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Going Postal    by Terry Pratchett order for
Going Postal
by Terry Pratchett
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Terry Pratchett's latest satirical Discworld adventure reminded me of a cross between David Brin's post-apocalyptic Postman and The Sting. Unlike the previous Monstrous Regiment, this episode is set back in Ankh-Morpork, ruled somewhat benevolently by dictator Lord Vetinari, who pulls the strings of more than one player in Going Postal.

We meet con artist Moist von Lipwig as he's about to be hanged. Though he hopes desperately for a last minute reprieve, it doesn't happen. Nevertheless (don't ask me how, just read the book) he does end up with a choice - death, or a fate even worse, the job of 'postmaster general of the Ankh-Morpork Post Office.' What's a con man to do? He takes the job, of course (well, after an attempt at flight foiled by a golem named 'Mr. Pump'). It's a challenge - the Post Office building is drowning in decades of undelivered mail, most of it 'under a thick layer of pigeon guano'. It's become a 'tomb of living words', which have begun affecting 'time and space'. The two remaining postal employees are 1) very elderly and very smelly and 2) an obsessive pin collector.

Suffice it to say that our hero rises to the many challenges thrown his way, from avalanches of mail and a top floor time warp, to an assassination attempt and his unrequited feelings for golem rights activist Adora Belle Dearheart. The evil villain (there has to be an evil villain) of the piece is suave Reacher Gilt, who runs the Grand Trunk Company that mismanages the high tech (for Discworld) 'clacks' communication system. It's down more than it's up, and Ms. Dearheart's brother John was murdered after challenging the bad guys. The new Postmaster General fears that he's met his match - he admires his enemy's ability to manipulate the masses, 'the way perfectly innocent words were mugged, ravaged, stripped of all true meaning and decency and then sent to walk the gutter for Reacher Gilt'.

But von Lipwig pulls the ultimate sting and sends a message from the dead that does in Gilt. Our hero realizes that he was indeed the man for a job that 'needed a twisty corkscrew'. He gets the girl, and he even gets a new job ... but that's another story, at least I hope so. Terry Pratchett takes readers on yet another magic carpet ride, his irony and wit dizzying, in Going Postal.

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