Book Thirty-Three of the Discworld Series
Book One of Moist von Lipwig
by Terry Pratchett
Fantasy | 352 Pages | First published by Doubleday in 2004
| TL;DR |
Going Postal tells the tale of Moist von Lipwig – con artist, thief and professional liar. When his innumerable crimes finally catch up with him, he is offered the position of Postmaster General in return for his life, a position which might just be trying to kill him anyway. Tasked with restoring the defunct Ankh-Morpork Post Office, Moist von Lipwig has one chance to prove himself as he goes head to head with Discworld’s biggest corporation.
With Junior Postmen, golems and letters aplenty, Going Postal is a madcap tale that delights in absurdity and is nothing short of a joy to read from beginning to end. Exquisitely written and absurdly funny throughout, the thirty third addition to the Discworld series couldn’t be more highly recommended.
| Synopsis |
Moist von Lipwig is a con artist…
… and a fraud and a man faced with a life choice: be hanged, or put Ankh-Morpork’s ailing postal service back on its feet.
It’s a tough decision.
The post is a creaking old institution, overshadowed by new technology. But there are people who still believe in it, and Moist must become one of them if he’s going to see that the mail gets through, come rain, hail, sleet, dogs, the Post Office Workers Friendly and Benevolent Society, an evil chairman . . . and a midnight killer.
Getting a date with Adora Bell Dearheart would be nice, too.
So perhaps there is a shot at redemption in the mad world of the mail, waiting for a man who’s prepared to push the envelope . . .
| Review |
Con-artist, swindler and thief – Moist von Lipwig was extremely good at his job, that was until he wasn’t. Arrested and sentenced to death for his innumerable crimes, he no longer has any tricks left up his sleeve.
But as the hangman’s noose tightens around his neck and the world turns black, a new opportunity emerges. Lord Vetinari, supreme ruler of Ankh-Morpork, will grant Moist a reprieve if he should accomplish a deceptively simple task. As Ankh-Morpork’s new Postmaster General, Moist von Lipwig must restore the Post Office to its rightful position as the preeminent messenger service of the city – a job easier said than done.
The Post Office is a tired, derelict building overflowing with thousands of undelivered letters; his staff amount to one ancient Junior Postman and one Apprentice Postman with an unhealthy obsession for pins; his predecessors have all met untimely and often gruesome deaths; and he must go in direct competition with the business behemoth, The Grand Trunk Semaphore Company
But if anyone can con an entire city into believing he actually knows what he is doing, then Moist von Lipwig can. Aided by his unfortunate staff, an ever watchful golem, and the chain-smoking Adora Belle Dearheart, Moist von Lipwig may just be able to deliver. His life most assuredly depends upon it.
Discworld is ever an analogy for our own world and our own human failings, and Going Postal is no exception. It pokes fun of petty bureaucracy, of unnecessary rules and regulations, and of our inclination towards the absurd. It is a brilliant satire that feels all too British and all too familiar, and acutely demonstrates the genius of Terry Pratchett’s wit and observation.
From pin collectors to stamp collectors to clacks enthusiasts, Going Postal turns the mundane into a bright and witty narrative that becomes ever the more humorous the closer to reality it gets. Refreshing in both its plot and in its delivery, this is a novel that revels in the ridiculous as it takes the reader on a not entirely sane journey through Ankh-Morpork’s establishment.
The city of Ankh-Morpork, its crumbling Post Office and its ever more deficient postal service are described in vivid detail from the perspective of an outsider to the city. And in this somewhat derelict building occupied by the (perhaps quite literal) ghosts of thousands of undelivered letters, Moist von Lipwig more than proves his mettle in a surprising narrative that is laced with phantoms, intrigue and the occasional letter.
The progressive and prosperous clacks towers – something akin to a gargantuan version of Chappe’s Telegraph – thread their way across the city and out to destinations afar, and provide the reader with a sense of the enormity and impossibility of the task at hand. They – the unforgiving Grand Trunk Semaphore Company and their prolific director Reacher Gilt – also play the role of chief adversary in this tale, stirring up long held anger and providing Moist with an unpleasant reflection of his own unsavoury past.
And even if the insanely brilliant plot and richly developed world weren’t enough, Mr. Pratchett suffuses his tale with a myriad of madcap, brilliant characters that more than steal the show throughout. Our protagonist, Moist von Lipwig is a conman, a thief and a liar but he also plays an important role as the eyes – and sometimes the voice – of the reader as he experiences Ankh-Morpork, the Post Office and the strange people who inhabit it.
Supported by the ageing Junior Postman Tolliver Groat, who has a penchant for the Regulations and dangerous home remedies, Apprentice Postman Stanley, who has an unhealthy obsession with pins, and Adora Belle Dearheart, Manager of The Golem Trust, the character of Moist von Lipwig is only made more brilliant, more astute and more likeable by their apparent absurdity. And the ever watchful and knowing presence of Lord Vetinari, who plays the role of puppet master so deftly and in such an eloquent manner, unashamedly charms with his darkly manipulative character.
Terry Pratchett has a created a flawlessly brilliant novel with a vibrancy and humour that suffuses the narrative from beginning to end. His wit is sharp, his writing is punchy and to the point, and his prose conjures a world of sheer bureaucratic brilliance that both mocks and endears us to The Ankh-Morpork Post Office, and perhaps even our own real-world equivalent.
The thirty-third addition to the Discworld collection is anything but stale, providing a refreshing and brilliantly witty tale that both surprised and captivated me throughout. For fans of Discworld old and new, Going Postal couldn’t come more highly recommended. Never have three hundred odd pages felt so few.