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A very Terry Pratchett view on gender bending, feminism and the futility of war.

"Monstrous Regiment" is number 28 in the ever expanding Discworld series by that incredibly prolific feminst, Terry Pratchett. As before in Jingo, Pratchett focuses on the futility of war and what harm it can cause to the fabric of society. But it doesn't end here: Religious fanaticism, male stereotyping and monarchy are all targets in this parable on what it takes to be a real man.

Major Spoilers Ahead!

Our heroine is a young bar maid named Polly, who one morning cuts off her golden locks and enlists in the Borogravian army to find her brother Paul, who is missing in action. Borogravia is a repressive little monarchy which has been in the state of war with all of its neighbours as long as anybody can remember, and recruits are getting sparse. So not a lot of questions are being asked by the recruiting Sergeant Jackrum, and when his drafting tour is over, he has a little army consisting of 4 girls in men's clothes, a vampire with a coffee addiction, an Igor and a Troll (Jade to her friends). This jolly band of brot..., er sisters creates considerable havoc and manages to turn the tides of war, assisted (unbeknown to them) by the notoriously non belligerent Duke of Ankh, his grace Sir Samuel Vimes and the elite of Ankh Morpork's Citywatch who were send to the front to sort out the whole terrible muddle (it turns out that the xenophobic borogravians are bad for trade in the region, and the Patrician can't have that).

"Monstrous Regiment" (a quip on John Knox's pamphlet "The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women ") is as usual a hugely enjoyable read, but confirms my suspicions that Pratchett is slowly but surely fed up with slapstick and is more and more discovering his dark side. Just like Night Watch, "Monstrous Regiment" is full of dark, uncomfortable moments and carnage. Pratchett again introduces a new set of characters and keeps everyone's favourite watchmen in the background. The inclusion of Ankh Morpork's finest feels more like a nod to the reader who'd expect at least a LITTLE bit of banter and panto but feels rather artificial. Death has only one line, which nevertheless is rather good.

There are still some one liners which leave you laughing out loud (always very embarassing on the tube), but I can't help thinking that the Discworld has become a much darker place over the last couple of years.

Terry Pratchett: Monstrous Regiment, Doubleday, 2003

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