Review

Going Postal Discworld, Book #29

by Terry Pratchett



You can count on Terry Pratchett to introduce a character in the
first chapter that will be the one to watch as the pages turn. In
the case of the unfortunately named Moist von Lipwig, any
consummate Discworld fan is going to doubt that he's the one. That
is because Moist, or Alfred Spangler (which is what appears on his
death warrant), is about to be hanged by the neck until dead.
Rather soon, as it turns out.

On Discworld, one does not actually have to be alive to be a
featured character. One could be a zombie, for instance, or a
werewolf or even a vampire. Assistants to DEATH have ridden with
the grim reaper on his white steed Binky through many an adventure
in what may be the strangest parallel universe to Earth ever
devised by an author --- one with tongue planted firmly in
cheek.

In this case, Moist, a.k.a. Alfred, survives the hanging --- no
spoiler here --- to find himself on the horns of a dilemma as he
faces the indomitable Patrician, Lord Vetinari. When he regains
consciousness in Lord Vetinari's office, he believes himself to be
dead. Instead, because he escaped death as deftly as he had escaped
capture until this fateful last encounter with the law, he is
presented with an option: accept the position of Postmaster of
Ankh-Morpork or open Door Number Two. The alternative is unknown
but sinister enough for our hero to decide that joining the forces
of the intrepid postmen is an offer he cannot refuse. As an expert
con man and deceiver (the very skill that found him on the gallows
in the first place), he figures he can split from Ankh-Morpork and
the clutches of Lord Vetinari any time he tires of being a member
of the bureaucracy.

He figures wrong, of course. Watched over by a bodyguard, who has
made it clear that he possesses surveillance powers hitherto
undreamed of, Moist reluctantly puts his shoulder to the wheel. He
inherits a post office and its remaining two employees, a shiny
suit and hat, a bank of dusty machinery, and floors and floors of
undelivered mail.

Moist is at last gainfully employed for the first time in his life,
which could end at any moment, given the number of chalk outlines
on the post office floor of recent Postmasters. He discovers that
dead letters are not so much dead as they are bereft of purpose.
They must convey their messages, postal service or no postal
service.

GOING POSTAL may be Terry Pratchett's most ingenious fictional
invention yet. His satiric wit is honed to a fine edge as he takes
a poke at bureaucracy, political chicanery, power mongers,
organized crime, despots, fraternal organizations and mass
information systems. One is tempted to compare Ankh-Morpork's
arcane means of communication with the Pony Express or perhaps our
early telegraph. But then there are those towers and the nerdy
clackers, semaphore dweebs who live and breathe sending and
receiving messages and deciphering codes and finding back doors to
"clack" into private communiqu├ęs. Meanwhile, the trusty, dusty
letter has been relegated to ignominy and it's Moist's sworn duty
to bring it back.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 22, 2011

Going Postal Discworld, Book #29
by Terry Pratchett

  • Publication Date: September 28, 2004
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0060013133
  • ISBN-13: 9780060013134