Monstrous Regiment: the finest Discworld novel?

(I’ll just repeat that I found MR more enjoyable the second time around, the first time I think I felt the same way as you do, it was certainly my least favourite Discworld book).
I’m still, not convinced that the earlier books had more complex villains or morals. Small Gods for example has the moral ‘organised religion is bad’ (or possibly ‘imposing you religion on others is bad’), and riffs off that all the way through. Vorbis is not a complicated villain, he just wants to keep invading countries because that’s what Omnia has always done. In the Death books The Auditors are almost literally two dimensional.
In fact your example of Vetinari is a good one, in the early books he’s just the tyrant of the city, but as the books go on he’s humanised to the point where he becomes a sympathetic character.
Admittedly I’m having trouble coming up with a more complicated villain from the later books, Reacher Gilt and the Lavishes are just pretty straight forwardly Bad People.

As I said I’ve been reading through all the Discworld books, and now I’ve only got Snuff and Raising Steam to go. So by this time next week I’ll probably never have another new Discworld book to read. That thought has actually been bringing tears to my eyes recently. Fuck Alzheimer’s.


If you are inferring I’m politically right wing, …swing and a miss.

I dunno, man. When he starts really getting into the fundamentalism of the grags and the way they try to influence dwarf culture toward a traditional conservative dwarfishness rather than the relatively open-minded, troll-tolerating, female-acknowledging, cosmopolitan Ankh-Morpork-dwelling new dwarf culture, he can often display a surprising degree of nuance and sensitivity toward these wrong-headed oldtimers. It would have been easy to simply portray all the grags as close-minded bigots to be dismissed like common fundamentalists without a second thought, but Pratchett doesn’t do that. Thud! and Raising Steam deal with these issues awfully compassionately, I’d say.


The best Pratchett Discworld novel is either Soul Music or Maskerade. They’re nowhere near as preachy as Monstrous Regiment. The fact he didn’t try to make them moralistic means they are much better at simply telling the story, which is the ultimate aim of any writing that is meant to be a novel rather than a sermon. I get the feeling that Monstrous Regiment is probably the first of the novels he started writing in concert with his daughter after he realized the Alzheimer’s was seriously setting in, the tone of it is SO different from any Discworld works that came before.

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They didn’t. (Rereading what I wrote, I can see how you’d think that’s what I was aiming at, but it wasn’t my intention.) Earlier on, he was more interested in deconstructing genre assumptions than in packaging neat, simple moral lessons. He did that better than anyone else.

Vetinari’s development is very interesting. He begins as a bad guy (and is appropriately humiliated by being turned into a frog.) Eventually Pratchett learns to embrace the idea of dictatorship, so long as the dictator’s as omnicompetent and selfless as Vetinari.

This is potentially problematic. In some books Ankh Morporkian politics is just background noise, and the jokes about torturing mimes are funny, so I tend to just let it go. Later on (IIRC) there are hints that maybe this really is something being held up as an ideal, butofcoursenooneisasperfectasVetinari, don’tbeabsurd, betternotconsiderit.

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Now that I think about it, you have a point there. My memory of that particular book is hazy, but I remember being fascinated with the insight into dwarf culture. I’ll have to reread that one.


Prachett is great at both subtlety and big statements but thi story is about as subtle as a brick being smashed repeatedly in your face.

It’s one of the few books to ever make me shout it for being ridiculous. I thought he was going to do something smart and neat as it headed towards the end, something to redeem the frankly bad book (his prose is polished in a way that it became from Mort onwards so it’s bareable but the jokes, character and the plot are probably the worst of the entire series) but when got to the end and I eventually found out that he is actually just making them all women as anyone could have said would happen by reading the blurb and doing it in such a dull way that i swore outloud at the bloody awfulness of it because it only made all the other faults of the book so much more apparent.

Look to things like Guards Guards or Wyrd Sisters which takes obvious endings and does a neat spin on them and that is totally absent from Monstrous Regiment.

It’s more stand alone than others, but then the ones in the series you just need to start with the first book which is always stand alone. Small Gods, Pyramids, Equal Rites, maybe Thief of Time etc are all better stand alones.

Apart from Small Gods (the best Discworld novel and the one most likely to outlast the discworld and enter the general cannon) most discworld novels starting at Mort reward reading in publishing order because you get references etc you otherwise wouldn’t notice.

As a Discworld novel it’s only redeaming features are the occasional nice bits of world building and detail, such as stuff about Vampires etc but that’s the only thing I can recommend about it. As a novel it’s probably his worst.


The trouble with Monstrous Regiment is that it’s not funny. There’s basically one joke, which also happens to be the main plot twist. If you’re able to guess what that is, then you can expect a dull slog through the rest of the story.

I will echo the Small Gods recommendation. It’s the only Discworld novel (as far as I recall) that manages to successfully mix humor with pathos.


I’m not sure where you’re getting that from, unless you’re suggesting that Pratchett thinks Jews are obsessed with gold.

I’d say Pratchett’s dwarves represent The Immigrant Experience, with a side order of–as one character puts it–the idea that a woman can do anything a man can do, as long as she doesn’t do anything to remind men that she’s a woman.

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Indeed. Monstrous Regiment is one of a few Discworld books (Pyramids, Small Gods, The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents) whose major characters don’t appear again, but it’s the least standalone of these; the Ankh-Morporkian semaphore system and newspaper that developed in the previous few books are critical to the story, as is Sam Vimes, who of course already had his own sub-series.

This is obviously a matter of taste and opinion, but I do believe that Betteridge’s law of headlines is in effect here.

I found it to be one of the weaker books. Everything in there is done better in another Discworld book:
Social commentary- pick up one of the von Lipwig trilogy to see it done better, more coherently, and in greater depth.
Tight, well executed plots- pick up a city watch book
Interesting female characterisation and themes- anything with the witches in it.

What Cory praises as a slow build up to the story, I saw as the story plodding along, being stretched rather thinly between too few supporting plot poles. And unlike in the earlier books, knowing the references as you go along didn’t enhance the plot, it just revealed it early, a bit like the experience Dutch audiences must have had watching “The Empire Strikes Back.” Usually, Pratchettian references are baroque little things, turning a simple pun into a clever little multi-layered wedding cake of a thing, enjoyable no matter how far down you follow it, but in this novel, you find that the subtext is just the text all over again.

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Well Jews and Scandinavians. there are no 1:1 correlations

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Speaking as a transgender man, I the book does NOT do a good job covering trans issues. There’s that terrible scene where sarge starts dead-naming all of the officers, as if speaking the assigned-at-birth name of a trans person gives you power over him. It was my first and last Diskworld novel and and its insidious that something so systemically hostile to trans people can otherwise be so entertaining.

‘Sure Sarge might have lived his entire, adult life as a man, but now we know better, let’s talk about hidden femininity.’ Ugh. It’s utter shit.

Can’t help but wonder if the headline is cruel linkbait, cast to lure fanbois like me, who find Monstrous more than a wee bit… meh. I avoided TP for many years, having skimmed a few and found them not to match what I then considered my towering standards of intellectual sophistication. (I still tend to skip the margin gags.) But a few years ago I was hooked in by the Tiffany Aching series, which naturally led to the witches entries… and then inevitably to the rest. Still love Tiff and the witches books by far the best. But I have come to greatly enjoy the rest - with the exception of Monstrous. The characters are unremarkable and the plot is predictable, so the journey is mostly as flat as its plains of cabbages. With the weaker of the other DWs, the flat plains don’t matter because you are travelling in the company of old and trusted companions. However, I have revised my views on many things many times in the last half century, so I might have to have a re-read, just to make sure.

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Until Raising Steam came out, this was my least favourite & IMHO the weakest DW book. It felt forced and just lacked the humour of the Discworld books. In fact, it bums me out immensely that the books have been getting less funny and, as @DevinC said, more preachy since Thud.

YMMV for this of course - Cory feeling the opposite way demonstrates that (and with 40 odd books to choose from, there are plenty of spots for people to pick as the high point).

It probably would have been better if he’d made it a Roundworld book in the pattern of Dodger. If it were set against WWI or the Napoleonic Wars, it could stand on its own rather than being judged against the (incredibly) lofty standards of the books that came before it.

(This sounds more down against the later books than it should be - even a “bad” Pterry book is a damn sight better than most others. I suppose that’s the problem with writing so amazingly well for so long - new books will always be compared with the oeuvre and you won’t always be able to hit a six/homerun)

It’s been years since I read the book, but the characters weren’t really presented as trans were they? I thought it was less a gender identity thing, and more that they were passing as men for professional reasons

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Well…I’ve been hearing about Terry Pratchett for some time now: decades even. Never read a stanza till today. Bought MR on this recommendation and I’m enjoying it. A few chapters in and the stage is set: Maledict reminds me of a similar character in Gaimen’s Graveyard book: very proper, erudite and deadly as shit. As it should be.

The jokes and cleverness come fast and furious, and not every arrow hits the mark. But one bit made me laugh out loud (which is rare for me)…a good sign.

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You’ve got a good time ahead of you. I think Monstrous Regiment is typically good, but by no means the only enjoyable Discworld book (and not even close to the funniest). Once you’ve finished this one, go ahead and start from the beginning with The Colour of Magic, and keep in mind that it takes a couple or three books before Pratchett’s voice really hits its stride.


Problem is, obviously bad things need to be declared as such before young adults feel comfortable expressing negative opinions about bad things that the suburban redneck-wannabees in their families shove down their throats as good things. Monstrous Regiment says a lot of things that are obvious in retrospect, but it was just ten years ago when squeamishness about gay and female issues swung an election in favor of re-electing the worst piece of garbage president the U. S. has ever had. I’m sure the U. K. was over those things by that time. UKIP is just some kind of hipster parade of irony.

Personally, I like Carpe Jugulum the most, with a close second and third of Maskerade and Night Watch, in no particular order.


You could go back to The Colour of Magic and go in chronological order, but if reading all of them seems a bit off-putting, the re are other places to dip in and start from.

May I recommend the Discworld Reading order guide from L-space.

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