Going Postal

Guys. I’m ridiculously late on the Terry Pratchett train. I read Good Omens in high school when Mia foisted it upon me(I think? I’m pretty sure that, along with the Sir Apropos of Nothing books was one of the first things I read because Mia Said So), and then read everything else Neil Gaiman had ever written, but somehow never got around to Pratchett. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me that I missed the first few times the train came by, but I’m absolutely delighted to have caught it now. Braden picked up Going Postal after we watched Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather on Christmas Eve with his folks, told me I’d like it, and jumped in line ahead of the books Mia sent me by the sheer oddity of quotes he had been tossing at me.

Going Postal is a Discworld book, which I think is actually the thing that had scared me off Pratchett previously. Almost everything he writes is in the Discworld universe, and I had always thought it’d be a bit of a commitment to get into, but apparently, you can read the books in any which order you’d like. There might be some of the same characters, there might even be continuing plot, but the books are self-contained. I found Going Postal to be an absolutely delightful place to start.

Moist von Lipwig(yes, really) is essentially brilliant at fooling people, although at the beginning of the book, we find him about to be hanged for stealing quite a large sum of money from the bank. In fact, we see Moist hang within the first few pages. Before you yell spoilers, really, what happens after that is what makes the book. Rather than being properly dead, Moist is “saved”, as it were, by Patrician Vetinari, and given a choice. Either take the position of postmaster at the defunct post office, or walk out through a door that leads to a rather long fall. Moist, ever the clever one, takes the position, attempts to escape, is brought back to the city, and then takes the position.

The characters in this book are utterly delightful. My favorite is probably Mr.Pump, a golem who is Moist’s parole officer and assistant, to keep up the appearance of not being a criminal. Mr.Pump, being a golem, is rather matter of fact in his communication, and pronounces the capital letters at the beginning of each word.

This is one of those books that fails the Bechedel test in retrospect, but I didn’t mind it while reading. I sort of…expect it in fantasy books, to be honest, which is sad. Pratchett is delightful and funny, and altogether creates a rather fun cast, if not necessarily evenly weighted across genders. There are some other problematic sections too: there’s a bit towards the end describing one of the cronies of the competing message delivery service’s fat that’s done is a way that made me uncomfortable, but it was short and it was not too terrible to move on from.

Overall, this book was a very needed switch-up from The Handmaid’s Tale. The pervasive humor is so very British in a way that tickled me. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and would certainly recommend it to any one as a way to get to know Pratchett’s writing. Also, prior to writing this review, I didn’t know their was a two-part TV special of the book, so now I know what I’m doing next time Braden asks me what I want to watch with dinner! Mwahhaa!


5 thoughts on “Going Postal

  1. I can’t believe I never heard about the Bechdel test before– a good name for a pervasvive phenomenon! Pratchett’s books– particularly the ones about the wizards or the Night Watch– are often lacking in female voices. Monsterous Regiment and some of the books about the witches (Witches Abroad, Equal Rites, Lords and Ladies) make a stab at correcting the gender-balance, but I don’t know.

    Thrilled that you’ve discovered Pratchett! I love him for his humor, but the more sociological theory I’m exposed to, the more I suspect Pratchett’s even more brilliant than I knew before. He has to be familiar with some of these ideas! Discworld’s cultures are constantly evolving (ugh, static culture: a standard in fantasy, and an incredibly annoying one!), and there’s a reciprocity to every interaction, whether it’s between character and character, character and landscape, character and material objects, and character and ideas. Everything is a character capable of interaction and change, from the Patrician to the actual cobblestones of the Ankh-Morpork streets to the idea battle of Koom Valley. Pratchett satire is some of the best I’ve read, partly because there’s an extra layer to almost everything.

    That said, he’s hilarious, and it’ll be a sadder world once he’s gone. If you’re looking for more Pratchett (though I’m sure Mia has her own recommendations!), my current favorites are ‘The Truth,’ ‘Night Watch,’ ‘Monsterous Regiment,’ and ‘Thud!’ Oh! And ‘Feet of Clay’ (also good!) does a bit with constructs of gender and sexuality, which might interest you?


    • Oooh, thanks for all the advice of which ones to pick up. I’m definitely interested in gender constructs so maybe I’ll pick up Feet of Clay next time I’m down a book to read.

    • Aw, that is sad. But I respect his right to choose: I would imagine for a mind that brilliant, it would be incredibly unbearable to lose the brightness that makes the words come like that. I know Alzheimer’s is being studied substantially, so maybe a break through will happen to give us a bit more time with the man and his stories. 🙂

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