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Monstrous Regiment    by Terry Pratchett order for
Monstrous Regiment
by Terry Pratchett
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

On my second venture there, I'm quickly joining countless others in becoming addicted to Discworld. This episode takes a look at women and war, and it's hilariously funny. Borogravia is a small country that's perpetually at war with its neighbors. It's ruled by a Duchess who's probably been dead for a long, long time, and suffers under absurd 'Abominations' (against chocolate and the color blue, for example) of the obscure and very outdated religion of its 'tetchy' god Nuggan. Borogravia's war has caught the attention of the powers-that-be (such as they are) and the newspapers of Ankh-Morpork, ever since Borogravia destroyed their semaphore towers and disrupted commerce.

The adventure commences as Polly cuts off her hair, changes her mode of walking, takes the Duchess's shilling (actually an IOU), and tucks a rolled up pair of socks down her trousers. Why does she join the army's 'Ins-and-Outs'? She wants to find her brother Paul, a simple soul with a genius for art and ornithology, who believed everything he was told, and has disappeared into the battlefields. Polly, now Perks, joins a group of recruits under Sergeant Jackrum. They include an aristocratic, coffee-addicted vampire, an Igor (a Frankenstein type who excels at sewing together body parts) and a troll called Carborundum.

They're sent straight to the front, which seems to be in full retreat, in a war that 'had tied itself in a knot.' It turns out that Polly is not the only young woman in the group - another, Wazzer, hears Joan of Arc like messages from the Duchess. Their chinless 'rupert' (officer), whose name is Blouse, shows a surprising talent both for leadership and in the thespian arts. And when Polly does finally dress as a woman again, she is taken for a man! It's hard to disagree with her conclusion that 'The enemy wasn't men, or women, or the old, or even the dead. It was just bleedin' stupid people, who came in all varieties.'

Terry Pratchett gives us another wise romp through an imaginative world that makes us look at our own from new angles - I'll never see a rolled up pair of socks in quite the same way again. I chuckled over delightful lines like a description of zombies as 'old memories on legs' or 'You can't just read anything you see ... You don't know who wrote it!' Well we do know who wrote Monstrous Regiment, and it's well worth the risk of reading, even if it is likely to boggle your mind!

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