I dove blindly into the Discworld series with Going Postal, Book #33 of 40 (as of June 2015). I was a little concerned about not starting at the beginning, but since author Terry Pratchett himself recommended against starting with Book #1, and since several fans said that this relatively highly-rated installment was as good a place as any, I took the plunge.
From what I gather, Discworld is a medieval fantasy world with creatures like golems (giant, indestructible gingerbread men with eyes of fire), nymphs, trolls, dragons, wizards, witches, zombies, werewolves, gnomes, Igors, gargoyles, imps, orangutans, banshees, and humanoids.
Going Postal, I think, deals mainly in humanoids and golems with a few wizards sprinkled in toward the end. It tells the tale of Moist von Lipwig, a self-described natural-born criminal, habitual liar, fraudster, and totally untrustworthy perverted genius, who is given a chance by Lord Vetinari, the despotic ruler of Ankh-Morpork, one of the hottest growing cities in the land, to make up for all his past wrongs by doing some right as the postmaster general of the defunct Ankh-Morpork Post Office.
With flotillas of the dead on underwater rivers and a sham hanging, Going Postal starts fast, raising Hope and expectations, before stalling as we come to the realization that it is a story about the revival of a post office. It’s hard to imagine a more uninteresting plot.
Hope is briefly revived two-thirds of the way through as focus shifts from the rebuilding of the post office (a plucky public enterprise for the good of the masses) to competition against the evil Grand Trunk Company (representing greedy corporations and money-grubbing hedge funds). But what little glimmer of Hope there was here flatlines once and for all as the story devolves into a not particularly interesting or funny 2,000 mile race between the post office’s horse drawn carriage and the evil Grand Trunk Company’s clacks towers, which deliver messages slower than email but faster than jets.
Frankly, I thought Lord Vetinari should have been taking advantage of readily available magic to deliver messages rendering both companies (and this tale) obsolete.
But what I can say in favor of Going Postal is that it’s well-written with well-defined characters and flashes of creativity. Plus, there are also some nice jabs at pedantic bureaucrats who don’t sweep up pigeon shit because it’s not mentioned in the Regulations as well as against dubious Chinese walls employed by investment banks.
A somewhat neutral point would be Pratchett’s affinity for ‘humorous’ names (put in quotes because they should probably be called ‘cute’ in a condescending way) like Reacher Gilt, Crispin Horsefry, Corporal Nobby Nobbs, Joe Camels, Mrs. Goodbody (an obese lady with warts; how ironic!), Iodine Maccalariat, Mad Al, Sane Alex, Devious H. Collabone, Grievous Bodily Harmsworth, and Grandad (a 26-years-old; isn’t that a gas?!).
While these ‘humorous’ names didn’t do it for me, if employing them will help you sell a fuckton of books, I’m game to give it a try. Plus, it seemed pretty easy, and anyone who knows John Box knows that John Box loves easy. So here goes:
Spatula Frypan, Magnus Squatthrust, Terra Bullpain, Ima Wordsmith, Iron Nick Prayze, Beanstalk Morningwood, Billy Veeble, Billy Veeble’s North Korean twin brother Un Billy Veeble, Cutebottom Notits, Vegemite Mesopotamia, Everlast Wanking, and Rich Asshole.
Looks like it’s on to the comedic fantasy genre for this guy ;)
Anyhoo, going hand in hand with ‘humorous’ names are bad puns, which rear their ugly heads in Going Postal. The most offensive are those based on the boring pin-collecting hobby of an oddball postal worker. You might be able to defend inclusion of the lame hobby as being ironically funny (it is not), but there is no excuse for the cringe-inducing puns. As punishment, Pratchett should be lynchpinned.
You see what I mean with shitty puns?
The postman-dog jokes sucked too.
But a saving grace was the overall theme of Hope … and the trail of devastation it often leaves behind.
For instance, if upon reading Moist von Lipwig’s self-description about what a perverted genius he is, you begin hoping to read some funny and entertaining tales along those lines, you’d probably be gutted to find that the self-description itself was more interesting than anything that actually happens in the entire book.
The bottom line is that it’s hard to give a shit about the revival of a post office. Unless it’s somehow really really funny. Going Postal is not.
Also, it’s a little long. 3 Pearls.
Bonus Quote: That was an important rule of any game: always make it easy for people to give you money.
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