January Book Group: "Monstrous Regiment" by Terry Pratchett

TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
Monstrous Regiment is our January book club pick. You may be a hardcore Pratchett fan, in which case perhaps you'll enjoy re-reading this one and contributing to the discussion. Or you may be a total or relative Pratchett neophyte, like I am -- this is the third of his novels I've read, but the first one I thoroughly enjoyed. If you're unfamiliar with the book, you can read a summary here, and copies should be relatively easy to obtain. I really enjoyed the audiobook -- there are actually a few different audio versions, but I liked the one narrated by Katherine Parkinson with the footnotes read by Bill Nighy. It's a fun fantasy read with some serious reflections on war, nationalism, gender, and religion.

Who's in for this one? I'll post discussion questions around the 20th of the month.
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Comments

  • SarasaSarasa All Saints Host
    I have quite a few friends that are avid Pratchett fans, but though I've quite liked some of the books he isn't one of my favourite authors. I'm always willing to give him another go though, so I'll be joining in.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    I love Patchett's throwaway lines and zany humour, so I'm trying to get myself a copy. I have read this one before, a while back.
  • NenyaNenya All Saints Host, Ecclesiantics & MW Host
    I got hold of a copy of this years ago as I'd never read any Pratchett and someone (it may have been a shipmate) said this was one of his best. I have no memory of it at all and, having just started the reread, am finding it slightly baffling though I do appreciate the humorous throw-ins. I'll persevere and am looking forward to my appreciation of it being enhanced by the discussion.
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    I love this one - I'm looking forward to the discussion!
  • SparrowSparrow Shipmate
    I'm a huge Discworld fan though Monstrous Regiment has always been one I couldn't get on with. Time to give it another try.
  • I'm in. Pretty sure my copy is still at the parental abode, so will pick it up this weekend.
  • I'm in. Pretty sure my copy is still at the parental abode, so will pick it up this weekend.

    Pass it my side of the bed when you are done, please. To not do so would be an abomination unto Nuggan.
  • I'm in. Pretty sure my copy is still at the parental abode, so will pick it up this weekend.

    Pass it my side of the bed when you are done, please. To not do so would be an abomination unto Nuggan.

    Ah, did that one turn up recently? Obviously my copy has been out of Borogravia too long.
  • :lol:

    I enjoyed Monstrous Regiment first time around - maybe I'll give it another whirl.

    FWIW, the egregious Father F**kwit used the title as a pejorative, being afraid of Wimmin generally...unless (as he once told me) they kept their pinafores on, and stayed in the kitchen...
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    Currently trying to source a copy.
  • NicoleMRNicoleMR Shipmate
    I love this book! If I can join in the discussion, I will.
  • DiomedesDiomedes Shipmate
    Me too - and anyone with a knowledge of traditional songs will find lots of passing references - not least 'Sweet Polly Oliver'. Google (or similar) will no doubt give various versions.
  • :lol:

    I enjoyed Monstrous Regiment first time around - maybe I'll give it another whirl.

    FWIW, the egregious Father F**kwit used the title as a pejorative, being afraid of Wimmin generally...unless (as he once told me) they kept their pinafores on, and stayed in the kitchen...

    I presume shipmates caught the Knox reference.
  • SarasaSarasa All Saints Host
    I'm looking forward to starting this tonight. My Kindle's battery went flat on the last page of the whodunnit I was reading last night. Flipping annoying but at least I'll soon polish that off and get onto Monstrous Women.
    @Bishops Finger, I hope I never meet Father F**kwit, I don't think I could answer to the consequences.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
    I presume shipmates caught the Knox reference.

    I certainly caught it. I read this book along with my daughter and her university friends who were reading it for their book club, and then we did a podcast together discussing it, and not one of those educated young people recognized the reference -- but I guess their education was in the wrong area!

  • MiliMili Shipmate
    Don't make the mistake I did and accidentally buy the ebook of the playscript instead of the novel. I read it anyway and have now picked up the novel from the library. I got a good headstart reading it as a massive thunderstorm hit just as I got to the library and I had to stay there for 3 hours until it abated as I was walking and taking the bus home.

    Looking forward to joining the conversation this month. I lost a family friend in childbirth and an old school friend was killed by a car while crossing the road in December and I didn't feel like reading Christmas poetry after those tragedies 🕯
  • NenyaNenya All Saints Host, Ecclesiantics & MW Host
    I am very sorry indeed to read of those tragedies @Mili . How heartbreaking. Glad you feel able to join us this month.
  • BoogieBoogie Heaven Host
    Sparrow wrote: »
    I'm a huge Discworld fan though Monstrous Regiment has always been one I couldn't get on with. Time to give it another try.

    Same here! I’ve read all his books at least three times, but this one - just the once. His last three had also, sadly, lost a lot of his spark.

    I think his first three were the best. If you haven’t read TP before, give them a go! Mort is short and an excellent example of his work.

    The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Equal Rites, Mort.



    RIP Terry, amazing man and author. 🙏

  • EirenistEirenist Shipmate
    I read it a while ago, and found it a bit predictable when you had grasped he plot.
  • DafydDafyd Hell Host
    Boogie wrote: »
    I think his first three were the best. If you haven’t read TP before, give them a go! Mort is short and an excellent example of his work.
    By contrast I think he didn't really get into his stride until Wyrd Sisters.
    (I think there are really five phases of Pratchett:
    Colour of Magic to Sourcery where he's learning his craft;
    Wyrd Sisters to maybe Soul Music, where he's telling fun stories with jokes and wisdom;
    Maskerade to Thief of Time, where he's getting more philosophical;
    and then Night Watch to Unseen Academicals, which are a bit darker and have more social commentary;
    and then Snuff onwards where I'm afraid his illness was beginning to show.)

  • Boogie wrote: »
    Sparrow wrote: »
    I'm a huge Discworld fan though Monstrous Regiment has always been one I couldn't get on with. Time to give it another try.

    Same here! I’ve read all his books at least three times, but this one - just the once. His last three had also, sadly, lost a lot of his spark.

    I think his first three were the best. If you haven’t read TP before, give them a go! Mort is short and an excellent example of his work.

    The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Equal Rites, Mort.

    I agree with you that his spark was missing in the last books. "Making Money" just wasn't much fun to read, and the later books has their moments of brilliance, but weren't as consistently good as his norm.

    The first few books have a much more madcap, rather surreal humor, and are more like a sketch show in written form than a novel. Mort is a great example of his humor, but if you wanted to start with one book to see if you might enjoy the whole series, I might pick Wyrd Sisters. Or perhaps Small Gods, which isn't so closely tied to the rest of his "storyline".
  • SparrowSparrow Shipmate
    Boogie wrote: »
    Sparrow wrote: »
    I'm a huge Discworld fan though Monstrous Regiment has always been one I couldn't get on with. Time to give it another try.

    Same here! I’ve read all his books at least three times, but this one - just the once. His last three had also, sadly, lost a lot of his spark.

    I think his first three were the best. If you haven’t read TP before, give them a go! Mort is short and an excellent example of his work.

    The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Equal Rites, Mort.



    RIP Terry, amazing man and author. 🙏

    Actually I've always felt that Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic were not that good, Pterry was still working out how he wanted to develop it. But he hit it with Equal Rites and never looked back!
  • SparrowSparrow Shipmate
    Boogie wrote: »
    Sparrow wrote: »
    I'm a huge Discworld fan though Monstrous Regiment has always been one I couldn't get on with. Time to give it another try.

    Same here! I’ve read all his books at least three times, but this one - just the once. His last three had also, sadly, lost a lot of his spark.

    I think his first three were the best. If you haven’t read TP before, give them a go! Mort is short and an excellent example of his work.

    The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Equal Rites, Mort.

    I agree with you that his spark was missing in the last books. "Making Money" just wasn't much fun to read, and the later books has their moments of brilliance, but weren't as consistently good as his norm.

    The first few books have a much more madcap, rather surreal humor, and are more like a sketch show in written form than a novel. Mort is a great example of his humor, but if you wanted to start with one book to see if you might enjoy the whole series, I might pick Wyrd Sisters. Or perhaps Small Gods, which isn't so closely tied to the rest of his "storyline".

    My vote for the two best would be Guards! Guards! and Night Watch.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Admin, 8th Day Host
    edited January 4
    I love Witches Abroad, Lords & Ladies, Small Gods, The Hogfather, Thief of Time & Thud.

    I also have a soft spot for Jingo - largely due to Leonard of Quirm.
  • SandemaniacSandemaniac Shipmate
    edited January 4
    Another fan of Night Watch here. Here's @Celtic Knotweed with her copy...
    https://flic.kr/p/r1ZGWC

    Though, TBH, there are very few* I wouldn't read. The Tiffany Aching stories are wonderful evocations of a countryside that never quite existed, but is so believable (it helps that we are not that far from the White Horse), and I deeply envy his talent for the truly dreadful pun. I also found The Light Fantastic in a bookcase at work, and had a good snort as I'd utterly forgotten the gag about Twoflower's ears being kept warm.

    Anyone else desperate for Miriam Margolyes to play Nanny Ogg before she falls off her perch?

    *OK, none
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Admin, 8th Day Host
    Ooh she would be amazing ! Maggie Smith for Granny Weatherwax ?
  • Could Maggie Smith's gaze kill a basilisk at 10 paces? I think it could. That's two witches cast...
  • PriscillaPriscilla Shipmate
    Witches Abroad is my favourite , if only for the line that vampires can never raise from the cat!
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    I have been able to source a copy through our provincial public library system. It's held in branches in the north of the province. ( I live in the south.)
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited January 5
    Caissa wrote: »
    I have been able to source a copy through our provincial public library system. It's held in branches in the north of the province. ( I live in the south.)

    Enjoy!
    :wink:

    FWIW, I've enjoyed pretty well all Pratchett's books, but two favourites are Guards! Guards! and Going Postal (which IMHO translated well into a TV fillum).

    O! for the security and sensibleness of a Lord Vetinari government!
  • Anyone else desperate for Miriam Margolyes to play Nanny Ogg before she falls off her perch?

    She'd be great, but so far, the TV adaptations of the discworld stories have fallen rather flat. So many of Pratchett's jokes are fundamentally written, and don't translate to the screen at all.

    I had a similar disappointment with Good Omens - although I enjoyed the TV adaptation quite a lot, I couldn't help missing all the humour that wasn't there.
  • PuzzledChristianPuzzledChristian Shipmate Posts: 19
    Sparrow wrote: »
    I'm a huge Discworld fan though Monstrous Regiment has always been one I couldn't get on with. Time to give it another try.

    Yes this is not one of my favourites. Like how he uses the trope of a female running away disguised as a male, (a subject of several folk songs female lover disguised as a cabin boy or cornet to be near her lover; and lets not forget real life cross dressing pirates Mary Read and Anne Bonny, but for some reason don't engaged with the story. It seems rather remote and detached from the disc world saga despite involving Commander Sam Vines, a main character from this series.
  • Anyone else desperate for Miriam Margolyes to play Nanny Ogg before she falls off her perch?

    She'd be great, but so far, the TV adaptations of the discworld stories have fallen rather flat. So many of Pratchett's jokes are fundamentally written, and don't translate to the screen at all.

    The animated Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music were pretty good, I thought, but I wasn't particularly taken with the live action Hogfather and couldn't bear to watch the travesty of Moist von Lipwig in Going Postal.
  • DafydDafyd Hell Host
    The animated Wyrd Sisters felt like it was trying too hard to be faithful to the book and not hard enough to be funny.
    Like a BBC adaptation of Dickens.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
    It seems rather remote and detached from the disc world saga despite involving Commander Sam Vines, a main character from this series.

    I think this might be one of the reasons why I enjoyed it, actually. I had made two previous attempts to "get into" reading Pratchett (Hogfather and The Colour of Magic), but wasn't particularly grabbed by either of them. Not having much previous knowledge or any real preconceptions of the world it's set in, I was able to enjoy Monstrous Regiment as a stand-alone.

    But I see I've chosen a novel that's at best polarizing among the Pratchett fans here, so I expect the discussion will be lively!
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    I agree with most of Dafyd's assessment of the Discworld books, except that I thought his Alzheimer's was obvious in 'Unseen Academicals.' The footnotes were much more rambling and less entertaining than usual. Or maybe I just don't like football.

    I prefer the books where Death is a running joke rather than one of the main characters. The only exception is The Hogfather, but he came up with an interesting variation on the 'Death takes a holiday' plot there. I like most of the books about the Ankh-Morpork city guard. Didn't like the later witches books, where Granny Weatherwax turns into an unstoppable force who is Never Wrong... but I do like Witches Abroad. And Maskerade (which should be compulsory reading for all opera lovers).
  • NenyaNenya All Saints Host, Ecclesiantics & MW Host
    It's very interesting to read all these comments from Pratchett fans and while I'm currently struggling with Monstrous Regiment (though determined to persevere) I am inspired to try some others of his, in time.
  • Trudy wrote: »
    The Colour of Magic[/i]), but wasn't particularly grabbed by either of them.

    ‘The Colour of Magic’ felt very much like him getting into stride and is one of the weaker books in the series.

    One of the various reading guides might help you pick a book you like, eg:

    https://d4804za1f1gw.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/sites/18/2019/07/24165448/Discworld-Reading-Order.jpg
  • I read Colour of Magic as a teenager, probably about the time it came out in paperback, and loved it, but re-reading it years later was not how I remembered it - Ankh-Morpork had evolved into a city rather than a backdrop for a funny book, and the cast of characters had evolved enormously since. All of the main narrative groups - the wizards, the guards, the witches evolved enormously in the thirty-odd years he was writing, and Monstrous Regiment is unusual in that a lot of the book is set outside of those groups.
  • DafydDafyd Hell Host
    What Sandemaniac says about reading the Colour of Magic before the other books came out and then rereading it strikes a chord.
    I think I feel the same way as Jane R about the Death takes a holiday books - I think I under appreciated Hogfather when I first read it for that reason. Thief of Time is good as well.
    Granny Weatherwax is one of the great characters in English comic fiction, unstoppable force and never wrong or not.
  • PriscillaPriscilla Shipmate
    We have a friend who IS Granny Weatherwax - D wears her hair in a bun and says I can’t be having with that “!
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    My copy arrived today.
  • Gill HGill H Shipmate
    Dafyd wrote: »
    The animated Wyrd Sisters felt like it was trying too hard to be faithful to the book and not hard enough to be funny.
    Like a BBC adaptation of Dickens.

    I quite like it - some of the casting is good (particularly Christopher Lee as Death) but it doesn't quite work overall. Interestingly, June Whitfield, playing Nanny Ogg, had the audacity to change the words of the Hedgehog Song, on the grounds that it's a cartoon and children would be watching. I think it would have been better to just cut the scene before the potentially offending word, and leave it as a in-joke for those who knew it.

    Soul Music is a better animation, I think.
  • DafydDafyd Hell Host
    The whole point of the Hedgehog Song is surely that Nanny Ogg would never change that word.
  • I think there are many points to the hedgehog song (I did wonder how long before it put in an appearance!), hence the aforementioned mammal's impenetrability, but I certainly can't imagine Nanny Ogg bowdlerising it either.
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    Dafyd wrote: »
    Granny Weatherwax is one of the great characters in English comic fiction, unstoppable force and never wrong or not.

    I never said she wasn't. I just preferred the books when she needs Nanny Ogg to wave the bag of sweets occasionally. And Shepherd's Crown was just depressing.

  • DafydDafyd Hell Host
    Jane R wrote: »
    I just preferred the books when she needs Nanny Ogg to wave the bag of sweets occasionally. And Shepherd's Crown was just depressing.
    Oh right yes. I sort of have the Tiffany Aching books in a separate category in my head. Yes, she does work much better with Nanny Ogg around.
    And in The Shepherd's Crown I'm afraid it's clear that his illness was getting the better of him.

  • SarasaSarasa All Saints Host
    I think I prefer Pratchett's non- Discworld books for children like Johnny and the Dead and the Nome Trilogy as they seem to work better for me as stories. I'm ploughing on with Monstrous Regiment though.
  • SparrowSparrow Shipmate
    It seems clear to me that the last book (Raising Steam?) had very little genuine Terry input in it. He may have had the original idea but the writing style is very different.
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    I didn't see the point of Raising Steam when I read it. A whole book about how Slavery is Evil, banging the point home with a sledgehammer? (You're right, the sledgehammer wasn't like Sir Terry). Surely everyone already knows that? Do we really need to be told - again?

    Then we had #Blacklivesmatter, and the rise (and rise) of the alt right, and the penny dropped. Yes, of course we do. With sledgehammers, too. I doubt it got the point across to the people who most need to hear it, but I understand why he wanted to write it.
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