Nataliya's Reviews > Monstrous Regiment

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
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Apr 15, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: awesome-kickass-heroines, excellent-reads, favorites, pratchett, 2012-reads, for-my-future-hypothetical-daughter
Read from February 15 to 29, 2012 — I own a copy , read count: 2

Pratchett addresses two questions here: (1) “Do you think it's possible for an entire nation to be insane?” and (2) Does - and, more importantly, should - a well-placed pair of socks (for 'certain' sort of padding) make a difference?
“The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they've found it.”
As far as Discworld series is concerned, this book can be easily read as a standalone novel. It brings us to the little backwards country of Borogravia, which is constantly at war with someone - this time it's with Zlobenia. Ankh-Morpork is expected to intervene, since, as Commander Sam Vimes points out in his cameo appearance, "the interests of Ankh-Morpork are the interests of all money-lov... oops, sorry, all freedom-loving people everywhere."
"Borogravia was a peace-loving country in the midst of treacherous, devious, warlike enemies. They had to be treacherous, devious, and warlike, otherwise we wouldn't be fighting them, eh? There was always a war."
Borogravia's economy is on the verge of collapse, and the country has pretty much run out of eligible soldiers. But this does not stop the little country, governed by a "probably dead" Duchess, the country that follows the ever-expanding ring-bound (makes it easier to add pages) gospel of the god Nuggan, who seems to spend his time coming up with new Abominations - recently, we've had garlic, chocolate, dwarfs, cats, oysters and the color blue join the ranks.
"So what we have here is a country that tries to run itself on the commandments of a god, who, the people feel, may be wearing his underpants on his head. Has he Abomined underpants?"
"No, sir. [...] But it's probably only a matter of time."
Polly Perks does not care about war, money, or patriotism. What she cares about is saving her not-too-bright brother who has disappeared in the war. So, of course, she chops her hair off and joins the army disguised as a boy. (Did I mention that lots of Nuggan's Abominations have something to do with women acting "non-womanlike"?) A mysterious unseen benefactor advises her on the benefits of a well-placed pair of socks in the 'nether regions'. And given that the title of the book comes from the infamous The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, the readers can easily guess the true nature of Polly's war comrades.



Like we have learned to expect from Sir Terry's novels, this book is witty and has plenty of funny moments. But, as many of his more recent novels, it is also sad, angry and frustrated with the events in Discworld clearly paralleling the things that make us angry in the "Roundworld".

I love that this book, like the rest of Pratchett's creations, makes me think. Some may complain that the message of this book is on the heavy-handed side, but I love it. I love that Pratchett is not shy or subtle about getting the message across about the evils and pitfalls of bigotry, prejudice, discrimination, and so-called patriotism bordering on jingoism. He is not subtle about the things that people should NOT be subtle about, and I love it. He is open about asking uncomfortable questions and stirring up trouble, and love this as well.
“You take a bunch of people who don't seem any different from you and me, but when you add them all together you get this sort of huge raving maniac with national borders and an anthem.”

Another thing I love about Pratchett's writing is that he is one of the (regrettably) few male fantasy authors who can portray a woman as not a stereotype or a caricature or a mystery or an adorable nuisance or a far-fetched ideal but as a normal (well, normal for Discworld), real, and believable human being.

“This was not a fairy-tale castle and there was no such thing as a fairy-tale ending, but sometimes you could threaten to kick the handsome prince in the ham-and-eggs.”
As it's becoming common in Pratchett's novels, the ending is not happy but has bittersweet undertones. There is an understanding that it takes a lot to change the world, to change people's beliefs and prejudices, that anything that is won is only a small step on a long road. "And now it wasn't that good things were happening, it was just that bad things had stopped." Pratchett is not reluctant to show that the world's ways of dealing with things that are uncomfortable, that challenge the status quo is to pretend that they never happened, pretend that they are the exception rather than the rule, pretend that ignoring things would make them go away.
"We weren't soldiers, she decided. We were girls in uniform. We were like a lucky charm. We were mascots. We weren't real, we were always a symbol of something. We'd done very well, for women. And we were temporary."
************************************************
This is now one of my favorite Discworld novels. Five stars is not enough to describe how much I loved it. And I adored the little cameos from the other Discworld characters, especially Vimes (I am a true Vimes girl, why'd you ask?)
"The enemy wasn't men, or women, or the old, or even the dead. It was just bleedin' stupid people, who came in all varieties. And no one had the right to be stupid."
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Quotes Nataliya Liked

Terry Pratchett
“This was not a fairy-tale castle and there was no such thing as a fairy-tale ending, but sometimes you could threaten to kick the handsome prince in the ham-and-eggs.”
Terry Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment

Terry Pratchett
“The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they've found it.”
Terry Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment

Terry Pratchett
“The enemy isn't men, or women, it's bloody stupid people and no one has the right to be stupid.”
Terry Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment

Terry Pratchett
“You take a bunch of people who don't seem any different from you and me, but when you add them all together you get this sort of huge raving maniac with national borders and an anthem.”
Terry Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment

Terry Pratchett
“And if you couldn't trust the government, who could you trust? Very nearly everyone, come to think of it...”
Terry Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment


Reading Progress

02/16/2012 page 40
10.0%
02/16/2012 page 40
10.0% "I love reading Pratchett! And I didn't realize that Vimes was in this book, too! Squeeee!"
02/18/2012 page 55
14.0% ""Did I join th' army?" he rumbled. "Oh, coprolith...""
02/19/2012 page 120
31.0% ""I guess one-tenth of nothing is not as bad as nothing, but I was never that good at philosophy." "And if you couldn't trust the government, who could you trust? Very nearly everyone, come to think of it...""
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Comments (showing 1-27 of 27) (27 new)

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[Name Redacted] Have you read "Jingo"? It handles similar themes, but (I felt) wasn't as successful in its portrayal. Then again, I read "Monstrous Regiment" less than 5 years ago, and read "Jingo" over a decade ago.


Nataliya I read "Jingo" last year. I loved it because was a Vimes book and had lots of Vetinari in it. But I agree with you - Pratchett's portrayal of jingoism is much better in "Monstrous Regiment".


[Name Redacted] Yeah, i liked it because of the Watch & Vetinari quotient, but it wasn't enough.

I suppose, to be fair, the two novels are ultimately dealing with a similar theme in different ways. "Jingo" is about two large, powerful nations squabbling over something meaningless, while "Monstrous Regiment" is about two small, squabbling nations and the impact that squabbling has on the "arrow fodder" and the rank & file.


Nataliya That's why "monstrous Regiment" hits home in a much stronger way than "Jingo" - because the effects on the "little guy" in the war always seem more heart-wrenching than the effects on entire countries and national politics.


[Name Redacted] Yeah, and the primary characters aren't long-time characters -- while the events can be devastating in a "Watch" book, we ultimately know that the majority of the characters will survive. In Pratchett's "one-off" books, we have no idea and anything can happen.

Thinking about it, I suspect the two books together would make excellent companion pieces.


Nataliya Ian wrote: "Thinking about it, I suspect the two books together would make excellent companion pieces. "

Right, I agree. And now I have a strong desire to re-read "Jingo" while my impressions of "Monstrous Regiment" are still fresh.


J.P. One of my fave Discworld novels too. I'm amazed how often a male author chooses to write a book about a female protagonist and proceeds to make himself look downright silly. Rule number one in writing is to write about something you know yet they opt for a woman lead character. Makes you wonder. Polly Perks is indeed very well written.


Nataliya J.P. wrote: "Rule number one in writing is to write about something you know yet they opt for a woman lead character."

Makes you wonder then how many writers mistakenly think that they know/understand women. That includes female writers as well, funnily.


message 9: by J.P. (last edited Apr 18, 2012 05:16AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

J.P. Men have been trying to figure out women especially since one whose last name I'm not sure of but her first name was Eve.


Nataliya J.P. wrote: "Men have been trying to figure out women especially since one was born whose last name I'm not sure of but her first name was Eve."

We are actually not all that mysterious, but that's our well-kept secret ;)


[Name Redacted] Ha ha! You can say that, Nataliya, because you ARE one!


Nataliya Ian wrote: "Ha ha! You can say that, Nataliya, because you ARE one!"

Right :) *Nodding very mysteriously*


message 13: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller Don't worry, we women are just as puzzled as men are about what it is that supposedly makes us so "mysterious"

I suspect it might be to do with the fact that we're geared to have babies, but believe me, that's just as much a mystery to us as well. :o (These horrmoans we have to cope with. Darn things. At least men's hormone levels stay appreciably stable. Through no fault of ours, ours follow a cycle, so that's something we have to factor into our lives. Oh well :s )


Nataliya Traveller wrote: "Through no fault of ours, ours follow a cycle, so that's something we have to factor into our lives."

A flashback to "The Left Hand of Darkness"? Cyclical nature of being?
I guess being able to have babies does seem quite mysterious, but in fact that is just want makes us strong and all kinds of awesome. You have to be, to survive the literal bloodbath in the delivery room! I saw the toughest guys suddenly turn a shade of pale green the moment they glanced at what was happening during the birth. Hah!


message 15: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller Perhaps that is why women were still awarded some kind of respect for fulfilling their biological procreative role way back when every third woman died in childbirth...

And the whole process was certainly bathed in a lot of "mystery". Heck, read any noir novel and you will see that barely 50 years ago, dads weren't let into the delivery room and sat smoking away whole plantations full of tobacco in the waiting room. :)


message 16: by j (new)

j is this a good first discworld novel? i have only read wee free men...


message 17: by Robert (last edited May 17, 2012 09:27PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Robert I'd start with The Color of Magic, that's his first book, although not everyone enjoys it as much as his later books. You could possible skip ahead to Guards! Guards!. Personally I prefer the published order.

Monstrous Regiment stands on its own pretty well, but you wont get all the references or spot the cameos.

That's my two cents, hope it helps. I'm a huge Pratchett fan.


Nataliya It can definitely work as the first Discworld novel since it's very self-contained. You will, however, miss out on some subtle references mainly concerning the members of the City Watch that have a few cameo appearances - but it should not detract from the enjoyment of the story.


message 19: by Megan (new)

Megan Great review Nataliya! I can't wait to start reading some of his books soon, thanks to your reviews and recommendations :)


Nataliya Thanks, Megan! Which book of his are planning to start with?


Moira Russell Joel wrote: "is this a good first discworld novel? i have only read wee free men..."

Erk, I wouldn't start with CoM. It's really not like the later books. The first one I read is Night Watch, which is v late in the series, but awesome.


Moira Russell Nataliya wrote: "I read "Jingo" last year. I loved it because was a Vimes book and had lots of Vetinari in it. But I agree with you - Pratchett's portrayal of jingoism is much better in "Monstrous Regiment"."

(VIMES <3333) For some reason I didn't like Jingo much at all, but I read it quite a while back, I think. But I love Polly.


message 23: by Megan (new)

Megan Nataliya wrote: "Thanks, Megan! Which book of his are planning to start with?"

Probably the ones you recommeded me a while back and whatever else catches my eye at the book store :)


Nataliya Moira wrote: "(VIMES <3333) For some reason I didn't like Jingo much at all, but I read it quite a while back, I think. But I love Polly. "

I think I enjoyed "Jingo" the least out of the Night Watch books - but I still loved it, which says a lot about my adoration of Sir Terry's works.
Polly is a great heroine, and I love her, too.


message 25: by Teri (new) - added it

Teri Zuckerman love your review!


Nataliya Teri wrote: "love your review!"

Thanks, Teri!


message 27: by Rhubarb (new)

Rhubarb Me too!


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