Monstrous Regiment Discussion *Spoilers*

Moderators: Jason, Toothy, Tonyblack

Postby swreader » Wed Sep 08, 2010 12:18 am

Before I return to discussing Monstrous Regiment, I'd like to share the comments written on the back of the ARC. It is an examination of "reasons for not reading Pratchett" that after talking about the numbers of books and copies and recognition by the Queen continues as follows:

But isn't Pratchett a fantasy writer? I never read fantasy.
Yup, he's a fantasy writer. Just like Kafka, Borges, C.S. Lewis . . .

Yes, but those are serious writers. Isn't Pratchett a humor writer?
Terry Pratchett's works are often funny. Seriously funny. As were Swift's and Twain's . . . Where's the problem?

But isn't he too ...um...British?
Well he does write in English. As did Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens. . . And he's been translated into twenty-seven other languages too.

Are you saying he's like those writers?
Like those writers, Terry Pratchett is inimitable, and his works, a reader's delight.

Okay, I'll check him out. One last thing, though--I've heard his books are full of goofy characters.
Walk down the street. Look around . . . You were saying?

All of this quoted material supports my contention that MR is one of Pratchett's best novels--a brilliant Juvenalian Satire in the tradition of Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal.

I'm not suggesting that this is a funny book (by and large), and really the only "fantasy characters" are the vampires, the trolls, the Igor, and the gnome and werewolf. But Pratchett is not only using the John Knox polemic against women, but pounding it into the reader's head when Sergeant Towering (the survivor of the code senders--for a while) says to Blouse:
"Everyone knows about you, Lieutenant. You're the Monstrous Regiment, you are!" he said. "no offense meant, of course. They say you've got a troll and a vampire and an Igor and a werewolf. They say you . . . " he began to chuckle ". . . they say you overpowered Prince Heinrich and his guard and stole his boots and made him hop away in the altogether!"


Not only are they women, but they "monsters"--and every one of the races is there because they (including humans and lesbians & gays) are not allowed the freedom to be themselves in their own culture. Three cheers for Elizabeth I !!!
User avatar
swreader
Member
 
Posts: 807
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 5:39 pm
Location: Tucson, Arizona, U.S.A.

Postby poohcarrot » Wed Sep 08, 2010 2:47 am

swreader wrote:
"Everyone knows about you, Lieutenant. You're the Monstrous Regiment, you are!" he said. "no offense meant, of course. They say you've got a troll and a vampire and an Igor and a werewolf. They say you . . . " he began to chuckle ". . . they say you overpowered Prince Heinrich and his guard and stole his boots and made him hop away in the altogether!"


Not only are they women, but they "monsters"--and every one of the races is there because they including humans and lesbians & gays are not allowed the freedom to be themselves in their own culture. Three cheers for Elizabeth I !!!

...but Towering calls them a "monstrous regiment" NOT because they are full of women, he didn't know that, but because of the different "monster" species in the regiment (incidently, there's no werewolf). He isn't implying in any way that women are monsters or second class citizens. You're reading things into that quote that aren't there. :?
"Disliking Carrot would be like kicking a puppy."
"You kicked a puppy," Lobsang said accusingly.
User avatar
poohcarrot
Member
 
Posts: 10425
Joined: Sun Sep 13, 2009 12:11 pm
Location: NOT The land of the risen Son!!

Postby swreader » Wed Sep 08, 2010 5:10 am

Pooh begins by quoting Towering
poohcarrot wrote: ...but Towering calls them a "monstrous regiment" NOT because they are full of women, he didn't know that, but because of the different "monster" species in the regiment (incidentally, there's no werewolf). He isn't implying in any way that women are monsters or second class citizens. You're reading things into that quote that aren't there. :?


Pooh, you miss the point. Of course Towering calls them a Monstrous Regiment (caps by Terry) because of their composition. BUT TOWERING IS NOT TERRY PRATCETT! The intelligent reader will pick up the multifaceted use of Monstrous Regiment. He uses all the species to make his point about all cultures of Discworld--which translates into all societies and cultures of round world. Suppression of women is not limited to Arab or Islamic cultures. It is very much a part of American and UK culture. It's certainly true of Japanese and Chinese culture.

At the beginning when they are signing up Carborundum/Jade, Strappi exclaims "You're a Troll." But Jackrum's response, "Now, now none of that, Corporal..... Don't ask, don't tell." That, of course, is a major item of debate in the American military at the time he wrote this--and is still unresolved. And the presence of a lesbian couple, then, is no accident.
User avatar
swreader
Member
 
Posts: 807
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 5:39 pm
Location: Tucson, Arizona, U.S.A.

Postby Tonyblack » Wed Sep 08, 2010 6:17 am

poohcarrot wrote:...but Towering calls them a "monstrous regiment" NOT because they are full of women, he didn't know that, but because of the different "monster" species in the regiment (incidently, there's no werewolf). He isn't implying in any way that women are monsters or second class citizens. You're reading things into that quote that aren't there. :?


The squad have been observed and a werewolf seen near them. It's Angua who is keeping an eye on them for Vimes.

As to Towering's comment - yes he's talking about the various monsters, but it's Terry that is making the reference to John Knox in much the same way that you pointed out with the Shock and Awe. It's there for the reader to pick up and is an aside to the narrative.

Incidentally, HERE'S a link that explains the "don't ask, don't tell" comment that Sharlene mentions. In the same way that the "Monstrous Regiment" comment was dropped into the narrative, this is also a phrase that is a clue to a wider meaning. :)
"Goodness is about what you do. Not what you pray to."
User avatar
Tonyblack
Moderator
 
Posts: 29197
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 4:29 pm
Location: Cardiff, Wales

Postby poohcarrot » Wed Sep 08, 2010 6:28 am

By your standards SW, sadly I, and I assume the vast majority of people who read the book, are clearly not intelligent, then. I had never heard of the Knox quote when I read the book. :(

As for the "Don't ask, don't tell" comment (which I can assure you I am fully aware of the meaning :roll: ), I took that to mean that all soldiers are soldiers regardless of species, in as much as all Watchmen are Watchmen. I thought it was just using a clever military "in" phrase to describe people in a way they had been described before ie; that in the army or the Watch, people are not individuals but members of that organisation. :P

Unless, of course, you are inferring that Jade is a lesbian. :shock:
"Disliking Carrot would be like kicking a puppy."
"You kicked a puppy," Lobsang said accusingly.
User avatar
poohcarrot
Member
 
Posts: 10425
Joined: Sun Sep 13, 2009 12:11 pm
Location: NOT The land of the risen Son!!

Postby Tonyblack » Wed Sep 08, 2010 6:52 am

Not suggesting that Jade was a lesbian at all. :P Don't Ask, Don't Tell was used as a (somewhat clumsy) way of getting around the recruitment of gay and lesbians into the military. It basically said something along the lines of: homosexuals are not allowed in the armed forces, so don't tell us that you are one and we won't ask. But if you do anything gay, you're out. It was a way to increase recruitment without actually changing the rules.

In MR they can't afford to turn anyone away - they simply don't have the choice as there's almost no one left to recruit. So in effect, we'll turn a blind eye to your species, gender and sexual preferences as long as you act like a man.
"Goodness is about what you do. Not what you pray to."
User avatar
Tonyblack
Moderator
 
Posts: 29197
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 4:29 pm
Location: Cardiff, Wales

Postby raisindot » Wed Sep 08, 2010 11:58 am

I really hated this book the first time I read it a few years ago, for a lot of reasons other say.

I then, "listen-read-it" (this is one of Briggs' finer efforts, considering the variety of characters) and grew to appreciate it more. Still not anywhere near my favorites list, but it's still leagues ahead (in my view) the "P" book (ducking).

Some of the things that still bug me about the book.

o The characterization of Lt. Blouse. He's introduced as a totally incompetent desk-bound goofball. But then he does some incredibly intelligent things with the lamp coders, showing Jackram's ineptitude in these areas. But then he become a figure of silliness again when he dresses up as a washerwoman (a very tired parody of those British war movies where soldiers dress in drag for theatricals) and shows himself to be utterly incompetent in the fortress. But, in the end, we're supposed to be believe (according to Polly) that while he is a dip, he's not as bad an officer as he seems. I don't know--his portrayal shows to me Pterry's indecision of what kind of character Blouse is supposed to be. Admirable? Stupid? Caring? Clueless? He's all of this, and none of this.

o The Deus ex machina of the Duchess channeling through Wazzer. I don't know--this seemed like a bad solution to a narrative lockbox--no one in the Borogravian military knew exactly what they should be doing, so, instead of resolving it through discussion and narrative, they had to drop the Duchess in out of nowhere to clarify things, and then it simply takes the free will of the regiment's actions out of the picture, since we have to believe that the Duchess herself was guiding everyone's actions, including Polly's.

o The presence of the Watch here. I really just don't get it. If Wazzer and the Duchess were guiding their actions to make sure the regiment got to the right place, was the Duchess responsible for having AM and the Watch come there, too? Other than "meddling," what does Vimes really add to the mix here? It almost seems that PTerry felt that no one would read a book that didn't have any known DW characters in it so he threw in Vimes and Angua (and Wm. De Worde, although his presence made sense) to provide the familiar, in the same way he felt that Agnes couldn't carry "Maskerade" and therefore he needed to include Granny and Nanny.

In spite of the "serious" themes that have been mentioned already, overall the book just didn't grab me. Maybe because, like the "P" book, the setting is too unfamiliar to be compelling for me.

J-I-B
raisindot
Member
 
Posts: 3237
Joined: Thu Oct 01, 2009 3:28 pm
Location: Boston, MA USA

Postby Tonyblack » Wed Sep 08, 2010 12:19 pm

Regarding the presence of the Watch. I'd say it was more a case of Sir Samuel Vimes, Duke of Ankh-Morpork and his staff rather than the Watch. He's been sent there by Vetinari to make sure Lord Rust doesn't get out of control. Rust owns his own regiment, but Vimes out ranks him. :)

This is like the diplomatic role Vimes played in T5E, but thankfully without Carrot.
"Goodness is about what you do. Not what you pray to."
User avatar
Tonyblack
Moderator
 
Posts: 29197
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 4:29 pm
Location: Cardiff, Wales

Postby sheilaj » Wed Sep 08, 2010 1:59 pm

raisindot wrote:Some of the things that still bug me about the book.

o The characterization of Lt. Blouse. He's introduced as a totally incompetent desk-bound goofball. But then he does some incredibly intelligent things with the lamp coders, showing Jackram's ineptitude in these areas. But then he become a figure of silliness again when he dresses up as a washerwoman (a very tired parody of those British war movies where soldiers dress in drag for theatricals) and shows himself to be utterly incompetent in the fortress. But, in the end, we're supposed to be believe (according to Polly) that while he is a dip, he's not as bad an officer as he seems. I don't know--his portrayal shows to me Pterry's indecision of what kind of character Blouse is supposed to be. Admirable? Stupid? Caring? Clueless? He's all of this, and none of this.
He's an intelligent person in his own specialised way AND he can learn. he's a victim of his social background and the expectations of the army, not without courage...just like loads of other people who end up in the wrong job but do their best to make the best of it


o The Deus ex machina of the Duchess channeling through Wazzer. I don't know--this seemed like a bad solution to a narrative lockbox--no one in the Borogravian military knew exactly what they should be doing, so, instead of resolving it through discussion and narrative, they had to drop the Duchess in out of nowhere to clarify things, and then it simply takes the free will of the regiment's actions out of the picture, since we have to believe that the Duchess herself was guiding everyone's actions, including Polly's.
I don't actually think its a bad solution or the narrative is in fact a lock box. The Army was fighting for something that people actually didn't care about ("kissing the Duchess" aka "lip service" geddit??) so what better denoument than to have the one person who really really believes in her actually demonstrate that she existed?

o The presence of the Watch here. I really just don't get it. If Wazzer and the Duchess were guiding their actions to make sure the regiment got to the right place, was the Duchess responsible for having AM and the Watch come there, too? Other than "meddling," what does Vimes really add to the mix here? It almost seems that PTerry felt that no one would read a book that didn't have any known DW characters in it so he threw in Vimes and Angua (and Wm. De Worde, although his presence made sense) to provide the familiar, in the same way he felt that Agnes couldn't carry "Maskerade" and therefore he needed to include Granny and Nanny.

I think the AM characters are put there to show the contrast between the real world as portrayed by AM(cynical, pragmatic, capable of deep nastiness when needed but also multicultural, accepting of minorities, capable of gender equality, anti war (bad for business) and merit based) and the life as experienced by the main characters in the book. I also think that TP likes Vimes and likes to show us how he is growing and developing

In spite of the "serious" themes that have been mentioned already, overall the book just didn't grab me. Maybe because, like the "P" book, the setting is too unfamiliar to be compelling for me.

J-I-B
sheilaj
Member
 
Posts: 53
Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2008 12:03 pm

Postby sheilaj » Wed Sep 08, 2010 2:03 pm

I really liked the don't ask don't tell comment applied to Jade. Its taking the whole thing to its logical ludicrous conclusion
sheilaj
Member
 
Posts: 53
Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2008 12:03 pm

Postby sheilaj » Wed Sep 08, 2010 2:15 pm

I think its a great pity when TP is pigeon holed as a debunker and a satiriser. He "tells it like it is" (horrid phrase) and I think surrounding such stories as Wazzers with humour and debunk makes the brief passages when reality breaks through even more shocking and touching. Yes TP makes me laugh but the reason I read and re read all his books is that he has grown into an author of stature, one who can make the reader THINK. He is IMO a philosopher and one of the greatest present day commentators on the human condition AND he makes the pill so tasty that it slips down without a murmur.
sheilaj
Member
 
Posts: 53
Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2008 12:03 pm

Postby Turtles4Ever » Wed Sep 08, 2010 5:20 pm

Can't say as Monstrous Regiment is my favourite Discworld novel, but I appreciate what it's trying to say and will no doubt read it again some time.
Turtles4Ever
New member
 
Posts: 46
Joined: Sun Jun 06, 2010 8:04 pm

Postby Jan Van Quirm » Wed Sep 08, 2010 5:32 pm

Just in case anybody didn't quite assign the lesbian aspect that was most definitely Tonker and the seriously deranged Lofty... :lol:

I certainly don't 'need' Terry to be funny and, with the 2 novels closest to MR (Jingo and Small Gods, the latter being unshakeably my favourite book still and the former a really enjoyable deconstruction of poltical posturing on both sides of the fence with a farcical raison d-etre in the occasionally surfacing island of Leshp) on paper I was more than prepared to like MR at first reading and certainly on re-reading which is usual for me and all of Terry's books (yes even the Moist ones as I now love to hate him! :lol: ).

I've nailed why I don't and won't ever like this one, but I do applaud it for trying to raise the 'nastier' areas alongside the more 'frivolous' reasons for girls signing up to get killed - especially the characters of Tonker, Lofty and Wazzer. Also for Shufti as well whom, it could be argued joined the army more because she didn't want to end up in the bad girl place like the other three, than for finding her sleazy love and making him marry her. That's righteous satire when she finally wises up and clouts him a good one after he's been hunted down amongst the PoWs and I really like her end story with finding a kind, if rather dopey man and father in Paul and providing Polly with an excuse to leave the Duchess once more.

But going back to the workhouse girls, why three of them? Tonker's a dead end from the messianic aspect, but in several ways Lofty and Wazzer are very close to being the same character who would certainly have attracted Tonker's protection as a lover as well as a guardian in either case, in terms of how they were abused, although poor Wazzer was clearly the more persecuted and systematically crushed. There are hints of abuse by the maniac priest (who plagued Polly's family too away from the workhouse) and that got such a slight mention in dialogue I think Terry purposely almost glossed himself clear of the very thorny subject of institutional abuse across all the planes it's possible to be abusive in, which is all too prevalent in such places. So Tonker and the incendiary Lofty carry most of the focus for the less palatable aspects of joining up as both are clearly death-seeking, with the army being the only route they can take that's 'safe' in their desparate bid to escape being hounded in their sorry homeland.

So yes, there had to be three workhouse girls in there. The Duchess is MR's Om and Wazzer is her Brutha, only not as compelling because really all you can do with her is use her as a vessel for sympathy and accrued shame that someone could be that broken and terrified, with nothing really to cheer on as she is so obviously delusional and with such a negative and misguided fixation on the pointless 'sanctity' of the Duchess. The Duchess in whose name so many good people have gone to their deaths is also a pathetic figure throughout the book. Husbandless, childless and also friendless in a way because of the violence and ignorance practised in her name and for her 'glory'. I find Terry's treatment of her and Wazzer peculiarly touching with her saying that she hears the Duchess crying when she sleeps and so gradually builds on what Wazzer has joined up for. What I don't find too satisfying or indeed logical with how Terry's written them, is the way in which insight and mania to the point of charisma of the religious variety are so closely allied with pain and degradation (my favourite word in this debate apparently :roll: ). Again shades of Small Gods in there (not to mention the suffering of Christ before he gets crucified) and what I think Terry did with Wazzer in some ways, was to create a fusion of a 'reversed out' Vorbis as well as Brutha in her? The first time I read the book I was completely astonished that this was the aetherial, damaged little person doing the Joan of Arc thing - I basically couldn't see how she was capable of doing it because Terry had written her as this ineffectual broken little girl - someone who couldn't say boo to a very small pacifist goose.

Haven't quite worked that one out yet, so I would be very interested in everyone's views on the metaphysical side of this book and the lack of exploration thereof, that might have given Wazzer more justification in how the deadlock was resolved, rather than have her as some kind of faintly embarassing, frail possessed zombie almost, with consequent shock value?
"Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” George Bernard Shaw
User avatar
Jan Van Quirm
Member
 
Posts: 10618
Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 9:07 pm
Location: Dunheved, Kernow

Postby swreader » Thu Sep 09, 2010 5:07 am

sheilaj wrote:I think its a great pity when TP is pigeon holed as a debunker and a satiriser. He "tells it like it is" (horrid phrase) and I think surrounding such stories as Wazzers with humour and debunk makes the brief passages when reality breaks through even more shocking and touching. Yes TP makes me laugh but the reason I read and re read all his books is that he has grown into an author of stature, one who can make the reader THINK. He is IMO a philosopher and one of the greatest present day commentators on the human condition AND he makes the pill so tasty that it slips down without a murmur.


sheilaj, except for your comment about TP being pigeonholed as a debunker & satirizer (which may refer to my comments, but I don't see him in that way)I think I agree with everything else. The rest of your comment is brilliant! He does write about the human condition. Sometimes that's funny. But sometimes he's all too perceptive about the darkness of the human condition.

I will add that I'm particularly discouraged about the world's apparent stupidities, which make Borogravia seem almost sane. We've got a "Christian" minister (reminds me of Prince Heinrich) saying he's going to burn the Koran because it's evil. Over half of the people in the US seem not to understand that the only way to salvation is not to give everything back to the same rich & powerful who got us into this mess in the first place. They worry about their grandchildren's having to pay a federal debt--if we don't spend some money trying to find the answer to global warming (which would provide jobs), their grandchildren won't be able to live on this world anyhow. And that's just the US--not that the rest of the world seems any more sane.

But back to Pratchett--this may well be his darkest book. But Vimes is there as envoy to keep Lord Rust under control--and because he Like Pratchett I think) regards war as murder. He's there to try to stop the war. And the Duchess as she appears here is the creation of the people--who have made her into a god. But she's a god without much if any power. She does, however, use Alice (Wasser) to deliver a command to the armies who claim to have been fighting in her honor for years. And that command is to follow the clear-sightedness of these young females--the "leaders" of that country need to take responsibility for their own people. They need to rescue their land. And that means getting rid of their dead god, Nuggan and letting the Duchess go.

The reason I think it is dark is that although things seem to be improving after everyone goes home (or to wherever they want), after 6 months Prince Heinrich is invading again. And so Polly (and Maladicta) are called to service again. War never ends, but maybe, just maybe, this one can be fought with brains not bloodshed. It's a small hope, but there is a ray of light at the end of this very dark book.
User avatar
swreader
Member
 
Posts: 807
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 5:39 pm
Location: Tucson, Arizona, U.S.A.

Postby BatrickPatrick » Thu Sep 09, 2010 11:23 am

The lesbian aspect completely passed me by. :shock:
I was focusing on the cross-dressing I suppose xD
Fus Ro Dah!
User avatar
BatrickPatrick
Member
 
Posts: 1120
Joined: Thu Jun 03, 2010 7:45 pm
Location: Sweet Transsexual, land of night...

PreviousNext

Return to Discworld novels

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests