Mark Reads ‘Monstrous Regiment’: Part 5

In the fifth part of Monstrous Regiment, THIS IS A MESS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of warfare, ableism.

So, has a sense of quiet dread settled in on anyone else at this point of the story? I think the end of the fourth segment—wherein Jackrum was relieved and Strappi wets himself in terror—was pretty terrifying, but this whole sequence makes be even more worried about what the hell is happening out on the front. 

Pratchett uses decay to communicate an urgent reality: the Borogravian army has been stomped. If they are winning, they are doing so within a Pyrrhic victory. Their losses, at this point, are the only significant detail that we’ve seen. Have we even heard of a single positive aspect of this war in any context? When the group of recruits finally makes it to the barracks for their supplies, there’s not even a single object there that looks like it might work in their favor on the battlefield. They are rejects, hand-me-downs, the remains of battles that were most likely failures. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, you know? And that’s what I mean about that sense of dread: what the fuck is happening out there that’s leaving all the supplies so thrashed? The people so battered?

I did want to bring up one aspect of this less so that I myself can talk about it, but hopefully to foster discussion on it. (And it’s possible that it was brought up in the comments of reviews prior to this; I don’t know, since all my reviews for the month of May were written way, way in advance, so I can’t respond in anything close to real time through these posts.) As much as Pratchett uses broken objects to communicate this sense of horror and disarray, he also uses injured and disabled bodies in a similar way. How many people without limbs have we come across? There’ve been at least two references to soldiers keeping their coats tightly closed, hinting at some sort of near-fatal damage beneath them. It’s not until Scallot that one of these characters is actually even given significant space in the narrative. They’re just a background feature, a means of telling a story without telling a story about them. The only reason I can even say something like that is because I had to deal with a parallel form of criticism in early drafts of my book. (Before I even had an agent.) One thing I learned from that process is that disabled people are often used to signify how bad a world has gotten or how terrible the stakes are, and that doesn’t exactly feel like positive representation. But this is war, and ignoring the existence of disabled soldiers in a war would certainly be erasure, too. So where’s the line between these two? I was curious what others thought about this, too! TALK TO ME, DISCWORLD FRIENDS.

Otherwise, I only had a few things I felt super compelled to talk about here. Pratchett is still setting up some larger story, but I can’t yet grasp what that is. We’ve got a lot of dire signals about what might be coming soon, but not a clue as to what the story could be about beyond Polly’s quest to find her brother. HOWEVER: SHUFTI. MALADICT KNOWS THAT SHUFTI AND LOFTY ARE BOTH WOMEN IN DISGUISE. And maybe they know Polly is, too? Like Polly, I couldn’t actually tell, but y’all: I’m not saying this negates any concerns for how this story and this specific trope unfolds, but HOLY SHIT, THIS IS REALLY COOL. I didn’t expect this! I’ve never seen this be used with multiple characters in the same story. Is there anyone else????

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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