Pratchett, Terry: (31) Monstrous Regiment

Monstrous Regiment is the latest Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett, in which a woman joins the army in disguise and learns much in the process. I think I can best sum up my attitude toward this book by saying that Chad suggested a strong criticism of the ending, and I just don’t feel like re-reading to see whether I think he’s correct. (As a plot matter, the ending is rather over the top. Chad’s criticism is on the story level.)

It’s not a bad book by any means. I didn’t hate it, and it didn’t actively annoy me. But little things poked at me all the way through, and at the end, I had a strong feeling of artifice. Things served obvious plot purposes, and that plot function was my strongest impression of them: “oh, that’s why this is here, it gives them the way to escape” (or whatever). Their existence made sense independent of their plot function, when I stopped and thought, but I had to stop and think—I didn’t instinctively feel like they were an organic part of the whole. Put another way, I saw the book as a jigsaw puzzle rather than a painting—a completed jigsaw puzzle, to be sure, but with the lines between the pieces still visible.

I have no idea if that makes sense.

There are good things about the book. I really like the very ending, the last couple of pages. Some of the characters are very engaging; there was one in particular that I was pleased to see given more dimension than I expected. But overall Monstrous Regiment makes me want to re-read Night Watch and see why I thought it didn’t quite cohere, because right now the two don’t seem comparable at all.

2 Comments

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  1. I liked many things about this, but I agree about the feeling of artifice. (I know I’m commenting vastly after the fact here. Sorry. I’ve been wanting to get this off my chest ever since I read the book.)
    One thing that particularly bothered me was the feeling that for most of the book, Polly and the other Regimentals aren’t speaking the common tongue of Ankh-Morkpork, but Borogravian. They’re mostly poor country people without much education. Yet when gurl zrrg Ivzrf – jub trgf uvf bar nggrzcg ng Obebtenivna jebat naq pnyyf uvzfrys n pureel cnapnxr – they have no trouble communicating.
    In Jingo there was some commenta about Morporkian being a lingua franca among Klatchians speaking mutually unintelligible dialects, but there wasn’t any of that here, and somehow all the Pollys and Pauls and Johnnys seemed out of place in a country which seems to have the same relation to Uberwald as, say, Bosnia has to Russia. I got the feeling they only had English names so Pratchett could make references to soldiers’ songs, none of which really resonated as part of Disc culture rather than British…
    And it lifted me out of the book somewhat.

  2. That’s a really good comment and one that completely escaped me at the time. Thanks for pointing it out.

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