As usual, there is a war in Borogravia. Polly, a young girl, decides to join the army to look for her brother Paul, who joined up a while ago. So, Polly becomes Oliver and leaves her home. Under the lead of Sergeant Jackrum, Oliver and the other new recruits learn the ropes of warfare and discover the truth behind an increasingly desperate war.
I did not like Monstrous Regiment. There were two major problems I had with it: the tone didn’t feel right and the whole approach to the gender thing was one-dimensional at best.
With the premise, a lot could have been said about gender, about how we construct and perform it and how crossing gender lines is perceived. Instead, Pratchett makes two jokes about it and repeats them ad infinitum. One is the socks thing (men think with their socks!) and the other is that women apparently don’t curse. [While I agree that in a society like Borogravia’s, many women might have problem with cursing, it seemed awkward that all the women have that problem and especially the women who are comfortable enough with breaking basically every gender rule to join the fucking army.]
It just seemed like Pratchett missed many a chance to say something meaningful about gender.
The other thing was that the tone of the novel just didn’t work out. In Night Watch, the fun stuff worked to emphasise the dark stuff (and vice versa). In Monstrous Regiment, they obliterate each other: The fun stuff doesn’t seem funny and the dark stuff lacks emotional impact.
Add to that that there’s just not enough Sam Vimes in this novel and sadly, not even the awesome Abominations Unto Nuggan can save this book.