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The librarian

Monstrous Regiment

Monstrous Regiment, by Terry Pratchett, was one of the few Discworld books I had left to read. Not sure what I'll do when I've finished them all... start all over again perhaps. It took me eleven days to read this one but that has nothing to do with the quality of the book - two words represent the reasons and those are: Olympics and grandchildren. The first is self-explanatory and the second, well, our grandaughter's been here since Tuesday and went home today. Thus my reading time has been severely disrupted for a couple of weeks. Not that it mattered as this is just the sort of story that's ideal for reading slowly over a period of time.




Polly Perks' older brother, Paul, has gone off to war and disappeared off the face of the earth. He's not very bright, Polly has in fact spent most of her life being an older sister to her older brother... so Polly is worried. On a whim she decides to leave her father's inn one night, disguised as a boy, and joins the army in order to search for her brother. And thus Polly Perks becomes Oliver Perks and heads off to fight for her warlike little country of Borogravia.

With her goes Maladict, the vampire, who has sworn off blood but is addicted to coffee, Igor the igor (Igors specialise in sewing people together), a troll, and several youngsters from the local workhouse, all led by Sergeant Jackrum, a legend in his own lifetime. The officer in charge, known to one and all as 'the rupert' is one, Lieutenant Blouse. He has no chin, reads battle strategy books and wants to have an item of clothing named after him. Polly is made his batman, which is difficult as she doesn't know how to shave a man, but then neither does Blouse... Not only that, her fellow soldiers seem oddly deficient in that and other areas too. It seems there are secrets amongst this extremely motley band. Not that any of it matters because they are the last recruits from Borogravia and it's going to be up to them to win the war and save their country from disgrace.

I couldn't help feeling while I was reading this book, that if ever a teacher wanted to push home the futility of war to his students, all he would really need to do is hand them each a copy of this book and let them draw their own conclusions. That makes the story sound preachy when it most certainly is not. Terry Pratchett does what he does better than anyone else in my opinion, and that is to drive his point home with his superb humour. He is the perfect 'show, don't tell' author as new recruits are handed an IOU instead of a shilling, get taken to a shed for new uniforms only to find they're getting secondhand ones with blood and gore on them, and are fed 'scubbo' which can be pork, chicken or beef boiled in water but is more likely to be rat or horse. A couple of well-known Discworld characters turn up - William de Worde, the journalist from The Truth and the ever wonderful Sam Vimes, head of the Night Watch and now Duke of something or other, much to his disgust. I'd forgotten how much I love his character and must get around to reading Night Watch and Thud!.

Anyway, another wonderful book from Mr. Pratchett. They just get better and better and Monstrous Regiment manages to be extremely thought provoking whilst maintaining the author's well earned reputation for exceptionally clever humour.

Comments

This is where I admit really sheepishly that I've only ever finished one Pratchett book! I keep thinking I should like his stuff, other people think I should and lend them to me, but for some reason they don't grab me. The one I finished was the third one in the series, I think, which Frances and Joan told me was better than the first *g*.

I think I need to try again!
Mort? Yes, that is quite a good one to start with *but* I've thought about this a lot and I wonder sometimes if it isn't a good idea to start Pratchett somewhere in the middle. If you do start with Mort you kind of need to persevere until you reach the really good books. Background knowledge is the only good reason I can think of for it, but it isn't that necessary. I think you could decide to read the 5 or 6 Sam Vimes books which are a crime series within the Discworld universe and stand alone really. The first one is Guards! Guards! Those too get better and better and my favourite of those is The Fifth Elephant. You could also read The Truth (the setting up of a newspaper in Ankh-Morpork), Going Postal (the first postal services in the same city) or Monstrous Regiment as stand-alones. I'd be interested to hear what hagsrus or nakeisha think if they happen to spot this post and comments. Both of them know more about Terry Pratchett than I do.

I must add too that I agree with those who feel you're the sort who would like Pratchett's writing. There are observations and one liners that are simply genius and I'm sure someone like you would really appreciate them. He's just so damn clever sometimes that it's mind boggling.
The third book was Equal Rites IIRC, the first of the Witch books, but it's an early version of Granny Weatherwax and Wyrd Sisters is probably a better kick-off point.

Night Watch is brilliant, but better to get to know Sam Vimes first, so I'd agree with Guards! Guards!

The Truth is great fun, full of typesetting jokes aside from the actual newspaper story.

Yes, it was Equal Rites I read. Liked it well enough, but just never got around to following up with the others. I think I have The Truth, and will also watch out for Wyrd Sisters and Guards! Guards!
I will give him another go, and thanks for the recs! I think someone gave me a copy of The Truth a while ago. Wonder where it is *g*.
Not sure what I'll do when I've finished them all... start all over again perhaps

They are constant re-reads for me.
I think that's what will happen to me to be honest - I'll start rereading my favourites and take it from there.

Thanks for adding your two pennies worth, I'm aware that I'm no expert so a second opinion is always a good thing.
Monstrous Regiment took a little effort to get into, but it grew on me until I couldn't put it down. And you're right: Terry Pratchett makes his points with humor and compassion, never preaches, and can make his readers feel sympathy for even his worst, most sociopathic villains; no small feat!

I seem to be among the minority who absolutely loves the first DiscWorld book: The Color of Magic, and got a tremendous kick out of all the smart-ass joke-a-second humor. It wasn't as deep as some of his later books, but it was so much FUN! If you liked Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, or Monty Python's Flying Circus on television, that first book strongly reminded me of those programs. But Terry Pratchett is so original, he's truly unlike any other author I've ever read.

The only book of his that I simply didn't "get" was Pyramids; could not get into it. Perhaps a re-reading would clarify it for me.

BTW, If you haven't read the Tiffany Aching series yet, you're in for a treat. Tiffany is the way Hermione Granger would be if Joanne Rowling knew anything about human nature. (Who, ME? 'Bitter?' What on earth makes you say that?...)
I think now that I've read most of the Discworld books I'll almost certainly go back and read the first two and the handful of others that I haven't read because I didn't have... Soul Music for instance. I've also not read the Bromeliad trilogy yet (they're not Discworld though are they?) so I still have plenty to read, for a few months anyway.

I agree with you about Pyramids, I found myself a bit bored with that and didn't keep that book.

I read the Tiffany Aching series very recently (I think my Wintersmith review is still on the current page). Loved it to bits and I know just what you mean about Hermione Granger. Tiffany *is* what Hermione should have been. And kudos to Terry for giving the series a female main character and sticking to her and not being afraid to make her smart and opinionated. I really do think that Terry is one of the best male writers of female characters around. Not many men can write realistic women but he can.
Duuu-ur... I did read your review of Wintersmith, and even commented on it. I think my brain is draining. Maybe the root-rot I removed from my irises took over my brain... brain-rot?