Pratchett, Terry: (33) Going Postal (text, audio)

Combining audiobook logging and backlog catchup, we have Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, read by Stephen Briggs. I read this when it first came out, and then listened to it several months later.

Going Postal is a stand-alone Discworld novel, in which (semi-)ex-con-man Moist von Lipwig is given the task of resurrecting Ankh-Morpork’s Post Office. This is a monumental task, what with the two slightly crazy men who are all that’s left of the staff, the mountains of undelivered mail, and the supernatural aspects of the building itself. And then there’s the almost inadvertent, but certainly dangerous, competition that a revived Post Office poses to the Grand Trunk semaphore company and its chairman, Reacher Gilt.

I really enjoy a con story, so this was up my alley from the start. When I realized it was also a book about geeks of all kinds, plus had a rich brew of themes (communication and piracy, angels and messengers and deliver(y)(ance), tools and people, and above all, hope), well, I was thoroughly enamoured even before I got to the terrific climax. It’s not a perfect book structurally: the Post Office’s resurrection runs on two different parallel tracks, one mystic and one practical, and the mystic one drops out about two-thirds in, which feels a little odd. But it has chapters with “in which” subheadings, and a hysterical Lord of the Rings movie joke, and this passage that I will think of forevermore when reading corporate-speak:

If Moist von Lipwig had been raised to be a clown, he’d have visited shows and circuses and watched the kings of fooldom. He’d have marveled at the elegant trajectory of the custard pie, memorized the new business with the ladder and the bucket of whitewash, and watched with care every carelessly juggled egg. While the rest of the audience watched the display with the appropriate feelings of terror, anger, and exasperation, he’d make notes.

Now, like an apprentice staring at the work of a master, he read Reacher Gilt’s words on the still-damp newspaper.

It was garbage, but it had been cooked by an expert. Oh, yes. You had to admire the way perfectly innocent words were mugged, ravished, stripped of all true meaning and decency, and then sent to walk the gutter for Reacher Gilt, although “synergistically” had probably been a whore from the start. The Grand Trunk’s problems were clearly the result of some mysterious spasm in the universe and had nothing to do with greed, arrogance, and willful stupidity. Oh, the Grand Trunk management had made mistakes—oops, “well-intentioned judgments which, with the benefit of hindsight, might regrettably have been, in some respects, in error”—but these had mostly occurred, it appeared, while correcting “fundamental systemic errors” committed by the previous management. No one was sorry for anything, because no living creature had done anything wrong; bad things had happened by spontaneous generation in some weird, chilly, geometric otherworld, and “were to be regretted.” [*]

[*] Another bastard phrase that’d sell itself to any weasel in a tight corner.

 . . . .

It was masterly . . . the bastard.

“Er . . . are you okay? Could you stop shouting?” said Miss Dearheart.

“What?” The mists cleared. . . .

“You were shouting,” said Miss Dearheart. “Swearing, in fact.”

I really, really like this book. I also think it would be a pretty good entry point to the Discworld series.

As for the audiobook, Pratchett’s novels lend themselves well to being read aloud, with their light omniscient POV and their wordplay that I sometimes miss in the rush of plot. I’d tried listening to Jingo, but the narrator (Nigel Planer) didn’t sound like Vimes to me, an entirely personal reaction. Briggs is also a good narrator, and with the exception of Death (who I doubt anyone could do properly), none of his characters jarred me. (His Reacher Gilt was particularly nice.) I may have enjoyed this book even more on audio.


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  1. I really enjoyed Going Postal What I really wish is that we could get the Tony Robinson version:

  2. Lynn, thanks for the audiobook link. I didn’t listen to it side-by-side with the Briggs version, but I don’t think they sound terribly different to me. Is it abridged, also? This reminds me that the two prologues didn’t seem very necessary.

  3. Could be abridged. Neither Amazon or Transworld have much info on it. The sample really doesn’t give you much, does it? Though I loved the jail cell scene. And Anghammarad’s prologue gives a nice symmetry to his little subplot’s resolution. I’m biased I guess because: (a)Baldric (b)I have an er…*sample* of the first hour of Robinson doing The Fifth Elephant that I’m really fond of (especially the Nobby/Angua scene), which really makes me wish I could get more.

  4. Lynn: I think it is abridged, because there’s a bit about Moist doing wink-nudge about the location of the stolen money that ought to be in there and isn’t. Which automatically rules it out for me.

  5. All books read by Tony are abridged, which is a shame, but then again, the reading of Briggs is far superiour to both Planer and Robinson in all aspects.

  6. Daniel: welcome, and thanks. I certainly prefer Briggs to Planer, and don’t feel that Briggs’ reading is lacking in any way.
    (I just finished listening to _The Fifth Elephant_, actually, and will log it when time permits.)

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