Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
Review by Joshua S Hill
For a long time, Terry Pratchett focused very intently on several groups of characters. He would often return to Sam Vimes, the Witches, Death or Rincewind. However over the past several years he has invested time in planting new characters into his Discworld, and one of the greatest inclusions – without a doubt – has been Moist von Lipwig.
Moist first made his appearance in Pratchett’s 33rd Discworld novel, Going Postal. We are immediately introduced to Moist von Lipwig, a successful con artist who has recently been captured. However, though the noose is pulled and the door gives way, Moist soon finds himself sitting opposite Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork.
One of the reasons Moist is such a great character is because of the back and forth that he has with Vetinari. Easily one of the most overlooked yet brilliant characters, Vetinari is allowed more “screen-”time in this book and makes for one of the more interesting perspectives in the book.
But, as much as I would love a book entirely devoted to Vetinari, this book is first and foremost Moist von Lipwig’s book.
Sticking to my desire not to simply summarize a book and hope that the vague outline is enough to make you go buy it, and having to contend with the fact that, at 33 books, Pratchett is probably doing something right, I’m a little lost as to what to say.
What I will say is that, once again, the story belongs to the characters of the book. As much as the intriguing and at times hilariously baffling storyline will never lose your interest, it is Junior Postman Groat and Stanley, Mr. Tiddles and Mr. Pump, and Adora Belle Dearheart who make this book brilliant.
Groat is a hypochondriacally wound up mess, whereas Stanley is the neurotic collector-nerd in all of us (or is it just me?). Together they are the entirety of the Ankh-Morkpok Post Office’s employees when Moist is tasked with rebuilding the long forgotten public service. And it is Moist’s con-artistry that makes him the perfect choice to run a utility like the post. That people will buy a stamp simply to mail it to themselves to have a first edition stamp seems like the greatest con that no one will ever arrest you for.
And while the story does rest on the strong shoulders of the characters, the understory that sees Moist attempt to right wrongs done to the inventors of the clacks is nothing short of mesmerizing. Pratchett has this knack for being able to so totally invent a location, its inhabitants, its business life and its mechanics, you are left astounded. Pratchett must spend one half of his time writing and the other half reading up on how semaphore works, and how the post office works, and ... the sheer authenticity of the world that Pratchett presents to the reader at times blows the mind.
Sadly, Pratchett is his own worst enemy, in my opinion. While I can hardly find anything to mark this book down on, it suffers from being “just not as good” as other books he has written. Maybe this is up for debate, but books like Nation, Night Watch and the Fifth Elephant all equal 10 out of 10’s, thus relegating Going Postal to a lowly 8 or 9.
Nevertheless, if you want to get into Terry Pratchett’s Discworld and you haven’t known where to start, this is a great start. The majority of the characters are new, and the world is explained for Moist as well as for you. This is a must to have on your shelf!
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