Going Postal – Terry Pratchett

“Who would put a known criminal in charge of a major Government service – apart of course from the average voter?”

The Patrician of Ankh Morpork tries his own version of community service by offering yet another new Discworld character – Moist von Lipwig, convicted fraudster – a job for life: i.e. if he accepts the job he gets to keep his life as well.

“To go postal” means to go berserk, and this our (anti)hero duly does when he learns than all of his predecessors in his new job predeceased him, not many years ago, as he was led to believe, but last month. So, shorn of the protective armour that were his numerous false identities, lumbered with a golem parole officer that always knows exactly where he is, Moist von Lipwig needs all his considerable ingenuity to survive.

Just to liven things up, he rapidly succeeds in acquiring a very powerful enemy: another crook, another conman, but unlike Moist – who prides himself on never having caused anyone physical harm – this man has been known to have opponents who have… met with sudden accidents.

A tale of personal and social redemption then, with the central character a man who looks on fraud and cheating as a game, his speciality being profiting from other peoples’ greed. The plot follows his progress as he reluctantly learns to use his skills for legal purposes and, ultimately, triumph over the real villain and hopefully win the heart of the heroine – though this latter might possibly be easier if his antics in one of his many past lives hadn’t led to her losing her job.

Mr Pratchett applies his usual mix of humour and humanism, well-laced with social and cultural references, to great effect. The pace is maintained throughout, the characterisation spot-on and the obligatory resident delightful oddball (when the time comes for the book to be filmed, old character actors will probably be fighting for the chance to play Tolliver Groat). All in all, one of the best Discworld novels and highly recommended.

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