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Terry Pratchett - Going PostalHere's my review for Going Postal - which was just out in PB when this was written - from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Universe:
Now here’s a book that somehow missed my desk in the Hardback form, so here’s a review of the Paperback instead. It’s the same book, honest. Just a little later (not like the Ankh Morpok Post, which sometimes delivers before the letter is posted). But a shame, really, as this is a very enjoyable book!

Albert Spangler, professional con man, is dead. He’s just been hanged. Now Lord Vetinari is sitting in front of him, claiming to be his Angel, and offering him the job of running the Ankh Morpok Post Office. Under his original name – Moist Von Lipwig (don’t smirk, he’s heard it all before). This, or death, for real this time. It’s a tough choice…
He’s given a parole officer – a Golem (named Pump 19, after what he did for centuries), who doesn’t sleep, always knows where he is… no escape. On the other hand, a Golem as bodyguard isn’t bad, either. And some people _do_ want to kill Moist.

The Post Office itself is dead. Stuffed to the hilt with drifts of undelivered letters, decades old. Under mounds of Pigeon Guano. And anything of value nicked long ago (hey, this is Ankh Morpok!).
All he has are two employees – Groat (old, but born in the Post Office. Knows everything about it. Never knew anything else), and Stanley, the PO boy, brought up by Peas (don’t ask), a Pinhead (he collects and trades Pins, especially pressing errors and rarities). Both a few letters short of a full mail bag, if you catch my drift. Excellent characters, though.

Moist does what he does best: He scams. Especially he scams the PO back into service, onto the front pages, and into the path of the Grand Trunk company who runs the clacks services. But not very well, given that they have a tendency to break down, whilst their Chairman spouts Corporate Bullshit (no relation to any real companies being ridden roughshod into the ground, of course).

The density of ideas and new concepts is quite high – it starts with con-artists running companies (ok, ok, NOT new), providing plenty of reflections on people, how gullible they are, and how painful experience is always overruled by Hope.
The ‘Signalers’ and Trunk Engineers are great – basically you have the usual set of Geeks, Nerds, Hackers, Crackers, Coders etc usually associated with hacking mythology and the Jargon File.
Another topic is the power of words… and of responsibility as a transformative force. Plus you get alternative universes with a different set of geometry, courtesy of Bloody Stupid Johnson…

OK, so what about the book? Is it just another Discworld book (number 29, according to the blurb), concerned with cybernetics or the beginnings thereof? Basically yes. In a good way. And, just for reference, some of the technology is a follow-up of Lieutenant Blouse’s ideas in ‘Monstrous Regiment’ (go read it, great book).
There are some surprises and mysteries, but overall this is a straight forward story, with echoes of the magic Victor used in ‘Moving Pictures’ (go read it, excellent book!)
It’s enjoyable, sometimes even chuckle-inducing… not as great as Thud (go read it, yet another enjoyable one), but then few are. If you like Discworld and you haven’t read it yet then get it, it’s an inspired take on the topic. Or, if you have an interest in cybernetics, message transfer protocols, consulting jargon spewing zombies, the dark ages of computing, or the topic of Honesty (or something like it) then this might be your thing, too.

More Terry Pratchett



Title: Going Postal
Series: Discworld
Series Number: 29
Author: Terry Pratchett
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL: http://skating.thierstein.net
Publisher: Corgi
Publisher URL: http://www.corgibooks.co.uk/
Publication Date: 2005
Review Date: February 3 2006
ISBN: 0552149438
Price: UKP6.99

 

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