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Going Postal - Terry Pratchett
Member Name: storageheater
Going Postal - Terry Pratchett
Date: 02/01/05, updated on 02/05/05 (75 review reads)
Advantages: it's a terry pratchett novel!
Disadvantages: it's the 33rd terry pratchett novel!
Terry Pratchett's thirty-third novel. That's quite something. I've loved nearly all of his books, and the sheer quantity of quality he produces buoys up the imperfect ones well. But this one - this is the first one I read that I felt a lot like I'd seen it all before. There's something uninspired here. It contains jokes. It contains warmth and humanity. It has a nifty idea for a main plot. But it doesn't feel fresh at all.
Take the main character. He's a genius of (admittedly fairly petty) crime, a people person extraodinaire, rising manfully to the challenge of restoring the post. Immediately I felt there was a big comparison to, amongst others, the Watch books (Commander Vimes, manfully restoring the Watch - given several books in which to explore fully and satisfyingly every aspect). In fact, our hero, Moist certainly doesn't have much choice in what he does at first, which takes rather a lot of personality out of him. He has an acerbic, practical love interest (who could be Susan Death, or quite a few of his female characters, quite frankly) who serves no other purpose except to be token female and slot neatly into a jaw-droppingly lazy coincidence at the end of the story.
There are also too many themes that are left undeveloped here. The central theme of Big Business ruining the Little People is finely done, but jostles for attention somewhat. It touches on racism and slavery - a risky move that he's pulled off well in asides and footnotes before - but here is unable to make it relevant or touching. The magic of many words in one place is an inspired extension from the Library magic, and yet isn't central at all to the novel, despite some indication in the first half that it would be. Overall there's a pilot-episode feel to this novel, as if someone had tried to shorten a whole series into one feature length introduction. This is particularly odd when you consider that his more standalone novels (ie those that arent part of a definite thread, like the earlier Witch, Wizard and Death novels were) are often his cleverest and funniest work.
The supporting cast of postal staff seem to be tired in every sense - there's the ancient duffer who knows the old secrets and the young fool who can be trained into usefulness. Again, strikingly similar to structures that have been used before in the Discworld. Add to that the feeling that some of the jokes are really shoehorned into place - the Discworld has been steadily becoming more and more a world where things are copied from our World, rather than twisted amusingly. Is this part of some plan for future Discworld books? Perhaps there's an idea that he wishes to use but doesn't fit into the Discworld as it stands yet, and so the Discworld is being given its own version of everything from our world in preparation...
I really can't recommend this book. I want to (because it's not a bad book by any means) but assuming that diehard fans will buy it anyway, I'm writing for people who have never read his work before, and he's done so much better than this. Wait for paperback, or borrow it from the library. Or spend the money on any of his others at random!