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Going Postal
Terry Pratchett
Doubleday hardcover £17.99

review by Jonathan McCalmont

There was a point, somewhere back in the mists of time, when 'Discworld' was seen as a satirical remedy to those pretentious, bloated, world-building books with maps on the first page and lists of stupidly named characters who converse with each other in ridiculous high-fantasy language. Going Postal is Pratchett's thirty-third Discworld novel and quite despite itself, Discworld is now more detailed and well constructed than most of the sub-Tolkien drivel he set out to lampoon all those years ago. Thankfully though, this is where the similarities end between Pratchett's work and the work of the Robert Jordans and Anne McCaffreys of the world.

Pratchett's prose is as lucid and free flowing as ever. His grasp of pace, plotting and even basic characterisation still manage to put most fantasy writers to shame. Despite this being his thirty-third Discworld novel there's no sense of boredom or of deja-vu despite the fact that Going Postal's story of the emergence of an Ankh-Morpork post office is very similar to the early Watch novels and the setting up of a newspaper in The Truth in that the plot is basically about setting up a new organisation and battling the forces with vested interest in that organisation's failure.

Pratchett's more recent novels have strayed from what one might call 'fantasy territory' and almost into the realms of science fiction as in recent years Discworld has undergone a technological revolution of sorts; from the magical computer Hex of the later Wizard books to the invention of the Clacks, this allows Pratchett to stray from his usual philosophical thoughts and his political thoughts and into the very sci-fi realm of considering how a new technology would impact a society. It is because we are so familiar with Discworld that Pratchett can start to implement technological and social changes, taking his creation from its roots as a satirical fantasy world into something different. This is a style of writing which is incredibly rare in the fantasy genre, which traditionally dwells very much on familiar ideas. It is a tribute to Pratchett's skill as a writer that he can explore these different kinds of stories from not only the mainstream of fantasy writing but also the mainstream of popular fiction.

Of course, these interesting ideas are sugared by a number of very funny lines and the traditional array of barmy characters which troop through the life of Pratchett's eternal protagonist; the island of reason in a world of insanity. The hero is a fraudster named Moist von Lipwig and he is saved from the noose by the increasingly superb Lord Vetinari to bring his unique skills to the post office to help Ankh-Morpork's resident tyrant in his dealings with the increasingly corrupt and inept Clacks company.

Whereas the thirty-second Discworld novel Monstrous Regiment lacked memorable characters and a lot of the humour of previous books and had a widely criticised ending, Going Postal marks a true return to form for Pratchett and is a crackingly good read.
Going Postal

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