War has come to Discworld ... again.
And, to no one's great surprise, the conflict centers around the small, arrogantly fundamentalist duchy of Borogravia, which has long prided itself on its unrelenting aggressiveness. A year ago, Polly Perks's brother marched off to battle, and Polly's willing to resort to drastic measures to find him. So she cuts off her hair, dons masculine garb, and -- aided by a well-placed pair of socks -- sets out to join this man's army. Since a nation in such dire need of cannon fodder can't afford to be too picky, Polly is eagerly welcomed into the fighting fold—along with a vampire, a troll, an Igor, a religious fanatic, and two uncommonly close "friends." It would appear that Polly "Ozzer" Perks isn't the only grunt with a secret. But duty calls, the battlefield beckons. And now is the time for all good ... er ... "men" to come to the aid of their country. (from Amazon)
Monstrous Regiment reminds me a lot of Equal Rites. They’ve got a lot of the same themes: women wanting to be equal to men, or at least not have men make ALL the rules. Unlike Equal Rites, though, Monstrous Regiment doesn’t have any witches. It’s got Polly, one of my most favorite Pratchett characters EVER. If she were inclined to be magical I think she’d be a witch (strong-willed, manipulative, kind and helpful to people in need), but she’s a soldier instead and that makes her more Vimes-y (strong-willed, authoritative, knows her own mind). It’s like she’s the best parts of all my lovable Pratchett characters mixed into one amazing person!
Also like Equal Rites, Monstrous Regiment is about overturning the conventions of a society fairly thuroughly. Women? In the ARMY? Oh no! etc. Polly’s country is pretty terrible, and that’s mostly because their god is insane. Everything’s an abomination, nobody’s happy, and to get anything done you practically HAVE to stick a pair of strategically placed socks in your pants.
But it’s really not a story about a gung-ho soldier lady! I mean, that’s PART of the story, but it’s also about friendship and family and wanting to do right even in the face of a crazy god and the people who follow him.
Other things in Monstrous Regiment‘s plot include: patriotism, honor/bravery, the differences between men and women (socks, basically), truth vs. what actually happened, religion (and what happens when your god goes nuts), and misogyny (from men and women). There’s also lots of humor (of course!), but it’s balanced out by depressing stuff. It kinda reminds me of Nation in that way; you’re laughing, but there’s also a PING of pain somewhere in your chest.
My favorite thing about Pratchett’s writing is how he handles his characters. The whole ending sequence (no spoilers) in Monstrous Regiment is a testament to how much he CARES about them, and us as readers. He doesn’t cut them any slack, but he almost always seems to give them chances to either reform themselves or do great things or even just show that they’re not complete monsters (no pun intended). All his characters are layered and interesting, even the one-off thugs. His characters are what make me love his books so much!
Read: March 20-21, 2013
Who’s your favorite Pratchett character?