ISBN: 0552149411By my count this is the 28th Discworld novel, although if you include the “Younger Readers'” discworld books then you get 30. So take your pick, I don’t think it really makes much of a difference what number it is.
The Discworld books are, in my opinion, among the greatest novels ever written. Not just the greatest fantasy, or humour novels, but the greatest books of all. Sure the earlier ones lack the complexity of the later ones, they are more simply comedic in nature. But the later books use humour and a fantasy setting to explore the modern world. And always (well okay, mostly) in entertaining stories, with fascinating characters.
Monstrous Regiment is the story of Polly, a girl who dressed up as a boy in order to join the army, find and bring home her brother. Her country, Borogravia, always seems to be at war. The border with the neighbouring country is fixed by the river’s course, which unfortunatly changes course, so border conflicts are more than a little common.
And then there is the religous issue. Nuggan,their god is rather fond of updating the Book of Nuggan, and mainly with Abominations, that is things that are forbidden; chocoate, garlic, cats, dwarfs, blue, oysters, babies and many many more.
When I first read it I have to say I was a little disapointed. It lacked the humour (and the footnotes seem to have been reduced in quantity) of other books, and wasn’t as engaging. Despite this I did enjoy it, Polly and her fellow soldiers did keep my interest, and of course the few appearances of Vimes brightened up the book. Still I finished it without ever laughing out loud, and wasn’t all that impressed. But afterwards parts of the book kept coming back to me.
As is usual with books, the back of my copy has quotes on how great Monstrous Regiment is. Among them is one from the Daily Express comparing it to Evelyn Waugh’s Officers and Gentlemen, and Jonathon Swift. And the anti-war parts were the parts of the book that stuck in my mind. The absolute absurdity of the war that Borogravia had gotten involved in, and the reasons why. And that fact means I have to rate it higher than I did at first. Maybe it is missing part of the humour, but maybe it was the mood I was in while reading it. I’ll reread it in a while and know for sure about that. What I do know now is that it really does point out the ridiculous ease with which wars start;
“We are a proud country.”
“What are you proud of?”
It came swiftly, like a blow, and Polly realized how wars happened. You took that shock that had run through her, and let it boil.
…it may be corrupt, benighted and stupid, but it’s ours…
Polly stayed silent. She was still trying to cope with the anger. It made it worse to know that he was right. We have our pride. And that’s what we’re proud of. We’re proud of being proud…