My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Going Postal is an utterly delightful book to read. My last Discworld novel wasn’t as good, so I was hoping for a return to form by Pratchett, and I am not disappointed. The book is a prequel to one I read a few weeks ago — Making Money — that I enjoyed just as much.
Going Postal is about con artist Moist von Lipwig, who is about to be hanged for his various crimes, until Patrician Vetinari, tyrant of Ankh-Morpork, gives him a new lease on life. Lipwig can hang until dead or he can take over the defunct Ankh-Morpork Post Office and use his many skills to fix things up. He, not too surprisingly, chooses the Post Office, and so his new life begins. Upon going there, he finds a broken down old building that hasn’t been in use in decades and that is filled to capacity with letters dating back decades. There are also two employees, Stanley and Groat, both of whom seem to lack some semblance of sanity. Vetinari has also given Lipwig a golem, Mr Punch, as a probation officer/servant. They make an interesting pair.
Well, Lipwig sets out to transform the Post Office. He starts by delivering an old letter from an old man who wrote it 40 years ago, asking for the hand in marriage of his sweetheart. She never got it, they never married, life moves on. Except that now that he has this letter, it’s delivered to the woman and as they’re both widowed, they decide to get married after all these years and make a big deal about it, which makes the papers. Lipwig then visits the Golem Trust, run by a feisty young woman whom he romances in the book, and gets her to donate several golems for mail delivery. Additionally, some of the old (okay, ancient) staff return to help out.
The primary form of communication on the Discworld is through clackers, and they’re run by the Grand Trunk, owned and operated by rich crooks. It’s like a cross between cell phones and email. They have towers throughout the countryside where they send and receive messages in code and “crackers” can hack in and disrupt things. The problem with the Grand Trunk is that it’s expensive and it’s always broken down. So Lipwig decides to go head to head against them and offers to deliver any message they can’t for considerably less, setting off a firestorm of publicity and controversy. Additionally, he comes up with the brilliant idea of creating “stamps” that people can buy for various denominations that, when stamped by the post office, will get their letters delivered. Amazing. Soon, all of Ankh-Morpork is bustling about the Post Office and everything looks good. Until it’s burned by arson. Von Lipwig pulls off a masterful stunt of publicity by publicly praying to the gods for $150,000 to rebuild the Post Office, goes out of town to dig up exactly that much that he had buried some time before from one heist or another, and the town thinks he virtually a god himself when he returns with the money. Brilliant. Soon, it all comes down to a challenge between the Trust and the Post Office — who can deliver a message to a far off country first? It’s about two months away by coach and hours away by clacker. Lipwig assures everyone he will get there first and people bet on him to do it. I won’t tell you how he pulls it off, but he does and winds up the hero, ending a great tale.
This book is chock full of Pratchett’s standard brand of Monty Python-esque humor, witticisms, and satire. There are a lot of laughs in this book. And of course, as is typical of Pratchett, he injects enough of our world into it to make the Discworld seem realistic and to show how silly ours sometimes is. This is the 12th Discworld book I’ve read and I’m reading them out of order, but they’re all good enough to stand on their own. If you want a fun, quick read, I certainly recommend this book. You can’t go wrong with it.