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Going Postal
Terry Pratchett
HarperCollins, 384 pages

Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett lives in Somerset, England, where he spends all his time, and more, writing his rigorously naturalistic, curiously entertaining, shamelessly popular Discworld novels which have earned him extravagant acclaim and puzzled stares from millions of readers around the world.

SF Site Reading List: Terry Pratchett
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SF Site Review: Monstrous Regiment
SF Site Review: The Wee Free Men
SF Site Review: The New Discworld Companion
SF Site Review: Night Watch
SF Site Review: The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents
SF Site Review: Thief of Time
SF Site Review: Nanny Ogg's Cookbook
SF Site Review: The Truth
SF Site Review: City Watch Trilogy
SF Site Review: The Fifth Elephant
SF Site Review: The Discworld Assassins' Guild Yearbook and Diary 2000
SF Site Review: The Science of Discworld
SF Site Review: The Last Continent
SF Site Review: Hogfather
SF Site Review: Jingo
SF Site Review: Feet of Clay
SF Site Review: Maskerade
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sherwood Smith

Going Postal There are a lot of books I enjoy as a reader, then there are the ones I enjoy as a reader and as a writer. Terry Pratchett's Going Postal is one of these latter.

The story is fairly simple on the surface: con man, embezzler, and thief Moist von Lipwig is given a choice: be hanged (and he comes close enough to know what that means, and that there is no escape this time) or else... reorganize Ankh-Morpork's post office. Say what?

Of course he takes the job, and figures by dawn he'll be miles away. No, because he's got a Golem guarding him. He meets the two remaining postal employees, who, mental-health-wise, are both a taco or two short on their combination plates. And mysterious brushes with death occur, just to keep things brisk. Who would want to off the new post office manager, when the post office has been non-functional for years? He has to discover that while actually getting it going again. A process he begins to enjoy. Of course, being a con man, he knows how a moral, responsible citizen would comport himself in order to get what he wants, but it's all an act. No. Really.

Going Postal is a wonderful book. Terry Pratchett, at his best, is a master at comic writing, drawing upon literary and philosophical wit as well as broad humor. There is no such thing as a boring character here, a standard or cardboard character. Pratchett plays with the customary forms of fantasy, twisting every single one. But it's not a superficial book. Ethics, physics, metaphysics, social science-all these heavy subjects get a surprising amount of air time, yet Pratchett manages to present them with such skill the reader is laughing too hard to notice, and it's only later that one pauses and reflects on the layers of meaning underlying the comedy.

The structure is tight, the pacing snappy because even when he's pausing the story for the Dreaded Data Dump, it's so much fun to read there is no awareness of the break. This book and Monstrous Regiment are a couple of my favorites of the past two years.

Copyright © 2004 Sherwood Smith

Sherwood Smith is a writer by vocation and reader by avocation. Her webpage is at

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