Going Postal

January 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm (Reads) ()

Going PostalGoing Postal by Terry Pratchett

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I’ll probably lose some geek-cred by saying so, but this is only the third Terry Pratchett book I’ve read (fourth, if you count Good Omens).  I read The Colour of Magic many years ago when I was still in high school, and didn’t think much of it.  Later, I read Equal Rites, and found it to be more interesting, but not enough to make me go back and read the other books in the series.  Another 10-plus years has passed, and I’ve read my third book, Going Postal.  How does it make me feel about the series?

Well, it was good.  I mean, it was funny, but it was also serious.  By that, I mean that it had some humorous moments and situations, but the plot was something to take seriously.  It wasn’t like a Looney Tunes cartoon where a character gets shot by a rifle and gets back up to make a joke about it.  When folks in the book die, they die.  Well … mostly. 

See, Going Postal opens with Moist von Lipwig, a sentenced con man, about to be hanged for his crimes.  The first chapter is a running internal monologue by his character, covering his past enough to give a brief overview of his past, his personality, and what he’s about to face.  And at the end of that chapter, he dies.  Well … he’s hanged.  The thing is, the person being hanged isn’t known as Moist von Lipwig; he’s known by one of his aliases, so when that person dies, Moist von Lipwig is still available to step in and do some work for the Ankh-Morpork government.  And Moist is given the choice to take on the role of Postmaster for the post office, or die a real death.  But from that point onward, if a character dies in the story, he doesn’t pop up with a witty quip; he stays dead.

I was surprised to find that the novel had something to say outside of being just a wacky fantasy story.  Pratchett makes a commentary about digital versus traditional communications, and how we sacrifice humanity for speed of delivery as he pits the traditional Ankh-Morpork post office against the local, corrupt telegraph company.  It helps give the novel a lasting impression beyond the story itself.  And even the story itself is pretty dang good.

So, will I read the others?  Maybe.  The series is up to 39 books now, which is a little intimidating.  I mean, I’m reluctant to pick up The Wheel of Time because I don’t want to be locked in to reading fourteen books, so it’s hard to imagine reading 37 more.  But the reason I picked up Going Postal is because I heard it was easy to read as a standalone book in the series.  Can anyone recommend others that follow that characteristic?

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2 Comments

  1. R. N. Dominick said,

    Discworld isn’t a 39-book series, it’s a set of 39 books in several parallel series. As such, it’s not strictly necessary to read them in any kind of order.

    Going Postal has a sequel, Making Money, and another one (possibly?) on the way (Raising Taxes). Making Money is just as good as Going Postal was. (The BBC also did a miniseries adaptation of Going Postal that’s well worth watching.)

    The traditional stand-alone just-getting-into-it recommendation is Small Gods. I’ve had a lot of luck with that one.

    Chances are, if you like Going Postal, you’ll like the “Guards” books, starting with “Guards! Guards!” They’re my favorite of the serious Discworld books.

    Here’s a handy, slightly-more-confusing-than-it-should-be reading order guide.

  2. Isaac said,

    Ah, that’s good to know, and certainly makes a difference in how I approach the series. In fact, while at the library today, I saw Making Money and saw that it had Moist in it, so decided to give it a go.

    Thanks for the summation!

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