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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Making Money

Making Money (Discworld Series, Volume 36)

By Terry Pratchett

(3/5 stars)

At last we come to the end, at least until October when the next volume in the Discworld series comes out. For now though, I’ve read all of the adult Discworld novels in the series, concluding with “Making Money” the second installment to feature conman Moist von Lipwig.

Last time we saw Moist in “Going Postal” he was charged with resurrecting the post office in the metropolis of Ankh-Morpork and in the process found himself going straight. A little time has gone by since then, with Moist still engaged to golem rights advocate Adora Belle Dearhardt and managing the post office efficiently. A little too efficiently really, as Moist has the itch for his old criminal ways that he scratches by breaking into his office at night and picking every possible lock in the place. Fortunately the city’s uncontested tyrant Lord Vetinari has a solution: he wants Moist to take over the Royal Bank and shake up the system to meet modern times.

Now here is where we have to branch out into the hypothetical story on the book jacket and what actually happens.

On the book jacket it sounds like Moist is going to take over the bank and start printing paper money. Until then the city has relied on the gold standard, using a variety of coins for its money. By introducing paper money and taking Ankh-Morpork off the gold standard, he makes new enemies and runs into dangerous situations.

What actually happens is that probably a quarter of the book is spent just getting Moist into the bank and introducing all the key players like Mr. Bent, the manager who can add pages of numbers with only a glance and worships gold like a god, and the Lavish family who run the bank, especially Cosmo, who wants to make himself into Lord Vetinari. At the same time, Adora and her Golem Trust have found some ancient golems, who make things very interesting. The rest of the story involves an audit and recriminations about missing gold—and the golems. As for the paper money, it doesn’t come along until the very last chapter of the book.

So like one of Moist’s customers for cheap diamond rings, I feel a bit cheated here. This wasn’t exactly the book I thought I was going to read. Admittedly it still is a fun read, but I kept thinking, “When are we going to get to the money? WHEN?” The actual running of the bank, the story promised on the jacket, seems like it’s going to happen off the pages. No matter how good the rest of the book is, it’s hard not to feel disappointed by that. Though I suppose a conman like Moist can’t be any more outrageous than the Lavish family who were running the bank.

What saves this book for me, and made me really, REALLY want to give it four stars against all reason, is that I like the Moist character. Having now read the entire series, he reminds me mostly of Rincewind the cowardly wizard. Like Rincewind, Moist is that breed of noble coward who doesn’t want to help anyone but seems to end up doing so anyway. Whereas Rincewind achieved this by running away from danger, Moist does it by using his very persuasive mouth. That’s what makes them both fun antiheroes, unlike those brave, strapping heroes in most fantasy novels. And for personal reasons the idea of accountants traveling around like gypsies has me laughing so hard I needed an Igor to stitch me back together. So overall it’s not a bad addition to the series (and provided Pratchett’s health holds up long enough he’s already sown the seeds for a third Moist adventure) but there have been better among these 36 volumes.

And that does it. Overall I have greatly enjoyed this series because not only are the books a lot of fun, but there’s a lot of wisdom to be garnered from them as well. Even “Making Money” seems ripped from today’s headlines with all the trouble in the real banking system. To do smart and funny takes a special talent and Pratchett is indeed very talented.

That is all.

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