on 8 November 2003
The premise of this book is a simple one using the familiar story of a girl dressing as a boy. In Monstrous Regiment the heroine sets out to join the army to discover what has happened to her brother. The story looks at her induction into her regiment and their activities in the war.
If that doesn't sounds much like a Terry Pratchett novel, that's what I was beginning to think by a third of the way through the book. Up to that point, although the story was told with a great deal of wit and humour, it just didn't have the Pratchett magic. However, the latter two thirds of the book are just what I have come to expect from the master of comic fantasy.
While there are very few of the old, favourite characters here, new ones are introduced which I hope will appear again. Pratchett neatly sidesteps the trap of creating a "war is hell" homily, instead giving us an extremely funny look at women in a mans world. On the way, he pastiches the angst of the Vietnam films and I'm sure it is no coincidence that the book spotlights a country which just can't seem to stop from picking fights with all its neighbours (the timing of the book after the activities of the last year is superb).
on 14 June 2004
I noticed a few reviews that did not like this work, and I wanted to put my two cents in. I enjoyed this book a lot. Not as much as I enjoyed Night Watch, but still, I enjoyed it. For those who complained about it, this is SATYRE at it's best. Satyre is suppose to make fun and be against all things great and small. Pratchett has hit everything from one end of the universe to the other with his often biting wit. If you find this book, or any of his books 'Left Wing', might I recomend some of books from America's Bill O'Reilly, after all, you do not seem to have any humour at all.
on 1 December 2003
Terry's really back on form with Monstrous Regiment. The Amazing Maurice and The Wee Free Men seem to have given him the fresh perspective he needed - now he's writing good new Discoworld books to go in the 'grown-up' section too.
The plot is really strong here, and since I was reading it in installments, in Books Etc, I can assure you the suspense is great - I fretted myself to hell wandering what would happen next.
The lost star is for two reasons. Firstly, some of the characters were a little underdeveloped for the body of the book. I couldn't really remember the difference between Shufti, Lofty, Tonker and Wazzer before the later stages of the book. Its a shame, because when their characters developed, they were great. They had the potential to be a group as dynamic as the Watch, once they came into their own.
The second reason is because I thought the ending was slightly weak in some ways. I won't give it away, but there are revelations which could have used some ground work (I'm not refferring to the sergeant's, which was great), and it didn't really deliver the point of the message that the book had been building up to. However, in the last few pages, the story rallied.
I hope this isn't the last we see of Polly and the Ins-and-Outs. I comapred them to the A-M city Watch and I'd love to see them go the same way - grow and change and change their environment the way Vimes and Carrot et al have A-M. The potential is definately there.
on 31 December 2003
I bought the hardback as soon as it came out.... I will continue to do so with Pratchett books, but I do have to say, I was a bit disappointed.....
As his books have matured, his style has matured more as well, and in many cases the later books take up quite complex issues and through the use of characters, address them.... however in this one, I felt it somehow missed the point just a little. The characters were still good, the message about war was there, but not quite as brought home as you would expect.....
Commander vimes may as well have not been in the book, for all the part he had... it felt originally like he was going go have a larger part, but Pterry changed his mind.
Still... everyone can have an off day, and after so many other brilliant works, I guess even Pratchett had it coming.
There must be very little left that has not be said about the genius that is Terry Pratchett, no wonder he is England's best selling living author.
This book has a slightly different slant to it. It is about a young girl, Polly Perks who has her own reasons for going to the recruiting sergeant with a pair of socks pushed down her trousers and asking to join "This man's army". Included in her section are a set of misfits including an "Igor" and a reformed vampire and why not.
They all march off with their new sergeant who says he is determined to look after "my boys" and will not let any harm befall them . . .
There is a nice comic twist at the end of the book, maybe you will see it coming.
Many people try to imitate Pratchett. Take it from me it's impossible.
on 27 September 2003
Monstrous Regiment, Pratchett's latest opus is everything we've come to expect from the master of humorous fantasy!
Tapping away like a demon, he's produced another slice of Discworld, and it's got cherries in it. And almonds on the top. In fact, it's dundee cake, AND it's served on a doily.
This book centres on a new character, Polly Perks, who marches off to war with a spring in her step, a new line in curses and a pair of socks in an interesting place.
The story follows her fate as she marches on, away from her home, through a lot of mud and rain and, hopefully, on into the history books.
There are lots of new characters (did anyone order an Igor????) and some great cameo's from staunch old favourites (don't look at me, I didn't invite them! <g>!). There's also a generous helping of that old convoluted logic that confounds and amazes old Pratchettians!
Basically It's pure Pratchett at its best. I highly recommend it to any Pratchett fans, and even to those strange beings who have yet to fall under this writers spell - it's a great novel and very accessible to all readers, young, old or undead.
on 23 October 2003
First of all, Monstrous Regiment is the 28th Discworld book, and Pratchett is just getting started. Every time you think he has run out of ideas, he comes up with something new (or an interesting take on something old). This book is no different, as this time he examines the military and the military mindset. Is it a good one? SIR, YES SIR!
This is another winning Discworld book. It's a bit different in tone from Night Watch, if only because the humour is broader. In Night Watch, the humour was on the side and it was a fairly serious book except for that. This has a serious point to make as well, but the humour involves everybody. It was refreshing to see. Pratchett has some good points to make on military matters in the real world, and he skewers the entire mindset (not necessarily of the men, who he never really disparages, but the planners).
He does have the obvious stereotypes of the hard drill sergeant and the lieutenant who doesn't really know what he's doing and has no experience. But even these stereotypes he turns on their heads, shakes them upside down, and looks at what comes out. Pratchett, always a master of character, has created some new winners (though I don't believe they'll be back in another book, like some of Pratchett's recurring characters). Polly is the typical Pratchett hero: determined, relatively straight-laced, intelligent and resourceful. She's a wonderful viewpoint character, scared but determined to do what is right. When she's assigned to be the lieutenant's assistant, she's reluctant to take advantage of the position, though she does so to help out her mates. She helps Lieutenant Blouse along, though she's terrified of shaving him because she's never learned how to shave herself.
Probably the best character in the book, though, is Jackrum. He reminds me a lot of Sam Vimes from the City Watch books, but with a different edge to him. He's a soldier and nothing else. He doesn't want to be an officer. He doesn't want to be a civilian. He wants to do his job, keep his lads safe, and bring them home. He doesn't like sneaking around and doing things different from the army way, and he's horrified when Blouse wants to use subterfuge to get into the castle they're supposed to take. He's a man of duty, honour, and integrity, and while he's always rough on his men, he also respects them. Of course, we find out there's a reason behind the man he is, which is what really cuts him apart from Vimes.
The other characters are standout even if they aren't developed that much. There's the religious zealot who constantly speaks to "The Duchess," (the figure who, much like Queen Victoria, hasn't been seen much since her husband died, and who many feel is actually dead). There are a couple of fire-bugs who ran away from where they were being held. The best of this bunch, however, is the vampire (Maladict) and the latest in a long string of Igors in a Discworld book. Maladict has sworn off blood in order to be accepted in society, and has developed an addiction to coffee instead. He's the only one that seems, at least initially, to know what's going on. When the coffee runs out, look out! Igor is much the same as most of his brethren, handy with a surgical knife and internal organs. Both of these characters add some sparkle when they're on the page, as well as a lot of laughs.
There are a few well-known Discworld characters in the book to add colour as well. William de Worde (the journalist from The Truth) and his photographer vampire Otto, make an appearance. I'm surprised that they weren't "embedded" with the troops, but that may have been a bit obvious. Pratchett does use them to make some statements about the Press in wartime, and how wars are reported. Samuel Vimes and a couple of his watchmen are also included, though they don't have a major part. I think Vimes is included mainly as a counterpoint for Jackrum's character, and he does a good job of that. He's also a voice of reason in a sea of insanity (Polly's adrift in that sea, so she doesn't count).
The best thing about Pratchett is that he is entertaining and thought-provoking even when you might not agree with him. Given some of the things he makes light of, I may be able to guess what his opinion is on the recent war in Iraq. However, even if you don't agree with him, he will make you think. And he will make you laugh, which is the most important part. He also touches on gender and religious issues, all in one book. The fact that he's able to make interesting points without seeming like a scattershot approach says something about Pratchett's writing.
Monstrous Regiment is a return of sorts to Pratchett's previous style of combining humour and social commentary. It's another must-read for any Pratchett fan.
on 16 September 2010
Pratchett's latest effort takes us into a parody of the regimented life in the army as we follow Sir Samuel Vimes, hot off the press from Nightwatch, as he resumes his ambassadorial role. This time we move to the land of Borogravia, constantly at war with the Zlobenians and follow the story of Polly Perks who has learned how to act like a boy and joined up with her fellow recruits, the vampire Maledict, Tonker Shufti, Wazzer, the troll Corfundum, Igor, and Lofty, to name a few, under the command of the self-important and nasty corporal Strappi and the quietly heroic Sergeant Jackrum. After losing Strappi, very quickly, Polly's secret is out (as is most of the last regiment) and they find themselves on the front line with no training (as the war's going badly but this cannot be mentioned). Nevertheless, they manage to surprise and overcome an advance scout group of heavy dragoons under the command of the disguised Prince Heinrich (there is a very amusing episode as Sergeant Jackrum neatly maneuvers his way around Discworld's `geneva convention'-equivalent). Gradually, they stumble their way past a skirmish at a clacks tower, bump into William de Worde and the delightful Otto Chriek, deal with Maledict's coffee withdrawl symptoms, and eventually end up dressing as washerwomen to gain entry to the Zlobenian-held Kreck keep. Once inside, the ever-surprising lieutenant Blouse manages to steers them, with Polly's excellent guidance, to freeing all the prisoners with some explosive help, restore control of the keep to Zlobenian hands and then avoid a court martial with de Worde's intervention.
Pratchett is without doubt the current master of satire across all genres. The subtety of his humour and his inoffensive parody is coruscating in its effectiveness, poking enjoyable fun at the establishment. By breaking all the usual rules our gallant ladies defy and rampage through the war with devastating effectiveness to show that in a war, there are no rules. Written with Pratchett's usual wit and razorsharp satire, this would come somewhere high up my list of Discworld recommended novels.
"Monstrous Regiment" is the twenty eighth novel in Terry Pratchett's hugely popular Discworld Series. A former journalist and press officer, he has gone on to win the Carnegie Medal for "The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents" and was awarded the OBE in 1998.
Polly Perks lives in Munz, a town in Borogravia - a country with distinct similarities to Oceania, the setting for George Orwell's "1984". Pictures of the Duchess, Borogravia's own Big Brother, are everywhere, while the country has always been at war with one or other of its treacherous, devious and evil neighbours. The current enemy is Zlobenia, a country that is allied to the foul and lewd Ankh-Morpork. Indeed, that sinful city has even sent Vimes the Butcher and its soldiers to Zlobenia's aid. Religious people pray to the Duchess, rather than Nuggan (the local God). However, she hasn't been seen for thirty years, and many people believe that she is dead. (Many people also believe that Borogravia is losing the war, but nobody dares express either belief). Nuggan, meanwhile, seems to be a spiteful God - his list of abominations includes the color blue, shirts with six buttons, garlic, dwarfs and babies. Luckily for the size of his congregation, few observe the complete list of abominations (ahem) religiously, though some try to avoid looking at the sky.
There are two notable buildings in Munz : the Girls Working School (where the bad girls are sent) and "The Duchess", the local tavern. Polly lives at "The Duchess", which is owned and run by her father. Her mother is dead, and her brother has been missing for quite some time, after having joined the army. Polly wants him home for a number of reasons : bluntly, he wasn't very good at looking after himself, and his absence is proving very difficult for their father. Furthermore, under Nuggantic law, Polly wouldn't be allowed to inherit "The Duchess" if anything happened to her father - which means the Perks family would lose their business. Polly decided to find and rescue her brother - the most obvious way to do this is to disguise herself as a boy and join the army. Having learnt to pick her nose and break wind, she cuts her hair, assumes the name 'Oliver' and joins the Tenth Foot Light Infantry (better known as the In-and-Outs and / or the Cheesemongers). Polly isn't the only new recruit - the others include a troll (called Carborundum), an Igor (who, like all Igors, is called Igor) and a vampire (called Maladict). Maladict, mercifully, is a Black Ribboner - he hasn't touched any human blood in over two years. Sergeant Jackrum, meanwhile, runs the regiment - a very famous soldier who is determined to look after his 'little lads'. Despite this, the Cheesemongers are sent to the front lines with shoddy equipment and no training. To make matters worse, it isn't long before someone sees through Polly's disguise. In a dark latrine, someone suggests she completes it with a strategically-placed pair of socks. This both worries and confuses Polly : someone has caught her out, but has also decided to help her...
Like everything else I've read by Pratchett, this is an excellent book. It's a little less silly than many of the previous instalments, but there are still plenty of laughs. It's easily read, and features plenty of likeable characters- particularly Jackrum.
on 31 October 2003
The latest Discworld novel from the legendary Terry Pratchett takes on the very topical issue of war, and certainly recent events have clearly had some effect on this tale.
The book centres on a young woman named Polly who lives in the little-known state of Borogravia, a state that seems to be in a perpetual... well state of war. Polly goes in search of her brother who joined the army, and in doing so joins the army herself, but only by disguising herself as a boy.
The tale then recounts her squad, a collection of new recruits with secrets of their own, and their adventures in seeking to fight for Borogravia.
The book contains the usual Pratchett humour, but in many ways is a departure from many of his previous books, focusing on much more political issues. In a way this is a hark back to his early days and Equal Rites. He clearly is making comments not just about sexual equality, but also about homophobia. The presence of women in the military, where there should be none, alludes to the presence of gays in the military, and the 'don't ask, don't tell' approach.
The work also examines the role of governments in war, and its effect on citizens. The views and opinions of the squad and the irrepressible Sergeant Jackrum (a re-made Vimes/Sergeant Colon - a fact that Pratchett does not hide by the cameo appearance of Vimes) are an attempt to illustrate the position that members of the military find themselves in. They do not want to kill or attack other soldiers, people like themselves, but they still have to.
Pratchett also cleverly shows how the press can affect wars by looking at individuals, rather than sides or states in a war, turning opinion back home and potentially affecting outcomes.
Of course these comments remain the background, not affecting the reader's enjoyment of a good old yarn. The book centres on a new group of characters, a welcome event in any Pratchett book. The characters are reminiscent of the early days of the Watch as featured in Guards, Guards. Pratchett doesn't avoid the similarities, but promotes them by having Vimes and Angua present, representing the change that has happened since their first appearance, with the relative inexperience and bumbling of Sergeant Jackrum's squad.
All in all, as with all Pratchett's outings, a good story, but with an interesting and topical commentary on states and war.