Book review: “Going Postal” by Terry Pratchett

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If you had a name like Moist von Lipwig, you would probably change it. Especially if you were a con artist with a forgettable face and a criminal mind. Moist changes more than his name. He changes his appearance, changes his address, and with his gift of persuasion he changes the net worth of a lot of people, usually by taking advantage of their innate greed. Through one scam after another Moist has become very rich, but he keeps working his trade anyway, because he enjoys doing it.

All that ends, however, when the Watch of Ankh-Morpork catches up with him. Arrested and tried under the alias Alfred Spangler, he is sentenced to be hanged. The rope goes around his neck. The floor drops out under his feet. The next thing Moist knows, he is sitting in the office of the Patrician. Lord Vetinari tells him that Alfred Spangler has been buried, but Moist von Lipwig has a chance to start over. The catch: he must get the city’s long-defunct Post Office back in working order. Four of Vetinari’s best men have died trying. If Moist follows their example, he won’t be missed. But if he succeeds…

Well, that could be pretty dangerous too. The revival of Post Office comes as bad news to the powerful, greedy, and unscrupulous owners of the Grand Trunk, the company that runs the clacks. Having carried out a hostile takeover and ruined the people who built the clacks, the directors want to get as much money out of it as they can before they run it into the ground. Then, they intend to sell it to themselves and make even more money off it. This especially goes for the evil Reacher Gilt, who doesn’t care how many dead bodies he has to step over. And if he has his way, one of those bodies will belong to Moist von Lipwig.

While the Grand Trunk teeters on the edge of collapse, haunted by the spirits of dead clacksmen, the Post Office has already gone over the edge. When Moist moves in, he finds a huge building stuffed with undelivered letters going back sixty years. The only postal employees are an old man who marinades himself in home remedies, a slightly disturbed youngster who worships pins, and a senile cat. Guarded by a golem parole officer, Moist quickly begins changing things. He invents postage stamps. He gets the mail coaches going again. He manages the maelstrom of publicity that begins to swirl around him.

Ancient postal workers come out of retirement. A new romance is kindled. Ghostly apparitions, fiery disasters, and heavily wagered races with the clacks keep things running at a thrilling pace. Elaborate tricks, grisly assassination attempts, and a mail sorting system that bends the laws of reality, add spice to a parade of Terry Pratchett’s most vibrant characters. When Discworld goes postal, it doesn’t go halfway. As it introduces yet another recurring hero to the Discworld universe, this book shows that even after 28 novels, Pratchett’s powers of invention are still matched only by the energy of his wit and the depth of his insights.

Recommended Age: 14+