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
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.
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.")
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
When war hits Discworld, Polly joins the army dressed as a man. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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
"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’"