Monstrous Regiment (Discworld #31, Industrial #3)

Monstrous Regiment (Discworld, #31)Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Polly Perks cuts her hair and leaves home to join her nation’s army to find her brother and bring him home; however her act of defiance against her country’s social norms turns out to have consequences geopolitically. Monstrous Regiment, the 31st book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and the third of the Industrial subseries in which the vast majority of the book comes from Polly’s point-of-view in which gender, religious, and military issues play a big role in the narrative.

The nation of Borogravia is always at war in one neighbor or another, their god Nuggan is dead because they believe his Abominations more than him, and their ruler The Duchess is probably dead after not being seen for decades but is slowly becoming defied in replace of Nuggan. All of these things conspire to make Polly go to find her brother Paul in the Kneck valley and bring him home so that she doesn’t lose the family inn. After signing up, she and the rest of the new recruits become the new “lads” of legendary soldier Sergeant Jackrum but on the way to the front Polly finds that all the other recruits are also women having joined for their own reasons. Throughout the book, the regiment starts impacting the war on an international scale as the Anhk-Morpork Times details the adventures of the troop making them underdogs back home even as they oppose the alliance that Anhk-Morpork is a part of.

Although the geopolitical aspects of her regiments actions comes as a surprise to Polly, most of her concerns throughout the entire book is understanding a “woman’s role in a man’s world”, the insane religion they’re dealing with, and finally military culture between commissioned and non-commissioned officers. Pratchett’s use of real world issues into his fantasy world might annoy some readers but I thought it was handled well especially in his dry satirical style. The only really big irritation was that after a while the surprise of another woman-as-a-man in uniform lost its impact because you could basically guess who was going to be eventually revealed to be a woman, so it became less important and just Pratchett check off another reveal.

Monstrous Regiment deals with a lot of real world issues in a dry satirical style that Pratchett is famous for. Although the book’s long running gag of revealing women-as-men in uniform gets old and easy to predict as the book goes along, it doesn’t take away from the overall good quality of the book. If you’re a Discworld fan you’ll like this book but if you’re new to the series try another book first.

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The Wee Free Men (Discworld #30, Tiffany Aching #1)

The Wee Free Men (Discworld, #30; Tiffany Aching, #1)The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Chalk is a place of sheep and shepherds but never a witch was known to be there, however that might have been incorrect. Terry Pratchett’s 30th Discworld novel, The Wee Free Men, is the second time he’s written for young adults but his writing and humor are top notch as well follow a nine-year witch Tiffany Aching going up against the Queen of Elves with only a horde of six-inch blue little men.

Tiffany Aching finds her family farm being invaded by monsters from dreams as well as a horde of little blue men, the titular Wee Free Men. Tiffany is very smart for her age and sees things as they are just like her grandmother, so when strange things pop up she uses an iron pan to beat them back. Although she later figures out that her grandmother was a witch, Tiffany has her first encounter with one in the form of Ms. Lick who tells her to be careful but not to tackle the problem on her own but when her brother is kidnapped by the Fairie Queen, Tiffany knows she’s going to need help while not sounding desperate. Tiffany’s help comes to her when the local clan of the Wee Free Men shows up looking for the new “hag ol’ the hills” because of the invasion of the Queen. Tiffany and the Wee Free Men invade ‘Fairyland’ and manage to return with her brother, a feat that Granny Weatherwax finds impressive for someone so young and untrained.

The Wee Free Men features Tiffany as the only point-of-view character, save from a narrator, which keeps the book fairly orderly when reading as well as being in line for a book for younger readers. The story itself is somewhat familiar for long time Discworld fans with the antagonist being the Queen of the Elves invading, but Pratchett changes things up with the use of dreams and the conflict as seen from a nine-year old. The cameo appearance of Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg at the end, sets up further adventures of Tiffany and connects her subseries with the Witches subseries with the hopes of seeing favorite characters in future books.

The second young adult and first Tiffany subseries book of the Discworld canon is a fantastic book; The Wee Free Men gives someone new for long time fans while introducing older characters for younger new readers. While it’s intended for a younger audience, older fans will appreciate Pratchett’s humorous fantasy writing with his twists and turns.

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Night Watch (Discworld #29, Watch #6)

Night Watch (Discworld, #29)Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The past and future of Ankh-Morpork revolve around the efforts of His Grace Sir Sam Vimes, Commander of the City Watch, and he doesn’t like it one bit. Night Watch, the sixth book focusing on the City Watch and twenty-ninth overall book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series finds Vimes dealing with his wife about to give birth, the deaths of two of his two officers and chasing the man responsible, then finding himself in the past playing the mentor to his younger self during a time of revolution.

Sam Vimes loves being a copper, but not so much His Grace when things have to be official, but after a magical “accident” caused by the Monks of History to send him 30 years into the past Vimes must make sure history happens like it did when he was a 17-year old newbie. Becoming his mentor Sergeant John Keel and second-in-command at his old Watch House, Vimes attempts to bring about the past he remembers so his “present” remains the same. Unfortunately for Vimes, a genius yet insane killer Carcer was brought back with him and has his own agenda—chaos and murder. Add in a revolution hitting Ankh-Morpork and Vimes is in for some very stressful days.

This isn’t the first time that Pratchett has done a little time travel in a Discworld novel, but it was the first in which it was the primary element in one. Vimes becoming the heroic mentor to his younger self, is somewhat cliché but Pratchett uses Vimes own grim view of the world to an advantage as starts to become imprinted on young Sam. Yet, Vimes existential fretting about messing up his future does get tiresome after him doing it so many times in the book that it almost seems that Pratchett was finding ways to take up page space.

Night Watch is an action-packed installment in the Discworld series that Pratchett writes fantastically with Sam Vimes as the protagonist, even with the overused existential fretting. Once again I’ve found a Watch book bringing out the best of Pratchett and the entire Discworld setting, I can only hope the other two books of the subseries will be the same.

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The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy #1-5)The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the 1970s, a BBC radio serial was a surprise hit with a combination of humor and science fiction, eventually this spawned more radio serials, a TV show, even a Hollywood produced film, but also a series of books by creator Douglas Adams. The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy contains the first five novels and a short story written by Adams for fans both old and new, but unfortunately it seems that the novels might be more hype and substance.

The five novels contained in this anthology book are all flawed in various and similar ways, which seem to appear and disappear through the series. As a series of stories that were meant to be rooted in humor and science fiction, only the latter seemed to be constantly topnotch while the humor was a lot of hits-and-misses as in some stories seemed to have them and others didn’t. Another issues was narrative flow in each story or general lack thereof, as the majority of the stories are just a series of things happen before ending while others were narratively solid stories that got the reader looking forward to how it would end only for said ending to just appear out of nowhere leaving the reader cheated. Sadly the best story in the entire book that essentially got all the above flaws correct was the short story about young Zaphod.

Having looked forward to reading this collection of stories, I feel ultimately cheated after finishing the book. Overall I found everything in the book average and okay, but this will not be a book I go back to read again and has put in my mind to search out the original radio series or the old TV series to see if either or both are better than The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2.5/5)
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (3.5/5)
Life, the Universe, and Everything (3.5/5)
So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish (2.5/5)
Young Zaphod Plays It Safe (4/5)
Mostly Harmless (2.5/5)

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Mostly Harmless (Hitchhiker #5)

HitchhikersMostly Harmless by Douglas Adams
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The fifth and penultimate installment of the Hitchhiker‘s series had an interesting premise and sadly poor execution, which almost seems to sum up my overall thoughts on the entire series.

The story begins and ends on Earth, not the first one nor the second but another one, with reporter Tricia McMillan wishing she had joined Zaphod seventeen years before. Meanwhile Arthur Dent is hitchhiking around the Universe looking for an Earth to settle down on, if he can get the dimension right, while finding out that Trillian is a reporter for an inter-dimension & multi-time period news channel. And Ford Prefect goes to the Guide’s headquarters and finds out it’s been taken over by a corporate giant that has developed a frighteningly new version of the Guide and mails it to Arthur just before his escape. Ultimately all these treads end on Tricia’s Earth through strange twist that might appear to be Random, but are a result of a bureaucratic need to check a box.

Throughout the entire story, Adams creates great situations and locations that seem to be the start of a story in themselves only to then quickly end them in an attempt to link them to another or each other like in the end of the book. However, this just resulted in making the reader think “this story could be great if…” for over half the story and wish some characters had been around longer or even appear. So much promise, but nothing to show for it.

Young Zaphod Plays It Safe (Hitchhiker #4.5)

HitchhikersYoung Zaphod Plays It Safe by Douglas Adams
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In short story featuring Zaphod Beeblebrox, Douglas Adams brings both quick story with some funny dialogue. Two bureaucrats hire Zaphod to dive down to a crashed spaceship to explore the cargo, though Zaphod wonders why they keep on calling it the “safest” ship ever when it’s a crashed wreck. Yet as they go through the interior the bureaucrats get anxious about the really dangerous cargo that Zaphod starts wondering what it is after they pass rooms containing really harmful material including chemical weapons. Its only until Zaphod learns what the most dangerous cargo on the ship is that he learns why the bureaucrats insist on calling everything “safe”. Overall, the shortness of the story and tight plot make this a very good read with some nice jokes.

So Long, and Thanks for the Fish (Hitchhiker #4)

HitchhikersSo Long, and Thanks for the Fish by Douglas Adams
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The fourth installment of Adams’ Hitchhiker series finds characters and reader returning to a planet that shouldn’t exist and figuring out why. Yet like the original installment this one has series problems in plot and humor, incoherent for one and flat for the other.

Earth is back out of no where and Arthur Dent has hitchhiked his way to his home planet that he thought gone forever 8 years before, only for everyone else it’s only be about 8 months. While hitchhiking to his house, Arthur meets Fenchurch and just has to meet her again even though she technically didn’t meet him. Once they do meet up things just start happening as if it’s mean to be, including Fen reminding him all the dolphins disappeared which leads them to California to find the answer to that. Meanwhile Ford finds that his very long entry on Earth has suddenly popped up on the Guide and hurries to Earth to get Arthur. Then the three of them travel to view God’s last message to the Universe where they meet up with Marvin.

Honestly, this story had a lot of things going for it that never materialized in both plot and humor. The joke about Fenchurch’s name is apparently is obviously just English based that anyone from elsewhere on the planet just has to assume it’s an English in-joke and that it’s suppose to be funny. The main plot, if there even is one, is Arthur just getting back into the flow of Earth after traveling the Universe and then falling instantly in love before solving a mystery.

Overall, So Long, and Thanks for the Fish has it’s moments both for story and humor but nothing is really connected or coherent. It’s ho-hum fine, but nothing I’d go back to read.