Terry Pratchett


"Making Money"

(Reviewed by Shanna Shadowfax MAR 6, 2008)

“Hmm,” she said, stepping back. “It’s as I thought . . . You’re a thief, a trickster a charlie artful, and an all-round bunco artist! Admit it!”

“I’m not!” Moist protested weakly.

"Liar, too,” said Mrs. Lavish cheerfully. “And probably an imposter.  Oh don’t waste that innocent look on me! I said you are a rogue, sir! I wouldn’t trust you with a bucket of water if my knickers were on fire! . . . Well, are you going to lie there all day?” she snapped. “Get up, man. I didn’t say I didn’t like you!.”

Veteran fantasy author Terry Pratchett has poked fun at many institutions through his Discworld novels: religion, newspapers, and even the post office.  In this latest Discworld story, Pratchett holds the light of satire up to the institution of banking. Fans will remember Moist Von Lipwig, hero of Going Postal, back for his second book.  Moist is the conman with a heart of only slightly tarnished gold that lives by his wits and his words.  Having tamed the post office and become a respected citizen, Moist craves a challenge . . . something to make each day different from the next.  Fortunately Moist’s very own angel has another job in mind for him . . . a golden opportunity at the Ankh-Morpork bank and mint.

Of course our reluctant hero isn’t exactly eager to pick up the reins, but fate has left him owner of Mr. Fusspot (a much pampered pooch) and Mr. Fusspot has just inherited enough shares that he is Chairman of the bank. With money hungry relatives waiting in the wings, Mr. Fusspot’s chances of staying alive depend on Moist keeping him safe.  It’s do or die, and Moist has never cared much for dying.  Especially when he’s just come up with a new way to make money, by printing it.  But Moist and Mr. Fusspot both have enemies and its going to take all of Moist’s talents to keep him a step ahead of the game.  From golems and gold to pineapple pies and er, unusual doggy toys, Pratchett manages to craft another delightful romp through the streets of Ankh-Morpork.

As usual, Pratchett delivers a book that is marvelous fun to read and will engage readers through to see how our hero manages to stay alive and get out of the troubles he’s in.  Moist is a clever and engaging fellow who is often too smart for his own good, and never goes down for the count.  His fiancé, Spike, is a wonderfully vivid character in her own right—and it would actually be interesting to see a book with her as the central character.  There are some clever twists and turns in the story, especially the true identity of Mr. Bent and how that shapes the conclusion of the plot.  Any Pratchett fan is likely to enjoy themselves thoroughly.  That being said, this is not his best work.  First and foremost, while Making Money can be read as a stand-alone, it does work best if the reader is familiar with the story of Going Postal.  Beyond that, there’s something missing from this story.  Despite the fact that this book is about the bank and the mint, there’s less time than usual spent on the actual institutions.  The golem subplot felt a little heavy handed against it, and it might have helped if there was a stronger storyline involving the banks.

Some of the weakness of the plot may come from the fact that Pratchett is not introducing readers to a new protagonist for this work, and readers have already come to know Moist.  Most of Pratchett’s other returning characters are fit into very strong plotlines in their particular milieu, such as Vimes, Granny Weatherwax, or Susan Sto Helit.  That doesn’t make this a bad book, but it isn’t his best, and those who are looking for a repeat of Going Postal may be a tad disappointed by this story.  Still, all things considered, Terry Pratchett is one of the masters of the craft of fantasy and this book is still better than a good deal of what is out there. Readers enjoying this book must check out the rest of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. For those fans who have read all there is of the Discworld books, definitely check out his YA series, starting with Wee Free Men.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 193 reviews
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"Going Postal"

(Reviewed by Judi Clark FEB 17, 2005)

"Moist recognized that hope. It was how he'd made his living. You knew that the man running the Find the Lady game was going to win, you know that people in distress didn't sell diamond rings for a fraction of their value, you knew that life generally handed you the sticky end of the stick, and you knew that the gods didn't pick some everyday undeserving tit out of the population and hand them a fortune.

Except that, this time, you might be wrong, right? It might just happen, yes?

And this was known as the greatest of treasures, which is Hope. It was a good way getting poorer really very quickly, and staying poor. It could be you. But it wouldn't be."

When we first meet con man Moist von Lipwig, he is in prison (digging his way to freedom with a spoon) under the identity of Alfred Spangler. And shortly thereafter, he is hanged as Alfred Spangler. But, Lord Vetinari likes to play angel; he has his hangman, Mr. Trooper, hang Moist to "half inch of his life." Thus as witnessed by the crowd, Mr. Spangler is dead. But, Mr. Lipwig has a future, albeit one handpicked by Lord Vetinari. Moist von Lipwig is to be the new postmaster general for Ankh-Morpork. "I am offering you a job, Mr. Lipwig. Work, for wages. I realize that concept may be unfamiliar."

Perhaps it was my brief experience working at the US Post Office (where the phrase "going postal" is not encouraged); but more so, I think it was when Cindy Lynn Speer, who usually reviews Pratchett's new books, told me that she already wrote a review of Going Postal for another site (the nerve!) that made me decide it was time to read my first Disc World novel. Cindy said I'd enjoy it, and she was so right. I smiled and laughed through every single paragraph of this clever novel. I haven't had this much fun since discovering Douglas Adam's novels. One book and I'm hooked on this series.

Of course having worked on Cindy’s many reviews meant that I was already prepared for a richly diverse population of Ankh-Morpork citizens, which include vampires, werewolves, dwarfs, zombies, etc. But, like Mr. Lipwig, I wasn’t expecting any Golems, especially the concept of a “free” golem acting in the role of parole officer. "You Can't Run And You Can't Hide, Mr. Lipwig." The golem, named Mr. Pump, proves to Moist (because he immediately tries to leave town) that his attempts at escape will be futile. Mr. Pump, does not sleep nor does he breathe. Even if Moist jumps onto a ship, Mr. Pump can just walk across the ocean floor to meet Moist on the other side. Obviously, Mr. Pump offers Moist enough motivation to stay in town and make this job work as best he can. Moreover, as Moist soon realizes, golems are former tools and like to be useful so they make excellent employees. Not that they need it, they do insist on one day off each week to affirm that they are now "free" golems; of which, there is a whole cooperative of golems who pool their earnings so they can buy freedom for other golems -- all headed up by the activist Miss Dearheart.

The post office is in hopeless disarray. This former glorious building was once the center of the town’s activity. But as things go, they tried too hard to improve service and the machine they made to sort the mail instead malfunctioned (the designer rounded Pi down to "3") and thus the mail started to be written and sent before it existed. Eventually it was too much mail to deliver (not to mention the inapporiateness of delivering mail before it is written) and by the time Moist von Lipwig and his Golem parole officer walk into the post office it is packed to the ceiling in every room with mildew and rotten mail, all covered with a layer of pigeon guano.

There are two loyal employees who have stayed on, sharing living space in the locker room. Old Groat is a Junior Postal clerk, an embarrassment to his family history since he should have been promoted long ago but no postmaster has been there long enough to see to it. The other employee is the young Apprentice Postman Stanley, a pin collector (all quite clear when you read this alternative universe) and the person whose job it is to keep up with the Post office regulations on a daily basis.

"No, sir, we don't just sit here," said Groat patiently. "We follow the Post Office Regulations. Fill the inkwells, polish the brass--"

"You don't sweep up the pigeon shit!"

"Oddly enough, that's not in the Regulations, sir," said the old man.

Groat gives Moist information piecemeal, especially at first before Moist proves himself. Being a con man, however, Moist knows people and how to motivate them. Small accomplishments, like getting the missing characters back that once adorned the front of the building (good story in and of itself) and delivering an old letter, go a long way in Groat’s mind that maybe Moist is “the one.” And Moist is impressive in how he goes about winning first the old man and then Stanley over. But it takes more than that to do his job, he has to first pass the postal initiation (quite funny) and bit by bit, win over the whole town (quite clever).

Ankh-Morph has been able to survive without the post office delivering mail all these years due to the recent communication invention called "the Clacks," semaphore towers that hint at being a cross between the telegraph and Internet. These mechanical towers send signals from one to another. Whereas these were always reliable for years, of late, since Reacher Gilt has taken them over, they have been breaking down more and more. Gilt has been "saving" money by not doing the necessary repairs and the employees are disgruntled, though extremely loyal to their profession having developed their own subculture. Thus, Moist inherits an arch nemesis in Reacher Gilt who doesn't want to see the post office succeed since he's hasn't finished bleeding money out of the town. Moist knows right off after meeting Reacher that he is as good, if not better, a con artist as himself. In that lies the motivation to make the Post Office succeed despite all odds. And Moist is such a likable fellow that we cheer him on and watch in amazement as he overcomes one obstacle after another and including an unexpected courtship. Of course, it become clear that this was Lord Vetinari's hope all along.

When I was a freshman in high school, we had an exercise in which we had to take fake words and turn them into sentences. It was a way to see grammar structure. In a way this is how Pratchett writes. It all makes sense but it is also nearly gobbledygook. He does this with words for objects, when he describes Ankh-Morpork's strange citizenship and even when he talks technology. "There was an old freight elevator here, too, one of those dangerous ones that worked by pumping water in and out of a big rainwater tank on the roof..." It's like the fake word grammar; it makes sense without making sense. When he talks about the Clack employees, you know who these people are -- they are our hackers and programmers -- so we know the grammatical structure of their lives, and Pratchett just fills in the plot details in this alternate universe. It all works perfectly, believable, and enjoyably.

This is great fun, and highly, highly recommended reading for all ages -- unless you hate to laugh. If the other books in the series are half as good as this one, I can't wait to get started on more.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 214 reviews


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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

The Disc World Series: Other Books: For Young Adults: The Tiffany Aching Series- For Young Adults: More Young Adults: Johnny Maxwell books - For Children: Collaborations:

 

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Book Marks:

 

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About the Author:

Terry PratchettTerry Pratchett is a British author of humorous fantasy books, science fiction, and young adult books (which are none the less devoured by his adult fans). He is most famous for his Discworld series of books. He was born in 1948 in Beaconsfield, Bucks and attended Wycombe Technical High School. His first short story was published commercially when he was fifteen-years-old. Having got five O-levels and started A-level courses in Art, History and English, he decided after the first year to try journalism, and when a job opportunity came up on the Bucks Free Press, he talked things over with his parents, and left school in 1965. While with the Press he still read avidly, took the National Council for the Training of Journalists proficiency class and also passed an A level in English while on day release. He published his first book, The Carpet People, in 1971.

He left the Bucks Free Press and started work for the Western Daily Press on 28 September 1970, he returned to the Press in 1972 as a sub-editor, and on 3 September 1973 joined the Bath Chronicle. At this time he also produced a series of cartoons for a monthly journal Psychic Researcher describing the goings-on at the government's fictional paranormal research establishment, Warlock Hall. In 1980 Terry was appointed publicity officer for the Central Electricity Generating Board (now PowerGen) with responsibility for three nuclear power stations ('What leak? -- Oh, that leak'), where he was working when we published the first of the Discworld novels, The Color of Magic, in 1983. In 1987, after he finished writing Mort, Pratchett decided he could afford to devote himself to full time writing.

Regarded as one of the most significant contemporary English-language satirists, Pratchett received the British Fantasy Award for best novel (Pyramids), in 1989, he was named an Officer of the British Empire "for services to literature" in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 1998, and received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University of Warwick in 1999. As far as Britain is concerned Terry is now the decade's best-selling living fiction author, with over 21 million copies worldwide and having been translated into 27 languages. According to British BookTrack's weekly bestselling chart, over 60 titles have been constantly in the top 5,000 bestselling titles, and the author with the most titles in this listing is Pratchett with twelve, namely The Colour of Magic, Guards! Guards!, Pyramids, Soul Music, The Light Fantastic, Reaper Man, Interesting Times, Sourcery, Men At Arms, Equal Rites, Mort and Wyrd Sisters.

Terry also works for the Orang-Utan Foundation and went out to Borneo with a film crew to see orangutans in their native habitat, and among the praise that Terry Pratchett's Jungle Quest received was a comment by Sir Alec Guinness in his diary (published the following year), that it was - apart from one other programme - "the most impressive thing I've seen on the box this year." Terry has also done a year's stint as Chairman of the Society of Authors, and was chairman of the panel of judges for the 1997 Rhone-Poulenc Prize.

Terry Pratchett lives in England with his family, and spends most days at his computer, writing.

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