This book was newly published when I first started reading Discworld eighteen years ago. I wanted to read it right then but, because I am me, I decided to wait until I could read it in order. Literally half my life later, I made it! And honestly, I’m kind of glad I waited. Eighteen year old me was smart, but I appreciate it more now than I think I would have then. This one has instantly made my top five Discworld books, right up there with a bunch of City Watch books, and Hogfather.
What we’ve got here is an anti-war book that simultaneously criticizes the pointlessness of nationalism and patriotism, and adherence to gender norms. The central gag SPOILERS that not only is our main character Polly Perks a girl dressed up as a boy so she can fight, but that her entire squadron are also girls dressed up as boys, as is her commander, and eventually we learn that so are all the leaders, never gets old END SPOILERS. Pratchett keeps it going for the whole novel, and it gets funnier as it goes.
I am not smart enough to write about this series in depth, and I’m most definitely not funny enough. Terry Pratchett was a genius, so I hope you’ll forgive me for just filling up the rest of this review space with quotes.
“The purpose of this lectchoor is to let you know where we are. We are in the deep cack. It couldn’t be worse if it was raining arseholes. Any questions?”
“You take a bunch of people who don’t seem any different from you and me, but when you add them all together you get this sort of huge raving maniac with national borders and an anthem.”
“I want to eat chocolates in a great big room where the world is a different place.”
“Trousers. That’s the secret. Trousers and a pair of socks. I never dreamed it was like this. Put on trousers and the world changes. We walk different. We act different. I see these girls and I think: Idiots, get yourself some trousers!”
“‘What does Borogravia want? Not the country. I mean the people.’
Polly opened her mouth and then shut it again, and thought about the answer.
‘To be left alone,’ she said. ‘By everybody. For a while, anyway. We can change things.’
‘You’ll accept the food?’
‘We are a proud country.’
‘What are you proud of?’
It came swiftly, like a blow, and Polly realized how wars happened. You took that shock that had run through her, and let it boil.
. . . it may be corrupt, benighted, and stupid, but it’s ours . . .
Vimes was watching her face. ‘From this desk here,’ he said, ‘the only thing your country has to be proud of right now is you women.'”