by Terry Pratchett
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
After satirizing war, newspapers, film-making, and a broad variety of other scourges of modern life, Terry Pratchett turns his attention to monetary policy in Making Money. Pratchett brings his typical wit and understanding to the topic, which makes it understandable to the reader in a manner which is humorous and not usually associated with fiscal lessons.
Pratchett introduced Moist von Lutwig (nee Alfred Spangler) in the novel Going Postal. Spangler, an itinerant con-man, was sentenced to death in Ankh-Morpork, only to be rescued by Lord Vetinari, the Patrician, and given a new identity before being placed in charge of the Ankh-Morpork post office. Von Lutwig did so well recreating the post office in modern terms, that in Making Money, Lord Vetinari has decided his talents are needed at the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork.
As with many of the recent Discworld novels, Making Money examines the introduction of new paradigms into the world. In this case paper money that is backed less by gold than the promise of gold. Von Lutwig has a vision of the world that differs from the way things have always been done. His attempts to introduce those changes meet with resistance from those who have a stake in the status quo. The people in the street, on the other hand, are willing to allow von Lutwig all the rope he needs to hang himself, as long as he is entertaining. Vetinari continues his trajectory of the puppet master, putting things in place expecting he knows how they will turn out, although interested to see how events occur to achieve his goal.von Lutwig's introduction of paper currency to Ankh-Morpork is reminiscent in many ways of Twoflower's introduction of the idea of "inn-sewer-ants" in The Colour of Magic, although without the disastrous results. Comparing the two stories reveals how much Pratchett has progressed as an author since the first Discworld book was published.
In some ways, the innovation-driven Discworld novels such as Making Money, The Truth, Going Postal, and even as far back as Soul Music are almost formulaic in the way Pratchett introduces anachronistic ideas into his essentially late-Medieval/early-Renaissance period city. However, Pratchett’s ability with his materials and his characters make any formula fade into the background as the readers are as intrigued by the way things will play out as Vetinari.
As the series progresses, Ankh-Morpork has become less and less like the clichéd fantasy cities that initially inspired it, or the historical cities which inspired them, to become sui generis. It is a city which resolutely turns Clarke's Law on its head, replacing any number of technological advancements with magical ones. Pratchett's purpose in doing this seems less to introduce seeming anachronisms so much as it is to explore the effects of change on the average person.
Making Money is an entertaining novel, as all of Pratchett's Discworld novels are, and also identifies many of the oddities of our banking system, as well as the perceptions that go along with it. As with most of the novels in this long-running series, no prior knowledge of Pratchett's world is necessary, although reading the previous books will definitely add to a reader's enjoyment of Making Money.