many, but knowing that doesn’t change the fact that any one individual can be a shitty person. And all sizable groups have some shitty people in them, a thing that we forget (or at least want to sometimes), when trying to consider the bigger “isms” of the world. There are intersections to consider there, too—Prince Cadram is Klatchian, but he’s also a prince, also wealthy and privileged in ways that many of his people likely couldn’t conceive of. People of means tend to be shitty by default because that level of power and influence allows you to stop thinking of your fellow human beings as real in the bluntest sense.

Vimes is reminded of that fact right before he runs out of steam and almost goes the way of Old Stoneface with his crossbow in hand. I would like to point out that basically every Watch book ends with Vimes going wild on a few days without sleep, powered by fumes and cigar smoke and anger, and inevitably getting talked off some sort of ledge by someone who cares deeply for him. Or “switched off” as the case may be here. Funny how he’s thought that more than once now—that Vetinari can operate him in precisely that way, which is less like a dog and more like a machine. But it all works out in everyone’s favor by the end, despite the interim exhaustion and aborted bath…

(The person I might feel the most sorry for in all this is poor Leonard, though. Back to your attic to sketch, honey. I’m sorry the world is like this.)

Nobby’s journey here winds up being one of my favorite things in the book once it changes toward the end. And the reason is because it’s so… messy? There the component of Nobby wanting a lady-friend, but also wanting to be treated as one of the girls, and then genuinely feeling more comfortable in women’s clothing and among them. Pratchett pointedly switches out Nobby’s name for Beti, and even changes pronouns when she’s really feeling herself. Is this a drag performance? Cross-dressing? An emerging trans identity? Nobby doesn’t know, and it’s unlikely that he’d care much if anyone could figure out how to put those questions into words. We get so far into labels on this stuff that we rarely get examples of people exploring gender with any amount of variance. And given that Nobby is a character constructed of variance, it only makes sense that this would be how he approaches the subject.

But the real point is, the world would likely be a much happier place if folks were allowed the space to experiment that Nobby gets here.

Asides and little thoughts:

  • Oh look, the Blue Cat Club, which I think might be the first “official” mention of gay sex in the entire Discworld series?
  • The side swipe of Rust being shocked that Cadram has a spyglass when they were “invented only last year” and Cadram talking of how he inherited the thing from his grandfather is a sharp prod at the number of disciplines Arab peoples have invented that white folks often refuse to properly them credit for, like you know, algebra and huge swaths of the sciences.
  • There are a couple of Lawrence of Arabia shoutouts here that don’t seem particularly necessary… except the one where Vimes tells Rust that he has to not mind that the coals of the fire hurt your hand, and then later minds it very much (once Rust is out of earshot).
  • Vimes is like “my wife doesn’t want to be a duchess!” and Vetinari is like reallllly, because I’ve had tea with that woman once a month for the past decade and have it on good authority (hers) that she would love to ruin Lady Selachii’s day every time she came to visit, but ignore me I guess…

Pratchettisms:

Clothing difference aside, there was something hauntingly familiar about her, and Nobby realized that if you cut her in half the words “mother-in-law” would be all the way through.

For the serious empire-builder there was no such thing as a final frontier. There was only another problem.

Was this the army that invaded your country, ma’am? No, officer, they were taller than that…

It was the feeling that you got when the law ran out, and you looked into a mocking face on the other side of it and you decided that you couldn’t go on living if you did not step over the line and do one clean thing—

Lord Vetinari dropped the arrow fastidiously, like a society lady who has had to handle something sticky.

Nobby blew his nose again, an exercise which, with all its little arpeggios and flourishes, went on for some time.

And of course, very few people do know how Tradition is supposed to go. There’s a certain mysterious ridiculousness about it by its very nature—once there was a reason why you had to carry a posy of primroses on Soul Cake Tuesday, but now you did it because… that’s what was Done. Besides, the intelligence of that creature known as a crowd is the square root of the number of people in it.

Next week we start The Last Continent! We’ll read up to:

Among other things, as it faded, it was grinning.

citation

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