Going Postal (Discworld Series #33)

Going Postal (Discworld Series #33)

4.6 116
by Terry Pratchett
     
 

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Arch-swindler Moist Van Lipwig never believed his confidence crimes were hanging offenses—until he found himself with a noose tightly around his neck, dropping through a trapdoor, and falling into...a government job?

By all rights, Moist should have met his maker. Instead, it's Lord Vetinari, supreme ruler of Ankh-Morpork, who promptly offers him a job as

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Overview

Arch-swindler Moist Van Lipwig never believed his confidence crimes were hanging offenses—until he found himself with a noose tightly around his neck, dropping through a trapdoor, and falling into...a government job?

By all rights, Moist should have met his maker. Instead, it's Lord Vetinari, supreme ruler of Ankh-Morpork, who promptly offers him a job as Postmaster. Since his only other option is a nonliving one, Moist accepts the position—and the hulking golem watchdog who comes along with it, just in case Moist was considering abandoning his responsibilities prematurely.

Getting the moribund Postal Service up and running again, however, may be a near-impossible task, what with literally mountains of decades-old undelivered mail clogging every nook and cranny of the broken-down post office building; and with only a few creaky old postmen and one rather unstable, pin-obsessed youth available to deliver it. Worse still, Moist could swear the mail is talking to him. Worst of all, it means taking on the gargantuan, money-hungry Grand Trunk clacks communication monopoly and its bloodthirsty piratical head, Mr. Reacher Gilt.

But it says on the building neither rain nor snow nor glo m of ni t...Inspiring words (admittedly, some of the bronze letters have been stolen), and for once in his wretched life Moist is going to fight. And if the bold and impossible are what's called for, he'll do it—in order to move the mail, continue breathing, get the girl, and specially deliver that invaluable commodity that every human being (not to mention troll, dwarf, and, yes, even golem) requires: hope.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
British fantasist Pratchett's latest special-delivery delight, set in his wonderfully crazed city of Ankh-Morpork, hilariously reflects the plight of post offices the world over as they struggle to compete in an era when e-mail has stolen much of the glamour from the postal trade. Soon after Moist von Lipwig (aka Alfred Spangler), Pratchett's not-quite-hapless, accidental hero, barely avoids hanging, Lord Havelock Vetinari, the despotic but pretty cool ruler of Ankh-Morpork, makes him a job offer he can't refuse postmaster general of the Ankh-Morpork Post Office. The post office hasn't been open for 20 years since the advent of the Internet-like clacks communication system. Moist's first impulse is to try to escape, but Mr. Pump, his golem parole officer, quickly catches him. Moist must then deal with the musty mounds of undelivered mail that fill every room of the decaying Post Office building maintained by ancient and smelly Junior Postman Groat and his callow assistant, Apprentice Postman Stanley. The place is also haunted by dead postmen and guarded by Mr. Tiddles, a crafty cat. Readers will cheer Moist on as he eventually finds himself in a race with the dysfunctional clacks system to see whose message can be delivered first. Thanks to the timely subject matter and Pratchett's effervescent wit, this 29th Discworld novel (after 2003's Monstrous Regiment) may capture more of the American audience he deserves. Agent, Ralph M. Vicinanza. (On sale Sept. 28) Forecast: Despite sales of more than 35 million copies of his books worldwide, Pratchett has yet to become a U.S. bestseller. This one may finally break him out of category. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
The incredibly prolific Pratchett does it again, producing yet another entry in the amazing Discworld series. The number of books in this series is upwards of twenty or so, and the author's wit and imagination does not desert him here, although nowadays Discworld is perhaps a little less magical than it was in the earlier titles. Confidence trickster Moist Van Lipwig is rescued from the gallows by Lord Vetinari, dictator of Ankh-Morpork-but only on the condition that he run the long moribund Post Office. No mail has been delivered from the Post Office for decades, but a skeleton staff still remains, overwhelmed by tons of undelivered letters. Meanwhile the telegraph, "the clacks," has become a poorly run monopoly owned by a ruthless scoundrel and a group of greedy investors. To this crowd, a viable post office is a personal threat, and they quickly arrange to burn down the old building, trying to include the postal staff in the bonfire. The reluctant new Post Master struggles to outwit a band of swindlers just as unprincipled as he and only succeeds by pulling off his ultimate scam. Although his humor and allusions are quite British, Pratchett's novels for youth and adults have a devoted worldwide following. The Discworld books, beneath their comic veneer, are increasingly concerned with universal issues such as power, equal rights, law, and justice. This novel will be greedily welcomed by Pratchett fans and should garner new ones. VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2004, HarperCollins, 377p., Ages 15 toAdult.
—Rayna Patton
Library Journal
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-When petty con man Moist von Lipwig is hung for his crimes in the first chapter of this surprising and humorous novel, it appears to be the end. But this is Discworld after all, a world "a lot like our own but different." Moist awakes from the shock of his hanging to find that the city's Patrician, Lord Vetinari, has assigned him a government job (a fate worse than death?) restoring the defunct postal system. Of course, there is much more to restore than the flow of letters and packages. Justice as well as communication has been poorly served by a hostile takeover of the "clacks"-a unique messaging system that is part semaphore, part digital, and under the monopoly of the Grand Trunk Company. Before Moist can get very far into the job, he encounters ghosts, the voices of unsent letters, and a ruthless corporate conspiracy. In this quickly escalating battle, the post office is definitely the underdog, but, as the author notes, "an underdog can always find somewhere soft to bite." Fortunately Moist has friends: the determined Miss Dearheart, a golem with more than feet of clay, and a secret society of unemployed and very unusual postal workers as well as a vampire named Oscar. The author's inventiveness seems to know no end, his playful and irreverent use of language is a delight, and there is food for thought in his parody of fantasyland. This 29th Discworld novel, like the rest of the series, is a surefire hit for fans of Douglas Adams and Monty Python.-Carolyn Lehman, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Pratchett satirizes the modern telecom business in a deeply satisfying comedy about a man sent to a fate worse than death: the post office. Fans of Pratchett's Discworld series will be happy he's returning to the city of Ankh-Morpork-after the Balkan War-esque madness of Monstrous Regiment (2003)-though it's not to the familiar environs of the Watch or Unseen University. This time, Moist Von Lipwig, a scam artist with a host of aliases, has just been hanged for his crimes-except that he hasn't, due to some trickery with the rope. It seems that the Duke wants a man everybody thinks is dead to take over the city's long-moribund post office. That's no easy task, what with only two employees left, both pretty much insane, puttering around the massive, dead-letter-stuffed edifice, not to mention the competition with the clacks towers. Pratchett follows Moist's attempts to resuscitate regular mail service as he goes up against the evil hegemony of corporate toadies running the clacks towers, a once-impressive series of semaphore towers that, when they work, can send a message hundreds of miles in no time at all, but at a hefty price. With the exception of a few heavy-handed statements about the public good versus private profit, Pratchett slides the satire in around the edges of the primary action: watching a career criminal transitioning rather quickly to earnest civic flunky, all under the watchful (glowing red) eyes of a monstrously powerful and patient government-employed golem. Although Moist seems a little too eager to leave his bad ways behind, it's almost shamefully enjoyable to watch him restore the mail routes, invent the idea of stamps, and go toe-to-toe with everything fromrapacious businessmen to bloodthirsty banshees as he shows how to deliver letters over 40 years late. Sharp-edged humor-and wonderfully executed.
From the Publisher
“You ride along on his tide of outlandish invention, realizing that you are in the presence of a true original among contemporary writers.”
Times

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060502935
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
09/27/2005
Series:
Discworld Series, #33
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
300,169
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.04(d)
Lexile:
760L (what's this?)

Read an Excerpt

The Angel

  • In which our hero experiences Hope, the greatest gift
  • The bacon sandwich of regret
  • Somber reflections on capital punishment from the hangman
  • Famous last words
  • Our hero dies
  • Angels, conversations about
  • Inadvisability of misplaced offers regarding broomsticks
  • An unexpected ride
  • A world free of honest men
  • A man on the hop
  • There is always a choice


They say that the prospect of being hanged in the morning concentrates a man's mind wonderfully; unfortunately, what the mind inevitably concentrates on is that, in the morning, it will be in a body that is going to be hanged. The man going to be hanged had been named Moist von Lipwig by doting if unwise parents, but he was not going to embarrass the name, insofar as that was still possible, by being hung under it. To the world in general, and particularly on that bit of it known as the death warrant, he was Alfred Spangler.

And he took a more positive approach to the situation and had concentrated his mind on the prospect of not being hanged in the morning, and, most particularly, on the prospect of removing all the crumbling mortar from around a stone in his cell wall with a spoon. So far the work had taken him five weeks and reduced the spoon to something like a nail file. Fortunately, no one ever came to change the bedding here, or else they would have discovered the world's heaviest mattress.

It was a large and heavy stone that was currently the object of his attentions, and, at some point, a huge staple had been hammered into it as an anchor for manacles. Moist sat down facing the wall, gripped the iron ring in both hands, braced his legs against the stones on either side, and heaved.

His shoulders caught fire, and a red mist filled his vision, but the block slid out with a faint and inappropriate tinkling noise. Moist managed to ease it away from the hole and peered inside. At the far end was another block, and the mortar around it looked suspiciously strong and fresh.

Just in front of it was a new spoon. It was shiny. As he studied it, he heard the clapping behind him. He turned his head, tendons twanging a little riff of agony, and saw several of the wardens watching him through the bars.

"Well done, Mr. Spangler!" said one of them. "Ron here owes me five dollars! I told him you were a sticker! ‘He's a sticker,' I said!"

"You set this up, did you, Mr.Wilkinson?" said Moist weakly, watching the glint of light on the spoon.

"Oh, not us, sir. Lord Vetinari's orders. He insists that all condemned prisoners should be offered the prospect of freedom."

"Freedom? But there's a damn great stone through there!"

"Yes, there is that, sir, yes, there is that," said the warden. "It's only the prospect, you see. Not actual free freedom as such. Hah, that'd be a bit daft, eh?"

"I suppose so, yes," said Moist. He didn't say "you bastards." The wardens had treated him quite civilly these past six weeks, and he made a point of getting on with people. He was very, very good at it. People skills were part of his stock-in-trade; they were nearly the whole of it.

Besides, these people had big sticks. So, speaking carefully, he added: "Some people might consider this cruel, Mr.Wilkinson." "Yes, sir, we asked him about that, sir, but he said no, it wasn't. He said it provided"—his forehead wrinkled—"occ-you-pay-shunall ther-rap-py, healthy exercise, prevented moping, and offered that greatest of all treasures, which is Hope, sir."

"Hope," muttered Moist glumly.

"Not upset, are you, sir?"

"Upset? Why should I be upset, Mr.Wilkinson?"

"Only the last bloke we had in this cell, he managed to get down that drain, sir. Very small man. Very agile."

Moist looked at the little grid in the floor. He'd dismissed it out of hand.

"Does it lead to the river?" he said.

The warden grinned. "You'd think so, wouldn't you? He was really upset when we fished him out. Nice to see you've entered into the spirit of the thing, sir. You've been an example to all of us, sir, the way you kept going. Stuffing all the dust in your mattress? Very clever, very tidy. Very neat. It's really cheered us up, having you in here. By the way, Mrs.Wilkinson says thanks very much for the fruit basket. Very posh, it is. It's got kumquats, even!"

"Don't mention it, Mr.Wilkinson."

"The warden was a bit green about the kumquats, 'cos he only got dates in his, but I told him, sir, that fruit baskets is like life— until you've got the pineapple off of the top you never know what's underneath. He says thank you, too."

"Glad he liked it, Mr.Wilkinson," said Moist absentmindedly. Several of his former landladies had brought in presents for "the poor, confused boy," and Moist always invested in generosity. A career like his was all about style, after all.

"On that general subject, sir," said Mr.Wilkinson, "me and the lads were wondering if you might like to unburden yourself, at this point in time, on the subject of the whereabouts of the place where the location of the spot is where, not to beat about the bush, you hid all that money you stole . . . ?"

The jail went silent. Even the cockroaches were listening. "No, I couldn't do that, Mr. Wilkinson," said Moist loudly, after a decent pause for dramatic effect. He tapped his jacket pocket, held up a finger, and winked.

The warders grinned back.

"We understand totally, sir. Now I'd get some rest if I was you, sir, 'cos we're hanging you in half an hour," said Mr.Wilkinson. "Hey, don't I get breakfast?"

"Breakfast isn't until seven o'clock, sir," said the warder reproachfully. "But, tell you what, I'll do you a bacon sandwich. 'Cos it's you, Mr. Spangler."

The foregoing is excerpted from Going Postal by Terry Pratchett. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022

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