These are reviews originally posted to Amazon as customer reviews. They're intended for entertainment and informational purposes only. (Apologies for any typos, bad grammar, or offensive language.) This isn't sponsored by Amazon or represent them in any way, although they do have a very nice site and I recommend checking it out for your next book purchase. Feel free to comment on the books if you've read them or tell me how much my reviews suck or whatever.
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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Going Postal

Going Postal
by Terry Pratchett
(4/5 stars)

A Gather friend suggested after I reviewed Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently books that I should give "Going Postal" by Terry Pratchett a try. So since I was at the bookstore with nothing else on my reading list, I decided to give it a try. And I was not disappointed. Pratchett's humorous take on fantasy was just what I was looking for after devouring Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series with its hilarious take on sci-fi.

"Going Postal" is actually the thirty-third entry in Pratchett's Discworld series according to Wikipedia. You might think starting with the thirty-third book in a series is a bad idea, but it's not really a sequel to its thirty-two predecessors, just another book set in the same world. In this case a flat world carried around by elephants on the back of an enormous turtle.

Right, so the book begins with Moist von Lipwig (his real name) being hung for various misdeeds committed throughout his long career as a con artist. But Moist does not die. Instead, he's offered by the local tyrant Lord Veniteri the job of running the decrepit post office system in the metropolis of Ankh-Morpork. Since the alternative is death, Moist takes the job as postmaster.

He soon discovers that death might have been preferable because the post office is a complete mess. Mail has been piled up to the point that most of the building in inaccessible. All the post office workers have fled except for "junior" postman Groat (who is an old man) and his dim-witted, pin-collecting sidekick Stanley--and Mr. Tiddles the cat. Much of the post office's decline is due to the new communicatins system known as "the clacks" which are towers using a sort of Morse code to send messages all over the Discworld in hours. With such instant communication possible, who needs to send a letter?

After Moist's attempt to escape from this job is thwarted by his golem bodyguard Mr. Pump, Moist decides to face up to the challenge of making the post office competitive. Falling back on his years as a con artist, Moist begins to generate public excitement by introducing a new invention called stamps. And wouldn't you know it, soon people are collecting these stamps, including Stanley. Moist's efforts are aided by saboteurs who want to shut down the clacks to put the greedy bankers who bought the clacks system from its naive inventors out of business.

As the post office begins to succeed, Moist expands his operations by hiring more golem workers from the very inappropriately-named Miss Adora Belle Dearheart. In typical fashion for this kind of story, Moist falls in love with Miss Dearheart and begins to take his post office job seriously. But the greedy owners of the clacks don't like competition and will do anything to put Moist out of commission for good.

This really is a very fun read and its messages about technology and corporate greed are pretty much pulled from today's headlines. What makes the book so great to read is that there is a serious message, but the story itself is never told in such a serious way to make it a drag. So you can have a good time and a few laughs and also learn a few things. What else could you ask for from a book? Well, there are one or two things, but let's not be too picky.

Given this is the first one of nearly forty in the series I've read I won't make too many generalizations about the series or any of that. If you want more background on that, go read the Wikipedia page on Discworld or I'm sure there are various groups, message boards, and websites around the Internet to help you. In the meantime I'm going to read a few more of these because this one really hit the spot.

That is all.

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