This thread is for discussing Monstrous Regiment in some depth. If you haven’t read the book then read on at your own risk – or, better still, go and read the book and join in the fun.
For those of us that are going to join in the discussion, here are a few guidelines:
Please feel free to make comparisons to other Discworld books, making sure you identify the book and the passage you are referring to. Others may not be as familiar with the book you are referencing, so think before you post.
Sometimes we’ll need to agree to disagree – only Terry knows for sure what he was thinking when he wrote the books and individuals members may have widely different interpretations – so try to keep the discussion friendly.
We may be discussing a book that you don’t much care for – don’t be put off joining in the discussion. If you didn’t care for the book, then that in itself is a good topic for discussion.
Please note: there is no time limit to this discussion. Please feel free to add to it at any time - especially if you've just read the book.
Please endeavour to keep the discussion on topic. If necessary I will step in and steer it back to the original topic – so no digressions please!
Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
Originally published 2003
The country of Borogravia is at war! There’s nothing new about that; Borogravia has been at war for as long as anyone can remember. What’s different this time is that the war threatens Ankh-Morpork’s Clacks towers and therefore Ankh-Morpork’s ability to talk to the rest of the world. So suddenly the never-ending war has become the focus of the whole of the Disc due to events being covered by the Ankh-Morpork Times.
Introduced into the conflict are a series of recruits who, for their own reasons have joined the army.
It’s said that the army will make a man of you – well not this bunch!
I want to thank Jan Van Quirm for offering to write an introduction to this book. Thanks Jan! There’s a lot there for us to talk about.
Jan Van Quirm wrote:This is a book about war and women at war - on the surface at least. On first reading, I didn't like this book at all, but couldn't quite put my finger on why. I've now read it for the third time and I still don't like it much, but I feel happier about that, because I think I've finally worked out why I'm never going to like it at all. At the convention I was talking to someone who said that he thought the whole thing about women pretending to be men (and later pretending to be women again) was 'awesome' - I said I thought the cross-dressing deception aspect was far too laboured, and that I found that extremely irritating. And then, on the way home, I read the bit about the Miracle of the Turkey and I had a re-think.Monstrous Regiment wrote:She [Polly] shut her eyes and tried to breathe normally. This was it this was it this was it! This was where she found out.
What to remember what to remember what to remember... when the metal meets the meat... be holding the metal.
She could taste metal in her mouth.
The man would walk right past her. He'd be alert, but not that alert. A slash would be better than a stab. Yes, a good swipe at head height would kill...
... some mother's son, some sister's brother, some lad who'd followed for the shilling and his first new suit. If only she'd been trained, if only she'd had a few weeks stabbing straw men until she could believe that all men were made of straw...'
She froze. Down the path, still as a tree, stood Wazzer. As soon as the scout reached Polly's tree, she'd be seen.
She'd have to do it now. Perhaps that's why men did it. You didn't do it to save duchesses, or countries. You killed the enemy to stop him killing your mates, that they in turn might save you...
Like Jingo and Small Gods, Monstrous Regiment focuses on the futility of war. Doesn't it? Jingo is about politics and going to war over territory and 'principles'. Small Gods is about religion and propaganda and manipulation to justify starting a holy war. I don't think those apply to this book as such. This is a book about soldiering and the realities of war, when the war has gone past all reason and justification, to a point where it is simply the way things are and have to be, because not fighting back is unthinkable. To the point where it doesn't even matter too much who you are fighting against anymore. Or even who you're fighting for.
How are soldiers (male or female) any different to murderers? How can someone bring themselves to kill people they've never met? People who have never done them any real personal harm? People who, under different circumstances, they might have had a friendly drink with? Being a soldier is a condition that transcends gender. Being a soldier is ultimately about becoming a sanctioned killer, one who can do so to order.
That's why I don't like Monstrous Regiment. Because this book, despite being very funny in places and making all kinds of points about how women are as good or better than men; about how a vile, heartless theocracy can turn everyday living into dust; how nasty old gossips can drive social punishment into inflicting the worst obscenities of body, mind and soul in the name of reforming 'bad' girls like Tonker, Lofty and Wazzer; is, in the end about how sentient beings can become killers, given the right circumstances. Given the right circumstances, anyone can find a reason to kill.
The righteous killing-frenzy, whether that's on the battlefield or in a house of 'correction' or even down the pub. We all need to be 'killers' at times, so surely it's best to have trained ones. Soldiers. That's why I'll never like this book, because it tells the real, profound truth about 'war' and how anyone can justify themselves into becoming a killer, an arsonist, a bodyguard, a mentally disturbed messiah for the downtrodden, or simply someone who needs to 'save' someone they love. This book's about how we all can become monsters and will choose our own battlefields to celebrate that condition. That's why I can't like it.
I think I think too much!
Want to write the introduction for the next discussion (The Colour of Magic)? PM me and let me know if you’d like to – first come first served.