When I first read the Amazon blurb of Monstrous Regiment, I thought that this might very well be one of the better Discworld novels to appear in recent years. Terry Pratchett seems to need a fresh setting to do his best, and this book was set in a new place, with new characters, too. All set to spark the author’s imagination.
So I was rather disappointed when I almost immediately came across old Vimes. And well, Borogravia as the name of a country is bad enough, but Zlobenia is downright insulting to Slovenia, I feel. There are other weak points: in an average Discworld book, there are maybe two invincible characters, like Carrot, the Patrician and Granny Weatherwax. Here we have three: the sergeant Jackrum, Polly Perks and Vimes. All quite invincible and Mary-Sueish hyper-competent.
As for the story; it’s not as tightly crafted as Tipping the Velvet, more a quickly jotted-down picaresque to make a point, and the denouement is apparent from very early on. And I don’t mean the hint that the title, Monstrous Regiment (see The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women by a certain John Knox) gives us; it is very clear that the rot, so to speak, has permeated the highest regions.
That’s for the bad; but in the end I was not disappointed. And that’s for two reasons, one trivial but important, and the other neither trivial nor important.
First: the book is funny. It’s been a long time since Terry Pratchett had me in stitches. I bought the book at four o’clock. At midnight I had finished it, and every other page had me laughing aloud.
Second: I really, really like the person of lieutenant Blouse. You can see Terry Pratchett struggling with the character. Blouse so manfully resists the narrative necessity that should make him the archetypical incompetent officer that needs his sergeants to pull down his breeches before passing water — but he is competent, intelligent and, again, competent.
And I like Shufti, too — another character that would have been easy to make cheap fun of, but that comes out very determined, very game and admirable.