Going Postal by Terry Pratchett. ★★★★★
Going Postal is the thirty-third Discworld novel and a fairly good one to start with as it follows a new character. There’s some references to other characters, but new readers should have no trouble keeping up.
Moist von Lipwig is a conman and a thief, and he’s about to die. But when the noose goes around his neck, he wakes up again… in a government job. Lord Vetinari has tasked him with reviving the defunct postal service as an alternative to the increasingly corrupt and broken clacks. With no way to run, Moist must turn all his skills towards the task, because the Grand Clacks company is not a fan of the competition…
Going Postal is a novel about that greatest treasure of all, hope.
“Moist recognized that hope. It was how he’d made his living. You knew. that the man running the Find the Lady game was going to win, you knew that people in distress didn’t sell diamond rings for a fraction of their value, you knew that life generally handed you the sticky end of the stick…
Except that, this time, you might be wrong, right? It might just happen, yes?”
It’s also a novel about freedom, including the freedom to take the consequences. It’s a novel about life, including all the spiky pineapple bits. But you never know, under those spikes there might just be peaches. There probably won’t be. But there could be.
I have a certain soft spot for heist stories. I love reading about thieves and con artists as protagonist, and Moist was perfect for me. He lives for the thrill of the heist and isn’t quite sure how to be himself and not a persona. He steals for excitement and everything’s just a game to him. Part of Going Postal is him learning that his actions have hurt people.
“I wonder if it’s like this for mountain climbers, he thought. You climb bigger and bigger mountains and you know that one day one of them is going to be just that bit too steep. But you go on doing it, because it’s so-o good when you breathe the air up there. And you know you’ll die falling.”
While Moist is obviously at the center of the narrative, Pratchett’s side characters never fail to delight. Vetinari has a rather large appearance, and I love a newly introduced character, Adora Belle Dearheart, who works for the Golem Trust.
Going Postal is well plotted and structured. It’s divided into chapters with subheadings, which is a first for the adult novels of the Discworld series (the YA books have chapters). It’s focused almost exclusively on Moist and the post office, and there’s no tangential side plots that clutter up some of the earlier novels.
“Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?”
Pratchett is an incredible writer and Going Postal shines with his phrasing and word play. And as always, the story is embedded with warmth and humanity.
I would recommend Going Postal to everyone, particularly people looking for an introduction to the Discworld series.