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Monstrous Regiment (Discworld Series #31)

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Overview

War has come to Discworld. The homes and businesses throughout the duchy of Borogravia limp along, doing the best they can without their men, sent to fight their age-old enemy. Polly has taken over the lion's share of reponsibility for the running of her family's humble inn, The Duchess. Her beloved brother Paul marched off to war almost a year ago, but it has been more than two months since his last letter home, and the news from the front is bad: the fightinghas reached the border, supplies are dwindling, and ...
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New York, NY, U.S.A. 2003 Hard Cover 1st Edition. 1st Impression. New in New jacket Signed by Author New in new DJ protected by Brodart mylar DJ cover. Signed by author on blank ... tipped in signature page. Purchased SIGNED DIRECTLY from PUBLISHER. 'Signed First Edition' sticker on from of dust jacket. Read more Show Less

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Monstrous Regiment (Discworld Series #31)

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Overview

War has come to Discworld. The homes and businesses throughout the duchy of Borogravia limp along, doing the best they can without their men, sent to fight their age-old enemy. Polly has taken over the lion's share of reponsibility for the running of her family's humble inn, The Duchess. Her beloved brother Paul marched off to war almost a year ago, but it has been more than two months since his last letter home, and the news from the front is bad: the fightinghas reached the border, supplies are dwindling, and the brave Borogravians are losing precious ground. So the resourceful Polly cuts her hair and joins the army as a young man named Oliver. As Polly closely guards her secret, she notices that her fellow recruits seem to be guarding secrets of their own.

A novel that exploers the inanity of war, the ins and outs of sexual politcs, and why often the best man for the job is a woman, Monstrous Regiment is Pratchett in top form.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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
“Like Jonathan Swift, Prachett uses his other world to hold up a distorting mirror to our own, and like Swift he is a satirist of enormous talent… incredibly funny… compulsively readable.” — The Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060013158
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/11/2003
  • Series: Discworld Series , #31
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Lexile: 690L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.17 (d)

Meet the Author

Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett is one of the world's most popular authors. His acclaimed novels are bestsellers in the United States and the United Kingdom, and have sold more than 85 million copies worldwide. In January 2009, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Pratchett a Knight Bachelor in recognition of his services to literature. Sir Terry lives in England.

Biography

Welcome to a magical world populated by the usual fantasy fare: elves and ogres, wizards and witches, dwarves and trolls. But wait—is that witch wielding a frying pan rather than a broomstick? Has that wizard just clumsily tumbled off the edge of the world? And what is with the dwarf they call Carrot, who just so happens to stand six-foot six-inches tall? Why, this is not the usual fantasy fare at all—this is Terry Pratchett's delightfully twisted Discworld!

Beloved British writer Pratchett first jump-started his career while working as a journalist for Bucks Free Press during the '60s. As luck would have it, one of his assignments was an interview with Peter Bander van Duren, a representative of a small press called Colin Smythe Limited. Pratchett took advantage of his meeting with Bander van Duren to pitch a weird story about a battle set in the pile of a frayed carpet. Bander van Duren bit, and in 1971 Pratchett's very first novel, The Carpet People, was published, setting the tone for a career characterized by wacky flights of fancy and sly humor.

Pratchett's take on fantasy fiction is quite unlike that of anyone else working in the genre. The kinds of sword-and-dragon tales popularized by fellow Brits like J.R.R. Tolkein and C. S. Lewis have traditionally been characterized by their extreme self-seriousness. However, Pratchett has retooled Middle Earth and Narnia with gleeful goofiness, using his Discworld as a means to poke fun at fantasy. As Pratchett explained to Locus Magazine, "Discworld started as an antidote to bad fantasy, because there was a big explosion of fantasy in the late '70s, an awful lot of it was highly derivative, and people weren't bringing new things to it."

In 1983, Pratchett unveiled Discworld with The Color of Magic. Since then, he has added installments to the absurdly hilarious saga at the average rate of one book per year. Influenced by moderately current affairs, he has often used the series to subtly satirize aspects of the real world; the results have inspired critics to rapturous praise. ("The most breathtaking display of comic invention since PG Wodehouse," raved The Times of London.) He occasionally ventures outside the series with standalone novels like the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, a sci fi adventure sequence for young readers, or Good Omens, his bestselling collaboration with graphic novelist Neil Gaiman.

Sadly, in 2008 fans received the devastating news that Pratchett had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. He has described his own reaction as "fairly philosophical" and says he plans to continue writing so long as he is able.

Good To Know

Pratchett's bestselling young adult novel Only You Can Save Mankind was adapted for the British stage as a critically acclaimed musical in 2004.

Discworld is not just the subject of a bestselling series of novels. It has also inspired a series of computer games in which players play the role of the hapless wizard Rincewind.

A few fun outtakes from our interview with Pratchett:

"I became a journalist at 17. A few hours later I saw my first dead body, which was somewhat…colourful. That's when I learned you can go on throwing up after you run out of things to throw up."

"The only superstition I have is that I must start a new book on the same day that I finish the last one, even if it's just a few notes in a file. I dread not having work in progress.

"I grow as many of our vegetables as I can, because my granddad was a professional gardener and it's in the blood. Grew really good chilies this year.

"I'm not really good at fun-to-know, human interest stuff. We're not ‘celebrities', whose life itself is a performance. Good or bad or ugly, we are our words. They're what people meet.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Terence David John Pratchett
    2. Hometown:
      Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 28, 1948
    2. Place of Birth:
      Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England
    1. Education:
      Four honorary degrees in literature from the universities of Portsmouth, Bristol, Bath and Warwick

Read an Excerpt

Monstrous Regiment


By Terry Pratchett

Harper Collins Publishers

Copyright © 2003 Terry Pratchett All right reserved. ISBN: 006001315X

Chapter One

Polly cut off her hair in front of the mirror, feeling slightly guilty about not feeling very guilty about doing so. It was supposed to be her crowning glory, and everyone said it was beautiful, but she generally wore it in a net when she was working. She'd always told herself it was wasted on her. Yet she was careful to see that the long golden coils all landed on the small sheet spread out for the purpose.

If she would admit to any strong emotion at all at this time, it was sheer annoyance that a haircut was all she needed to pass for a young man. She didn't even need to bind up her bosom, which she'd heard was the normal practice. Nature had seen to it that she had barely any problems in this area.

The effect that the scissors had was ... erratic, but it was no worse than other male haircuts here. It'd do.

She did feel cold on the back of her neck, but that was only partly because of the loss of her long hair. It was also because of the Stare.

The Duchess watched her from above the bed.

It was a poor woodcut, hand-colored, mostly in blue and red. It was of a plain, middle-aged woman whose sagging chin and slightly bulging eyes gave the cynical the feeling that someone had put a large fish in a dress, but the artist had managed tocapture something extra in that strange, blank expression. Some pictures had eyes that followed you around the room; this one looked right through you. It was a face you found in every home. In Borogravia, you grew up with the Duchess watching you.

Polly knew her parents had one of the pictures in their room, and knew also that when her mother was alive she used to curtsy to it every night.

She reached up and turned this picture around so that it faced the wall.

A thought in her head said No. It was overruled. She'd made up her mind.

Then she dressed herself in her brother's clothes, tipped the contents of the sheet into a small bag that went into the bottom of her pack along with the spare clothes, put a note to her father on her bed, picked up the pack, and climbed out of the window. At least, Polly climbed out of the window, but it was Oliver's feet that landed lightly on the ground.

Dawn was just turning the dark world into monochrome when she slipped across the inn's yard.

The Duchess watched her from the inn sign, too. Her father had been a great loyalist, at least up to the death of her mother. The sign hadn't been repainted this year, and a random bird-dropping had given the Duchess a squint.

Polly checked that the recruiting sergeant's cart was still in front of the bar, its bright banners now drab and heavy with last night's rain. By the look of that big fat sergeant, it would be hours before it was on the road again. She had plenty of time. He looked like a slow breakfaster.

She let herself out of the door in the back wall and headed uphill.

At the top, she turned back and looked at the waking town. Smoke was rising from a few chimneys, but since Polly was always the first to wake, and she yelled the maids out of their beds, the inn was still sleeping. She knew that the Widow Clambers had stayed overnight (it had been "raining too hard for her to go home," according to Polly's father) and, personally, she hoped for his sake that she'd stay every night. The town had no shortage of widows, for Nuggan's sake, and Olga Clambers was a warm-hearted lady who baked like a champion. His wife's long illness and Paul's long absence had taken a lot out of her father. Polly was glad some of it was put back. The old ladies who spent their days glowering from their windows might spy and peeve and mumble, but they had been doing that for too long. No one listened anymore.

She raised her gaze. Smoke and steam were already rising from the laundry of the Girls' Working School. The building hung over one end of the town like a threat, big and gray with tall, thin windows. It was always silent.

When she was small, she'd been told that was where The Bad Girls went. The nature of "badness" was not explained, and at the age of five Polly had received the vague idea that it consisted of not going to bed when you were told. At the age of eight she'd learned it was where you were lucky not to go for buying your brother a paint box.

She turned her back and set off between the trees, which were full of birdsong.

Forget you were ever Polly. Think young male, that was the thing. Fart loudly and with self-satisfaction at a job well done, walk like a puppet that'd had a couple of random strings cut, never hug anyone, and, if you meet a friend, punch them. A few years working in the bar had provided plenty of observational material. No problem about not swinging her hips, at least. Nature had been pretty sparing there, too.

And then there was the young-male walk to master. At least women swung only their hips. Young men swung everything, from the shoulders down. You have to try to occupy a lot of space, she thought. It makes you look bigger, like a tomcat fluffing his tail. She'd seen it a lot in the inn. The boys tried to walk big in self-defense against all those other big boys out there. I'm bad, I'm fierce, I'm cool, I'd like a pint of shandy and me mam wants me home by nine ...

(Continues...)


Excerpted from Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
Copyright © 2003 by Terry Pratchett
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

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.
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Reading Group Guide

Book Description
War has come to Borogravia. The homes and businesses limp along, doing the best they can without their men, sent to fight their age-old enemy. Polly has taken over the lion's share of responsibility for the running of her family's humble inn, The Duchess. Her beloved brother Paul marched off to war almost a year ago, but it has been more than two months since his last letter home, and the news from the front is bad: the fighting has reached the border, supplies are dwindling, and the brave Borogravians are losing precious ground. So the resourceful Polly cuts off her hair and joins the army disguised as a young man named Oliver. As Polly closely guards her secret, she notices that her fellow recruits seem to be guarding secrets of their own. This novel explores the inanity of war, the ins and outs of sexual politics, and why often the best man for the job is a woman.

Topics for Discussion
  1. Polly and her fellow comrades are forced to disguise themselves as boys because of the law forbidding female participation in the armed services. However, their female regiment succeeds where all men before them have failed. What is it about these girls that make them so successful?
  2. The national deity, Nuggan, and his "Abominations" strictly control the lives of the people of Borogravia. What do you think Pratchett is trying to say about the integration of religion and government?
  3. Polly feels that her regiment ends up being viewed as mascots instead of true soldiers, and is angered by this. Do you agree with her opinion or do you feel that they did, in fact, initiate change?
  4. Do you think that Polly and the rest of her regiment will succeedas soldiers as they head off to war, yet again, at the end of the novel?

About the Author
Terry Pratchett's first short story was published when he was 13, and his first full-length book when he was 20. He worked as a journalist to support the writing habit, but gave up the day job when the success of his books meant that it was costing him money to go to work. Pratchett's acclaimed novels are bestsellers in the U.S. and the UK, and have sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. Monstrous Regiment is one of many novels that make up the Discworld series. There are Web sites, newsletters, conventions, collectibles, chat rooms, theatre adaptations, and computer games based on Discworld.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 68 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(38)

4 Star

(18)

3 Star

(6)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 68 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2013

    Addictive!

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Taking us from "Don't ask, don't tell," to "Speak deeply and carry a cod piece."

    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?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    strong Discworld tale

    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. <P>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. <P>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. <P>Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2014

    --Different--

    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.

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  • Posted December 21, 2013

    Another Excellent One By Terry

    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!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2013

    Among the Best

    Very good.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2012

    Great

    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

    Posted June 12, 2012

    One of my favorites.

    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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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2009

    Well written and humorous read!

    Here is yet another well-written Terry Pratchett book. The humor and creative ideas always make me think beyond the topics in the book. A great conversation piece and one to share with others.

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  • Posted January 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A very funny read

    I put off reading this for a long time. I thought it sounded stupid, a girl trying to pass herself off as a boy in the army to find her lost brother? Boring. But then I ran out of terry pratchett books to read and said "what the heck, how bad could it be?" I was really glad I did and I was surprised at how much I laughed at what I thought was a stupid book. Polly joins a unit filled with other humans, a troll, an igor and a vampire who's addicted to coffee. It kept me guessing (and laughing) until the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2008

    monstrous good time

    An entertaning read about unlikely heroes & how they grow & learn from each other and the circumstances they face.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2006

    Pratchett displays his witty knowledge of human pshycology once again!

    Following the Young girl Polly 'Ozzer' Perks, Monstrous Regiment proves itself to be an excellent addition to Mr. Pratchett's reportoire. Polly cuts her golden hair short and heads off to join the In's-and-Out's, The Borogravian army's most recognized regiment. Other recruits with secrets of their own join up at the same time as her, including Carborundum, a troll, Maladict, a vampire who drinks coffee instead of blood, and Igor, an Igor. Led by Seargent Jackrum and his evil little corporal Strappi, the less than efficient troops are led off to be trained, or so they think. The excellent balance of not-so-specific details to activate the user's imagination and elaborated comparitive descriptions leave the reader feeling very satisfied. Humor is knitted into the very fabric of the plot, keeping a person entertained and still allowing seriousness when called for.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2006

    One of my favorites

    As a teenage reader who adores Discworld, I'd have to say that next to Nightwatch, this is one of his bests. Pratchett displays that he can write other characters just as well as the old crowd, and as a comment to the last review--any adult who couldn't get through a Discworld book, or calls himself a reader that wouldn't finish a book, is a dunce and maybe should look for some easier titles to read. I suggest Winnie the Pooh. Enough plot in there?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2005

    Monstrous Misfire

    I've read all of the Discworld books and have THUD on order. MONSTROUS REGIMENT is the poorest one next to SMALL GODS. Terry writes well but the story was stale and it's development hackneyed and predictable. I prayed I would be wrong about the ending but I wasn't. I'm surprised the feminists aren't upset. Aren't women suppose to put an end to war? Actually the title is the best bit about the book. It is taken from the title of John Knox's pamphlet against women rulers, especially the Catholic rulers, Mary, Queen of Scots, and Mary Tudor. He got into hot water when Elizabeth, a Protestant, came to power. None of these women were afraid to use the power of the sword. It is a shame that the book couldn't be as clever as the title. Fortunately Terry has few duds.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2004

    The Best One Yet

    I have read all of the Discworld novels except for Thief of Time and Going Postal (but that one I have yet to read due to the fact it's not out yet), but I think this one may be my favorite. If you liked the other Discworld novels, you will love this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2004

    reviewing the reviews

    Nancy K Wallace should read the books she's reviewing before she attempts to review them. As for the book, well written Pratchett as usual. Great socio-politcal commentary.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2004

    Gotta Love Pratchett!

    An interesting story with engaging characters in a typically absurd (but sadly plausible) situation. I enjoyed the characters, particularly the 'black ribboner' vampire. By the way, the title refers to the document, 'The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women' by John Knox. It can be found on the internet, just look. It's an interesting read. I feel sorry for the fella who couldn't finish 'Monstrous Regiment'. Some of the best bits are at the end!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2003

    First Discworld novel I couldn't finish.

    I have read and enjoyed the entire Discworld series but stopped reading this one 3/4 of the way though. Most of the book is simply attempted character developement, which gets repetetive fairly early on and stays that way, never reaching any real depth. The plot that actually existed, had it been in a well planned book, would have taken up no more than a few chapters. The book seems to be a long string of peeing, belching, sock-placement comments, targeted at a female audience, including a gratuitous lesbian couple and a girl looking for the father of her child born from a one-night-stand, and when I reached the point of the trip to a brothel follwed shortly by a scene where one of the main characters lifts up her skirt to expose her crotch to a military captain, I finally called it quits, thinking 'this is a Discworld novel?'. I get enough of this type of stuff from the rest of the media. The only things that really called Discworld to mind were the sparse cameo appearances by Vimes and his usual bunch, added in just so the reader doesn't get too homesick. The book has a little of the usual Pratchett wisdom and humor (though very little), but if it was an attempt to make some real commentary on war (he already did that in Jingo) or sexual roles in society, it fell flat there too. As an adult, I couldn't finish this book, and I certainly wouldn't recommend it to my young family members either. Disappointing.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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