Monstrous Regiment, by Terry Pratchett

An army on campaign is a sort of large, portable city. It has only one employer, and it manufactures dead people…

Monstrous Regiment is a novel about a young girl, Polly, who runs away to join the army, in order to find her brother. To do so, she has to pretend to be a man. No spoilers there, that’s all dealt with with admirable succinctness on the first page. She meets up with fellow recruits, a jolly old recruiting sergeant and his nasty little corporal, and heads toward the front, as they gradually realise that their nation – beloved Borogravia, in yet another war with the dastardly swede-eating Zlobenians – is losing very badly. In some respects it is an ambitious book: as well as taking on war and nationalism again, it’s yet another assault on organised religion (a return for the ghastly deity Nuggan, last seen in The Last Hero), as well as an extended exploration of broad themes of feminism as well as narrow themes of gender roles, transgenderism/transvestitism and so forth; and for good measure it’s also a chance for Pratchett to show off his beloved Vimes yet again. Continue reading

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Lady into Fox, by David Garnett

It’s hard to say too much about Lady into Fox – it’s a short novella, and very simple. Indeed, I didn’t really feel that I was reading the work of an author – more just hearing an articulate, literate man tell me a story. The prose isn’t always polished – and is speckled with little oddities from the common speech of the era – and the story is straightforward and unadorned. Put bluntly, it’s about an English gentleman whose wife one day turns into a fox, and the difficulties that are posed by this unexpected turn of events. Continue reading