I had initially been planning to read Terry Pratchett’s Pyramids (also the Discworld group’s October group read) for this square, but given that I was ready for the square before October had rolled around and I still want to do the Discworld group read in any event, a quick switch to another one of Pratchett’s (de facto) standalone Discworld novels was called for; the justification for being applied to the “Deadlands” square being provided, in this particular instance, by a vampire named Maladict (who has managed to switch his craving for blood into a craving for coffee) and a few, albeit minor appearances by Ankh-Morpork Night Watch member Reg Shoe, who is a zombie.
As the title indicates, Monstrous Regiment is an exploration of the role of women and their fitness for positions within the official power structure of the state; and Pratchett wouldn’t be Pratchett if he didn’t take the phrase literally and set the whole thing in the context of the military — and not in peace time either, but in war. (John Knox’s original treatise, from whose title the book’s name derives — The First Blast of the Trumpet against the monstrous regiment of Women — was a polemic against female monarchs.) Moreover, it also served as a fitting run-up to my final bingo books, Margaret Atwood’s Gilead duology (The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments), as the core of the action is set in a country that is modeled on states with an extremely restrictive, religion-based attitude towards women … as well as the warmongering craze of the Nazis. As a satirical exploration of society and what makes it tick, it isn’t quite as polished and on point as Guards! Guards! (which I only read last week), but that is really nitpicking — it’s still easily one of Terry Pratchett’s best offerings … outside the Witches subseries, that is.