Bewildering Stories

Terry Pratchett, Going Postal

reviewed by Jerry Wright


Author: Terry Pratchett
Publisher: Doubleday
Hardcover: 329 pages
ISBN: 0385603428
Price: $24.95

Terry has done it again. I must confess that I am a bad boy. I don't normally buy hardcover books. At least not when they are new. I either get them from my particularly useful library or wait until they are remaindered or come out in paperback format.

Except for Pratchett, Modesitt, and Bujold.

I wasn't too sure about Going Postal when I first saw it at the bookstore. Yay. A book about the moribund post office, and a con-man. Well, needless to say, there are a lot of things to juggle here, and a lot of pie tins in the air, but Terry manages nicely.

Imagine a man named Moist Van Lipwig. Oh wait, it says here he's Alfred Spangler, and he's about to hang. Well, Alfred hangs, but Moist doesn't, and this con-man awakes to find that The Patrician (Lord Vetenari) is offering him a job. Get the Post Office running. Or leave by way of "Door Number Two" but watch out for that first step.

The setup in this first chapter is filled with the deadpan humor that Terry produces again, and again, and each chapter (what? Chapters??) are headed by little illuminations that remind me of novels from the late 1800s.

Going Postal offers us a number of new characters, while brief cameos of Vimes, Nobby, the Orangutan, and other favorites appear and then head off stage. And these characters, like Van Lipwig, or the two "postmen" or "the love interest" as played by "Spike". Or is that "Killer"? And then there is Mr. Pump, parole officer.

Terry writes a very light, very droll form of satire against rapacious big business, where downsizing means deadsizing. The Post Office, moribund though it is, must compete against "The Clacks", a system of mechanical semaphore towers that march across the Discworld. The Mail travels swiftly along the "Clacks" and Pratchett lovingly handles the feel of techno-junkies who have the "hacker spirit" fighting against the business people who only see the bottom line, and for all of them might just as well be selling towels.

Moist the con-man, to survive, nay win, must out-con his nemesis, Con-man Reacher Gilt, who now runs the Great Trunk Clacks. The growth of this petty man, this con, to someone worthwhile adds much to the story, and although there really aren't many "laugh out loud" parts in this book, when you finish, you will be happy, and you will think. A rare combination.

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