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5.0 out of 5 stars The Roles of War
Long-standing fans of Discworld know how Pratchett explores many levels in his books. MR achieves a new degree of intensity in examining the human tendency for conflict. The "fantasy" aspects of the Discworld are nearly abandoned in this story of war and soldier life. To be sure, there's a vampire, a troll, and Angua the werewolf. An Igor completes the team...
Published on Jan. 5 2004 by Stephen A. Haines

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars My least favourite Discworld novel
I adore Terry Pratchett's novels, especially the Discworld series. I think he's one of the best living writers and I admire his deft touch at weaving together humour and philosophy, dialogue and action. And, although there are a number of Discworld novels I think are weaker than his best (Jingo, Fifth Elephant, Thud!), I still enjoy rereading them because of the author's...
Published on Dec 13 2005 by D. Mosey


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5.0 out of 5 stars The Roles of War, Jan. 5 2004
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Monstrous Regiment (Hardcover)
Long-standing fans of Discworld know how Pratchett explores many levels in his books. MR achieves a new degree of intensity in examining the human tendency for conflict. The "fantasy" aspects of the Discworld are nearly abandoned in this story of war and soldier life. To be sure, there's a vampire, a troll, and Angua the werewolf. An Igor completes the team in a special, rather cutting, role. None of these "fantasy" characters can avoid being dominated by their human aspects. Pratchett enhances his ability to show us to ourselves. While his humour carries us along in following the tale, the underlying theme remains clear. War is a distinctly human enterprise.
Polly Perks seeks her missing brother in the middle of a conflict none can explain nor justify. Hiding the fact that she's a girl, she slashes her golden curls, dons boys' clothes [including "special purpose" socks] and enlists to seek him out. Her military career is fraught with risk, but not just from battle. If she's exposed, the wrath of Nuggan, the local deity, will be boundless - dressing as a man is an Abomination. As are cats, the colour blue, garlic and a host of social ills. These are lined out in the Appendix of a bible - with the Appendix larger than the main inspirational text.
In Sam Vimes' view, Polly has entered a life of crime, but not through her cross-dressing. He thinks "war is a crime - like murder". Sam, Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, has been sent to make a peace. When the stakes are as high as these - who rules the country - the task becomes Herculean. As with most wars, this one uses high moral purpose to camouflage baser selfish motives. A prince seeks power. Polly, along with her meagre "regiment" is caught up in the forces this war for rule has unleashed. They are ill-equipped and untrained for their task. Even so, Polly's first skirmish with the enemy has enduring results.
Pratchett, using Polly's voice, has produced his finest work. He delves into military life, the vagaries of monarchy, and the shams of religion. He exposes many nerves in this book, but with a gentle finesse. He encourages the open mind while appealing to those who haven't taken the trouble to even ask questions. Polly asks and confronts many of these queries. She examines the answers in light of what is occurring around her. She's sharp and alert. She has to be, hiding her identity from friend and foe alike. She learns to belch, pick her nose and walk swaying her shoulders instead of her hips. Is this what's important? Pratchett takes us to the abyss of gender politics, reveals its deceptive simplicity, and leads us away. To confront a yet more fundamental horror. He is adept at surprising the reader, accomplishing that again here with his usual aplomb. Once again, he's "mirrored" our world. Take a close look and see if you are imaged here. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Monstrous, Monsters and Disguises, Jan. 5 2004
By 
Friederike Knabe "Books are funny little port... (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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Nothing is quite what it seems in this latest Discworld offering. Even the Discworld is not quite what Pratchett fans can identify. Magic is only like a whiff or shadow appearing from time to time. We meet few of the regular heroes or places. Borogravia is not a major spot on the Discworld map. The small country is embattled in apparently never-ending wars with its neighbours about who knows what. Its rulers claim it to be a peace-loving place - thus it's always somebody else's fault. With so many battles, the army is running out of recruits so that a troll, a "reformed" vampire (having replaced his craving for blood with one for coffee), an "Igor" (known for his ability to stitch severed limbs and other missing parts back on people), a couple of lost youths with nothing better to do and one following a religious calling, are enlisted. And, above all, a girl, disguised as one of the boys, wants to join the fun: Polly Perks or "Private Parts".
Polly is young, smart and courageous. With her hair cut short, in men's clothes and imitating some "typical" male habits, she easily fools the recruiting officers. Or does she? Polly has several reasons to join the war effort - she needs to find her soldier brother who has not been writing home. Also, she has not really much to look forward to in this country. Borogravia is run by a Duchess who may or not be alive, and the local deity, Nuggan, who issues strict rules for his followers, reflected in an ever expanding list of "Abominations". These become stranger as time moves on. They include a ban on the colour blue, having your picture taken, newspapers, or the use of garlic. Not only should girls not wear trousers, they cannot own land, houses or run a business. Women's lives are clearly very restricted.
The story follows Polly, a skillful observer, who always asks pertinent questions. What is the purpose of the war, the upcoming battle, the enemy and the truth in all she hears and sees: "We are still winning this war, aren't we?!" Sergeant Jackrum, an old hand in the business of war, guides the motley crew of new recruits towards the battlefield. There is no time for training, really, but as the archetypical military father figure, he intents to "look after my lads". He maneuvers around Lieutenant Blouse, who knows everything about all the historical wars - from books. Blouse is more successful at redesigning filing systems than at giving orders to the squad - then again, he shows surprising qualities when things get really tight.
Humour and irony in this story operate at various levels. So also does the social and political commentary. The daily military confusions of the recruits and personal interactions between them are often hilarious. Secrets are discovered, shared and hidden again. Sometimes it is not even clear who is fighting whom. William de Worde, the editor of the Ankh-Morpork Times and well known to Discworld fans, has his own assessment of the situation: "sometimes a country's system is so out of date that it's only outsiders that can see the need for wholesale change". The news business is also no longer what it was either...
There are many perfect one-liners and satirical gems that Pratchett has scattered throughout the book. From "shock and awe" to female tactics in close combat, you can smile, giggle or laugh out loud. But then again, the latter may get stuck in your throat when you think about the timely and topical messages being conveyed. This is, despite the Discworld fantasyland and its ludicrous conflicts, a serious book for serious people in serious times - and "no one has the right to be stupid." Questions remain at the end of the book and one wonders where Pratchett will go from here.
Monstrous Regiment is recommended Discworld beginners or newcomers; fans will find some familiar territory and will broaden their horizons of the "mirror of worlds". [Friederike Knabe]
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite books, Feb. 24 2014
This review is from: Monstrous Regiment (Paperback)
Monstrous Regiment is one of my favourite books, and the Discworld series is probably my favourite series of books. I'm afraid I'm a little biased, but I really do think this is an excellent book. The characters are all interesting and the overall pacing and plot are noteworthy. The main characters in this book are not recurring from others in the series, so they are a nice contrast to the regular casts. There are some traditional Discworld characters present as well. One of my favourite elements of this story is seeing Commander Vimes from an outside perspective. In the books that feature him we generally see the world through his eyes, and it is always an interesting contrast when we see how the world sees him.

One of the notable aspects of the Discworld series as a whole is it sometimes takes the traditional fantasy setting and uses it to explore issues that reflect reality. Monstrous Regiment does this as well. The setting is very focused on the group of main characters, and what happens to them. One of the really interesting parts of this book is that it could be a story in any war setting, only some of the characters and situations remind the reader that the book is a fantasy story. This shows that the fantasy genre is not limited to entirely unreal stories.

Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who likes the Discworld series, and to anyone who is interested in the variety of the fantasy genre. People who like war related stories might also like it, if they do not mind the fantasy setting.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Monstrously good fun, July 2 2013
By 
Donald N. Philip (Toronto, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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Monstrous Regiment is one of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, so for the uninitiated, it's about a world where there are magicians, dwarves, werewolves, trolls, vampires, witches and other assorted fantastical entities. All of these are really metaphors for the various types of ethnocultural groups we find in our multicultural societies and many of the book plots are thinly disguised extensions of current problems. In the case of Monstrous Regiment, it's about the role of women in society, in the military and how it is shifting.

Told in Pratchett's usually dryly witty style, it follow Polly as she sets off to find her brother who went off to war the year before. To do so, she must follow in his footsteps, join the army as Paul, and in so doing, she learns, among other things, the importance of scratching, spitting, and the value of socks. Good fun all round.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a very good read, Sept. 13 2014
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more fun with those wacky Discworlders, although I found the ending weak
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Socks, Slops and Scubbo, Jan. 26 2007
This review is from: Monstrous Regiment (Paperback)
"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.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Roles of War, Jan. 6 2004
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Long-standing fans of Discworld know how Pratchett explores many levels in his books. MR achieves a new degree of intensity in examining the human tendency for conflict. The "fantasy" aspects of the Discworld are nearly abandoned in this story of war and soldier life. To be sure, there's a vampire, a troll, and Angua the werewolf. An Igor completes the team in a special, rather cutting, role. None of these "fantasy" characters can avoid being dominated by their human aspects. Pratchett enhances his ability to show us to ourselves. While his humour carries us along in following the tale, the underlying theme remains clear. War is a distinctly human enterprise.
Polly Perks seeks her missing brother in the middle of a conflict none can explain nor justify. Hiding the fact that she's a girl, she slashes her golden curls, dons boys' clothes [including "special purpose" socks] and enlists to seek him out. Her military career is fraught with risk, but not just from battle. If she's exposed, the wrath of Nuggan, the local deity, will be boundless - dressing as a man is an Abomination. As are cats, the colour blue, garlic and a host of social ills. These are lined out in the Appendix of a bible - with the Appendix larger than the main inspirational text.
In Sam Vimes' view, Polly has entered a life of crime, but not through her cross-dressing. He thinks "war is a crime - like murder". Sam, Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, has been sent to make a peace. When the stakes are as high as these - who rules the country - the task becomes Herculean. As with most wars, this one uses high moral purpose to camouflage baser selfish motives. A prince seeks power. Polly, along with her meagre "regiment" is caught up in the forces this war for rule has unleashed. They are ill-equipped and untrained for their task. Even so, Polly's first skirmish with the enemy has enduring results.
Pratchett, using Polly's voice, has produced his finest work. He delves into military life, the vagaries of monarchy, and the shams of religion. He exposes many nerves in this book, but with a gentle finesse. He encourages the open mind while appealing to those who haven't taken the trouble to even ask questions. Polly asks and confronts many of these queries. She examines the answers in light of what is occurring around her. She's sharp and alert. She has to be, hiding her identity from friend and foe alike. She learns to belch, pick her nose and walk swaying her shoulders instead of her hips. Is this what's important? Pratchett takes us to the abyss of gender politics, reveals its deceptive simplicity, and leads us away. To confront a yet more fundamental horror. He is adept at surprising the reader, accomplishing that again here with his usual aplomb. Once again, he's "mirrored" our world. Take a close look and see if you are imaged here. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa]
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Great book, March 13 2012
This review is from: Monstrous Regiment (Paperback)
A little different from others in the series, and took me a lttle longer to read that others (didn't pick it up and read it in 2 days as usual...took a whole week) but if you can get past the subject matter being war, then it is Terry's usual mix of action adventure, magic and humour. So many levels of comparison to humanity. Yes it is about war, but that is an ongoing human state unfortunately. This is the story of a few strange folk having to rely on each other to get where they want to go. Brilliant Mr.P !!
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars My least favourite Discworld novel, Dec 13 2005
By 
D. Mosey (Nova Scotia, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Monstrous Regiment (Paperback)
I adore Terry Pratchett's novels, especially the Discworld series. I think he's one of the best living writers and I admire his deft touch at weaving together humour and philosophy, dialogue and action. And, although there are a number of Discworld novels I think are weaker than his best (Jingo, Fifth Elephant, Thud!), I still enjoy rereading them because of the author's extraordinary skill.

Monstrous Regiment is the one Pratchett book I cannot bring myself to reread. It's just not very good.

I don't care about any of the characters in this one. This is partly because Pratchett is so clearly on a soapbox the entire time that very little humour is allowed to come through. The single "twist" is repeated so many times that it quickly loses any ability to surprise or instruct. By the end of the book I was praying, "Please, Mr. Pratchett, you can't possibly do it again ..." But he did. The only character I enjoyed was Jackrum, but when the all-too-predictable twist was applied to this character as well as everyone else, I continued reading only because I couldn't imagine not finishing a Pratchett novel. The final twist made me throw the book down in disgust.

When Pratchett gets preachy, his normally deft touch gets leaden and the humour flees. The only "darker" book of his that really works for me is Night Watch, which is quite stunning.

I suggest that you read just about anything else by Pratchett, rather than this one. It was so bad it made me not read anything by him for quite a while, and I've only just caught up with Thud! (disappointingly heavy-handed), Getting Postal (excellent -- among his best) and Making Money (pretty good).
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