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Monstrous Regiment (Discworld Series #31)
     

Monstrous Regiment (Discworld Series #31)

4.2 68
by Terry Pratchett
 

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War rages on—with one unconventional soldier—in Terry Pratchett's bestselling Discworld® series

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

Overview

War rages on—with one unconventional soldier—in Terry Pratchett's bestselling Discworld® series

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 is 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 the army. Since a nation in such dire need of cannon fodder cannot 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.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com
The Barnes & Noble Review
In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Monstrous Regiment, war has come once again to the realm. Polly Perks, an unassuming barmaid from Borogravia, cuts her hair, pretends to be a young man, and joins the army in hopes of finding her brother Paul, who marched off to war a year ago and hasn't been heard from in months. But once in uniform, she gets a cold dose of reality. Instead of going through extensive military training, Polly and the other recruits are immediately sent to the front. And to make matters worse, word is that Borogravia is badly losing the war. Enemy forces are everywhere and many Borogravian soldiers are deserting or surrendering.

Led by Lieutenant Blouse, a nearsighted academic who couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag, the regiment of misfits realize they're as good as dead if they blindly follow Blouse into battle. The second-in-command, Sergeant Jolly Jack Jackrum -- a legendary monster of a soldier who has been in the army longer than anyone can remember -- takes control of the regiment by using Blouse as a puppet leader. Jackrum is a man's man - the foul-mouthed, tobacco-chewing sergeant can outfight, outstrategize, and outdrink anyone. As the battles intensify, however, Jackrum realizes the majority of the regiment are women!

Monstrous Regiment will have readers laughing out loud in places and fighting back tears in others. This is a classic Pratchett: clever, satirical, and brilliantly constructed -- an absolute must-read for Discworld fans. Sergeant Jolly Jack Jackrum is arguably Pratchett's most unforgettable character to date. Paul Goat Allen

The New York Times
Monstrous Regiment is most often spirited and shambolic, but it has some serious heft. Pratchett is on the side of those who make very little fuss, which means he gets to shiv those who do. — Kerry Fried
The Washington Post
Is war woman's work after all? Mate gender politics with geopolitics and you get either a PC nightmare or something very funny. Fortunately, in Monstrous Regiment it's the latter. Pratchett takes full and unfairly hilarious advantage of the opportunity to skewer everything from military court martials to male swagger. ("At least women swung only their hips. Young men swung everything, from the shoulders down.") — Jennifer Howard
VOYA
Polly Perks, a Borogravian bar wench, disguises herself as a boy and sets out to join the army in search of her missing brother, Paul. She masters the masculine arts, learning to belch and scratch, and follows advice to "walk like a puppet that'd had a couple random strings cut, never hug anyone, and, if you meet a friend, punch them." Her enlistment is accepted without question. The regiment is completed by a pair of runaway lovers, a religious fanatic, a troll, a vampire, and a lisping zombie. Polly's identity seems safe until, when in the latrine, a strange voice suggests that she stuff a pair of socks in her slacks to enhance her disguise. She soon discovers, however, that everyone has a secret-that they are all women except for their commanding officer, Lieutenant Blouse. On the brink of defeat, Polly's misfit regiment is Borogravia's last hope. Their other troops are dead or horribly wounded. Through humor, mishap, sheer luck, and a lot of free publicity, these bizarre soldiers resolve the conflict. Apparently, women know how to win a war. In a novel full of double entendre, a pun lurks around every corner of this latest Discworld romp. Considering that the greatest honor for a Borogravian officer is to have an item of clothing named for him, this book might be the world's longest joke. In typical Pratchett fashion, truths are uncovered through humor. The author excels at making people see themselves and their countries in a different light. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, HarperCollins,353p., Ages 11 to 18.
—Nancy K. Wallace
Library Journal
When war hits Discworld, Polly joins the army dressed as a man. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Twenty-ninth in Pratchett's Discworld series (Night Watch, 2002), kicked off twenty years ago with The Color of Magic. Proud of nothing but the fact that they're Borogravians, the inhabitants of said Borogravia produce no desired exports, worship a god with a predilection for making insane pronouncements, and have a tendency to declare war every so often on each of their neighbors just for the hell of it. This time out, Pratchett takes the reader far from the series' usual setting-the mercenary, madcap town of Ankh-Morpork-and instead sets the story in this Balkans-esque madhouse during yet another war in which Borogravia is being ganged up on by just about all of its neighbors. As an Ankh-Morporkian puts it: "The little countries here fought because of the river, because of idiot treaties, because of royal rows, but mostly they fought because they had always fought. They made war, in fact, because the sun came up." The "Monstrous" regiment in question is a band of Borogravian recruits marching off to the front line, unaware that the war has pretty much already been lost. It's a ragged and seemingly unsoldierly group, too. Polly, Pratchett's hero, is a young woman disguised as a man who's looking for her simple-minded brother Paul, who signed up already and whom she fears dead. There's also Maladict, a recovering vampire who hasn't drunk blood for quite some time now, tank you very much. Filling out the ranks, meanwhile, are Igor (a Frankenstein-like creature with an exaggerated lisp), a giant troll, and a sergeant so ancient and war-ravaged that calling him "crusty" barely covers it. As usual with Pratchett, the plot wanders off into the bushes every 30 pages or so just to have a lookaround and see whether anything funny is going on. Fortunately, something usually is, thanks to Pratchett's droll satire that isn't afraid to stoop to things like cross-dressing to get a giggle. Surprisingly meaningful but never short of hilarious: a monstrous success for Pratchett. Author tour
From the Publisher
"You ride along on his tide of out-landish invention, realizing that you are in the presence of a true original among contemporary writers — a fantasist who loves naff humour and silly names, and yet whose absurd world is, at heart, a serious portrait of the jingoistic fears that keep us at each other’s throats’"
—The Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062307415
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
07/29/2014
Series:
Discworld Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
131,661
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Monstrous Regiment

The recruits tried to sleep.

Occasionally, someone belched or expelled wind noisily, and Polly responded with a few fake eructations of her own. That seemed to inspire greater effort on the part of the other sleepers, to the point where the roof rattled and dust fell down, before everyone subsided.

Once or twice she heard people stagger out into the windy darkness; in theory, for the privy, but probably, given male impatience in these matters, to aim much closer to home. Once, coasting in and out of a troubled dream, she thought she heard someone sobbing.

Taking care not to rustle too much, Polly pulled out the much-folded, much-read, much-stained last letter from her brother, and read it by the light of the solitary, guttering candle. It had been opened and heavily mangled by the censors, and bore the stamp of the Duchy. It read:

Dear all,

We are in .... which is .... with a ... big thing with knobs. On .... we with .... which is just as well because .... out of. I am keeping well. The food is .... .... well .... at the ..... but my mate .... er says not to worry, it'll be all over by .... and we shall all have medals.

Chins up!
Paul

It was in a careful hand, the excessively clear and well-shaped writing of someone who had to think about every letter.

She folded it up again. Paul had wanted medals, because they were shiny. That'd been almost a year ago, when any recruiting party that came past went away with the best part of a battalion, and there had been people waving them off with flags and music. Sometimes, now, smaller parties of men came back. The lucky ones were missing only one arm or one leg. There were no flags.

She unfolded the other piece of paper. It was a pamphlet. It was headed "From the Mothers of Borogravia!!" The mothers of Borogravia were very definite about wanting to send their sons off to war Against the Zlobenian Aggressor!! and used a great many exclamation points to say so. And this was odd, because the mothers in the town had not seemed keen on the idea of their sons going off to war, and positively tried to drag them back. Several copies of the pamphlet seemed to have reached every home, even so. It was very patriotic. That is, it talked about killing foreigners.

She'd learned to read and write after a fashion because the inn was big and it was a business and things had to be tallied and recorded. Her mother had taught her to read, which was acceptable to Nuggan, and her father made sure that she learned how to write, which was not. A woman who could write was an Abomination Unto Nuggan, according to Father Jupe; anything she wrote would by definition be a lie.

But Polly had learned anyway, because Paul hadn't, at least to the standard needed to run an inn as busy as The Duchess. He could read if he could run his finger slowly along the lines, and he wrote letters painfully slowly, with a lot of care and heavy breathing, like a man assembling a piece of jewelry.

He was big and kind and slow and could lift beer kegs as though they were toys, but he wasn't a man at home with paperwork. Their father had hinted to Polly, very gently but very often, that Polly would need to be right behind him, when the time came for him to run The Duchess. Left to himself, with no one to tell him what to do next, her brother just stood and watched birds. At Paul's insistence, she'd read the whole of "From the Mothers of Borogravia!!" to him, including the bits about heroes and there being no greater good than to die for your country.

She wished, now, she hadn't done that. Paul did what he was told. Unfortunately, he believed what he was told, too.

She put the papers away and dozed again, until her bladder woke her up. Oh, well, at least at this time of the morning she'd have a clear run.

She reached out for her pack and stepped as softly as she could out into the rain.

It was mostly just coming off the trees now, which were roaring in the wind that blew up the valley. The moon was hidden in the clouds, but there was just enough light to make out the inn's buildings. A certain grayness suggested that what passed for dawn in Plün was on the way.

She located the men's privy, which, indeed, stank of inaccuracy.

A lot of planning and practice had gone into this moment. She was helped by the design of her breeches, which were the old-fashioned kind with generous, buttoned trapdoors, and also by the experiments she'd made very early in the mornings when she was doing the cleaning. In short, with care and attention to detail, she'd found that a woman could pee standing up. It certainly worked back home in the inn's privy, which had been designed and built with the certain expectation of the aimlessness of the customers.

The wind shook the dank building.

In the dark, she thought of Aunty Hattie, who'd gone a bit strange around her sixtieth birthday and persistently accused passing young men of looking up her dress. She was even worse after a glass of wine, and she had one joke: "What does a man stand up to do, a woman sit down to do, and a dog lift its leg to do?" And then, when everyone was too embarrassed to answer, she'd triumphantly shriek "Shake hands!" and fall over. Aunty Hattie was an Abomination all by herself.

Polly buttoned up the breeches with a sense of exhilaration. She felt she'd crossed a bridge, a sensation that was helped by the realization that she'd kept her feet dry.

Someone said, "Psst!"

It was just as well she'd already taken a leak. Panic instantly squeezed every muscle. Where were they hiding? This was just a rotten old shed! Oh, there were a few cubicles, but the smell alone suggested very strongly that the woods outside would be a much better proposition. Even on a wild night. Even with extra wolves.

"Yes?" she quavered, and then cleared her throat and demanded, with a little more gruffness:"Yes?"

"You'd need these," whispered the voice. In the fetid gloom, she made out something rising over the top of the cubicle. She reached up nervously and touched softness. It was a bundle of wool. Her fingers explored it.

"A pair of socks?" she said.

"Right. Wear 'em," said the mystery voice hoarsely.

"Thank you, but I've brought several pairs -- " Polly began.

There was a faint sigh. "No. Not on your feet. Shove 'em down the front of your trousers."

"What do you mean?"

"Look," said the whisperer patiently, "you don't bulge where you shouldn't bulge. That's good. But you don't bulge where you should bulge, either. You know? Lower down?"

"Oh! Er ... I ... but ... I didn't think people noticed ..." said Polly, glowing with embarrassment. She had been spotted! But there was no hue and cry, no angry quotations from the Book of Nuggan. Someone was helping. Someone who had seen her ...

"It's a funny thing," said the voice, "but they notice what's missing more than they notice what's there. Just one pair, mark you. Don't get ambitious."

Polly hesitated.

"Um ... is it obvious?" she said.

"No. That's why I gave you the socks."

"I meant that ... that I'm not ... that I'm ..."

"Not really," said the voice in the dark. "You're pretty good. You come over as a frightened young lad trying to look big and brave. You might pick your nose a bit more often. Just a tip. Few things interest a young man more than the contents of his nostrils. Now I've got a favor to ask you in return."

I didn't ask you for one, Polly thought, quite annoyed at being taken for being a frightened young lad when she was quite sure she'd come over as quite a cool, non-ruffled young lad. But she said, calmly: "What is it?"

"Got any paper?"

Wordlessly, Polly pulled "From the Mothers of Borogravia!!" out of her shirt and handed it up.

She heard the sound of a match striking, and a sulfurous smell that only improved the general conditions.

"Why, is this the escutcheon of Her Grace the Duchess I see in front of me?" said the whisperer. "Well, it won't be in front of me for long. Beat it ... boy."

Polly hurried out into the night, shocked, dazed, confused, and almost asphyxiated, and made it to the shed door. But she'd barely shut it behind her and was blinking in the blackness when it was thrust open again, to let in the wind, rain, and Corporal Strappi.

"All right, all right! Hands off ... well, you lot wouldn't be able to find 'em ... and on with socks! Hup Hup Hi Ho Hup Hup --"

Bodies were suddenly springing up or falling over all around Polly. Their muscles must have been obeying the voice directly, because no brain could have got into gear that quickly. Corporal Strappi, in obedience to the law of noncommissioned officers, responded by making the confusion more confusing.

"Good grief, a lot of old women could shift better'n you!" he shouted with satisfaction as people flailed around looking for their coats and boots. "Fall in! Get shaved! Every man in the regiment to be clean shaven, by order! Get dressed! Wazzer, I've got my eye on you! Move! Move! Breakfast in five minutes! Last one there doesn't get a sausage! Oh deary me, what a bloody shower!"

The four lesser apocalyptical horsemen of Panic, Bewilderment, Ignorance, and Shouting took control of the room, to Corporal Strappi's obscene glee. Polly, though, ducked out of the door, pulled a small tin mug out of her pack, dipped it into a water butt, balanced it on an old barrel behind the inn, and started to shave.

She'd practiced this, too. The secret was in the old cutthroat razor that she'd carefully blunted. After that, it was all in the shaving brush and soap. Get a lot of lather on, shave a lot of lather off, and you'd had a shave, hadn't you? Must have done, sir, feel how smooth the skin is ...

She was halfway through when a voice by her ear screamed: "What d'you think you're doing, Private Parts?"

It was just as well the blade was blunt.

"Perks, sir!" she said, rubbing her nose. "I'm shaving, sir! It's Perks, sir!"

"Sir? Sir? I'm not a sir, Parts, I'm a bloody corporal, Parts. That means you calls me 'Corporal,' Parts. And you are shaving in an official regimental mug, Parts, what you have not been issued with, right? You a deserter, Parts?"

"No, s -- Corporal!"

"A thief, then?"

"No, Corporal!"

"Then how come you got a bloody mug, Parts?"

"Got it off a dead man, sir -- Corporal!"

Strappi's voice, pitched to a scream in any case, became a screech of rage.

"You're a looter?"

"No, Corporal! The soldier -- "

-- had died almost in her arms, on the floor of the inn.

There had been half a dozen men in that party of returning heroes. They must have been trekking with gray-faced patience for days, making their way back to little villages in the mountains. Polly counted nine arms and ten legs between them, and ten eyes.

But it was the apparently whole who were worse, in a way. They kept their stinking coats buttoned tight, in lieu of bandages over whatever unspeakable mess lay beneath, and they had the smell of death about them. The inn's regulars made space for them, and talked quietly, like people in a sacred place.

Her father, not usually a man given to sentiment, quietly put a generous tot of brandy into each mug of ale, and refused all payment.

Then it turned out that they were carrying letters from soldiers still fighting, and one of them had brought the letter from Paul. He pushed it across the table to Polly as she served them stew, and then, with very little fuss, he died.

The rest of the men moved unsteadily on later that day, taking with them, to give to his parents, the pot-metal medal that had been in the man's coat pocket and the official commendation from the Duchy that went with it. Polly had taken a look at it. It was printed, including the Duchess's signature, and the man's name had been filled in, rather cramped, because it was longer than average. The last few letters were rammed up tight together.

It's little details like that which get remembered, as undirected white-hot rage fills the mind. Apart from the letter and the medal, all the man left behind was a tin mug and, on the floor, a stain which wouldn't scrub out.

Monstrous Regiment. Copyright © by Terry Pratchett. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Sir Terry Pratchett, OBE, was the author of more than 70 books, including the internationally bestselling Discworld series of novels. His books have been adapted for stage and screen, and he was the winner of multiple prizes, including the Carnegie Medal. In January 2009, Pratchett was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his services to literature. Sir Terry, who lived in England, died in March 2015 at the age of 66.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
Date of Birth:
April 28, 1948
Place of Birth:
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England
Education:
Four honorary degrees in literature from the universities of Portsmouth, Bristol, Bath and Warwick

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Monstrous Regiment 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a Discworld series fan, and have just about every book in the series. For those not acquainted with the Discworld, there are series within the series, such as story-lines dedicated to a coven of witches, a wizard's university and a police force. Monstrous Regiment is mostly a stand-alone book (other stand-alone Discworld books include Pyramids, Small Gods, Moving Pictures and The Truth) that has ties to the story of the Discworld as a whole. I have thoroughly enjoyed Monstrous Regiment! Like all Discworld books it is funny, thought provoking and touching. I think most people have asked themselves what life would be like to be the opposite sex, Terry Pratchett has plumbed the depths of this curious subject surprisingly well. As a woman, I can vouche that he seems to have gotten a grasp not only of what is like to be a woman in a mans' world, but a woman trying to blend seamlessly into that world. The story is addicitng, and a revelation at each turn of the page. This book is appropriate for Discworld regulars, and even those visiting the Disc for the first time!
Captain_SmokeblowerTW More than 1 year ago
I get caught up in Terry Pratchett stories knowing full well he has a message. That's important because writers may let their message overpower their story (or their story is just a veneer to their message), but Terry Pratchett weaves a tale that traps me. I bought into the story of "Monstrous Regiment" sword, epaulet, and unmentionables. [I may be mistaken that Terry Pratchett has a message; it's possible he just sees situations, institutions, and the world differently, i.e. more clearly that others. In which case it's no wonder his stories come across as they do.] "Monstrous Regiment" follows the military career of our heroine/hero driven to join the army, but not really out of patriotism. The story follows her during a war initiated out of national false pride and sustained by vilifying an enemy whose army is led by an old friend (to those who read the Discworld stories) from the Ankh-Morpork City Watchmen, Sir Samuel Vimes. While the story is told from our heroines perspective as a soldier following orders, we sense her growing understanding of war from the soldier's perspective as its contrasted with the politician's patriotism, but always there is the central problem faced by, yet hidden by, our heroine; she's a woman in a man's army isn't she?
harstan More than 1 year ago
Over the last three decades, the Duchy of Borogravia has declared war on all of its neighbors. Now more countries have formed the alliance whose goal is to destroy the duchy. The prince of Zlobenia is the heir to the Borogravian throne and hopes to prove the ruling family has died out so he can incorporate it into his country. Polly is not interested in issues of state but intends to find her brother and bring him home.

She disguises herself as a male and signs up to join the army. Her unit consists of other females masquerading as men, a vampire, a troll, an Igor as well as a heroic sergeant. When they capture some enemy soldiers, instead of taking them as POW¿s, they end up releasing them, not realizing one of the soldiers is the prince of Zlobenia. Their actions bring them to the attention of the Alliance who is inspired by the courage of the MONSTROUS REGIMENT and hesitates to invade their country. That hesitation gives Polly and the other members of the unit a chance to snatch victory from the jaws of the Alliance and a chance for Borogravia to retain its independence.

It¿s always a pleasure visiting Discworld where the magical and mundane exist side by side. MONSTROUS REGIMENT is one of the better novels in this long running series because the characters are zany and quirky yet somehow believable. Terry Pratchett seems to write a light-hearted comical fantasy but in reality he is using humor to provide a very deep condemnation of terrorists and nations that make war inevitable.

Harriet Klausner

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't know what I had done to become this. I know this isn't me. I had been normal. Grown up, had a childhood, fell in love, but it had been ripped away. Gone. Nothing but these hollow memories and faint feelings remained. One minute I was living my life, the next I was taking others. I didn't know why. It just...happened. I get a feeling to go somewhere and end somebody. I felt like I was doing good. These people were bad people and I was the hero. Right? That's why I did this wasn't it? I didn't know. I had a gut feeling I didn't want to know. I knew I would find out sooner or later. Sooner to spare me pain, later if I wanted agony. So, I picked up a newspaper and read the giant caption that screamed, "MURDERER STILL AT LARGE; IS ANYONE SAFE?" With a picture of my last kill beneath it. I dropped the paper and ran. I ran from it. I pretended I was running from what I was. There was no changing me, but something had changed now. I ran. Until I heard the scream.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DocNVictorGirl More than 1 year ago
It's always good when Terry pulls out the badass female protagonists, and Polly definitely ranks up there. Smart, sharp as a knife, and surrounded by a cast of colorful and fascinating characters, you just know she's going to get the job done -- and with style. The commentary on military life and war is great, and the cameos from some of our beloved Ankh-Morpork residents always got a smile. Pick it up as soon as you're able!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good.
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An amazing book, but I think Jackrum was a bit too far with the main theme. You feel like mr. pratchett would have made VIMES, well... if he could get away with it.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't help but label this book as my favorite outside-continuity Discworld book. I love all of the amazing characters and heir clever escapes from various situations. I fully recommend (spelling?) this book to any and every Pratchett fan. (I also suggest finding the real-life versions of the songs; they're pretty cool.)
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