Terry Pratchett is one of the great makers of what Auden called ‘secondary worlds’.
His inventiveness – with people, with plots, with things – is seemingly inexhaustible. He makes up a character – the sinister politician Lord Vetinari, the cynical Captain Vimes of the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork – and 26 books later they are still developing, still changing.
…. Pratchett always gives you more than you dare expect…. Pratchett can make you giggle helplessly and then grin grimly at the sharpness of his wit… He knows that terrible things exist and happen, and he invents a benign otherworld in which we can face them, and laugh. A.S.Byatt, ‘Critic’s Choice’, in Daily Mail
Going Postal could have been a by-the-numbers Discworld story but manages to be rather a lot more. Like many of Pratchett’s best comic novels, it is a book about redemption in which a man who inflicts a fair amount of casual cruelty as a con artist is forced into a new life and becomes the better for it – there’s a moral toughness here, which is one of the reasons why Pratchett is never merely frivolous. Roz Kaveney in Time Out London
A surprisingly complex character study in addition to the usual hilarious satire. Carolyn Cushman in Locus
Terry Pratchett’s latest Discworld novel is, at its heart, seriously funny entertainment written with a vigour and vim that’s astonishing when you consider the series is 21 years old this year.
With von Lipwig safely ensconced in the Post Office (or, at least, as safely as you can be in a building piled with undelivered mail that’s beginning to exert a worrying influence on its environment), the plot centres on his attempts to reinvigorate the failing [failed] institution. Doing the right thing, it soon becomes clear, will require low cunning and epic dishonesty.
The parallels with our own time are unavoidable as Pratchett touches upon such issue as delivering public services, asset stripping and high finance – while still finding time to elucidate on the origins of stamp collecting.
Not, of course, that he ever batters you over the head with such concerns. Instead, the continuing joy of the Discworld series lies in its author’s ability to weave such themes into a laugh-out-loud comic fantasy that takes enough delight in silly wordplay to deliver the following exchange: ‘Have you heard about the fracas in Weaver Street?’ ‘I heard it was a rumpus.’ ‘I’m afraid it’s got worse.’ Boom, boom . ***** SFX Magazine
With all the puns, strange names and quick-fire jokes about captive letters demanding to be delivered, it’s easy to miss how cross about injustice Terry Pratchett can be. This darkness and concrete morality sets his work apart from imitators of his English Absurd school of comic fantasy. The Guardian
…The more literal-minded might have preferred Pratchett to write about our world directly, rather than in a fantastical mirror, but while such a book may have contained more facts, it would not have been so true. Alex Sarll in Bolton Evening News (and elsewhere)
So, another Christmas rolls closer and it wouldn’t be the same without a helping of Pratchett madness. The man has become such an institution that I am sure a knighthood to fantasy book selling must be around the corner. Really, does it matter what I write, as Pratchett’s legions of fans will make this a huge success anyway!
Well, is it any good or has Mr P finally dropped the ball? If truth be told, this is one of his best works so far, combining the frantic action of Soul Music with the surreal zany humour of Thief of Time. Humour always plays a large part in his writing and, while some of it has been slightly hit and miss, Going Postal addresses the balance by being constantly inventive, continuously funny and in Moist van Lipwig, Pratchett has created a character as comical and likeable as Rincewind or Mort.
A con artist and fraud, he is given the choice – either face hanging or put Ankh-Morpork’s ailing postal service back on its feet. What follows is an hilarious tale of Von Lipwig’s attempts to get the mail out and on time while battling rain, sleet, dogs, the post office workers’ friendly and benevolent society, the evil chairman of the Grand Trunk Semaphore Company and a midnight killer!
This is classic Pratchett firing on all cylinders and really is proof that after all these years Discworld is as fresh, exciting and inventive as ever. With a rollicking good story and a set of zany characters, this one will leap up to the top of the charts and remain there for a long time – but, then, you really didn’t need me to tell you that, did you?
Kevin Bell, Ottakar’s, Barrow-in-Furness, in Outland, Ottakars’ News Letter
As far as I’m concerned, Terry Pratchett can do no wrong. But this time, he has excelled even his own high standards. For the arch-satirist has found the ultimate target. He has discovered the one appalling, egregious excrescence truly deserving of his scathing wit. The greengrocer’s apostrophe. For those of use sensitive to the rules of grammar, the march of the errant apostrophe is a blight whose growth shows no signs of stopping. From its first appearance on market stalls (cabbage’s, cauliflower’s, etc) it has now proliferated to the stage where it is impossible to avoid – even finding its way on to printed signs, for heaven’s sake.
So full marks to Pratchett for training his satirical big guns on the wretched things. He’ll never be short of targets.
If you have still to discover the delights of Discworld, then don’t take my word for just how good the novels are, take Pratchett’s. His rich imagery and sublime sentence construction put him on a level of his own.
Take, for example, this description of a postman, with a cough ‘like a wall being hit repeatedly with a bag of rocks’ and a beard ‘of the short bristled type that suggested that its owner had been interrupted halfway through eating a hedgehog’. Now tell me it doesn’t bring a smile to your face.
But as always with Pratchett there are deeper undercurrents present, and his probing satire homes in on the absurdities and hypocrisies of modern-day life with uncanny accuracy. Going Postal finds him taking a critical look at the dubious boardroom machinations of big businesses, as the ailing Ankh-Morpork postal service tries to get back on its feet. At its helm is the remarkable Moist von Lipwig; a highly-talented conman plucked from the gallows, who surprises himself by turning out to be an enterprising and inspirational Postmaster.
In his ensuing battle against unscrupulous opponents, Pratchett’s wit is as inventive as ever, and satisfyingly barbed. Robert Colbeck, in Yorkshire Evening Post
Pratchett, contrary to what his detractors say, doesn’t offer escapism. His world, increasingly subtle and thoughtful, has become as allegorical and satirical as a painting by Bosch. …
Yet the plot, though it rattles along, is secondary to the pleasure of the writing. Characters who start off as seemingly boring, eccentric or stereotypical develop loveable quirks and flourishes. Pratchett offers postmodernism for smart kids. He not only turns Dr Frankenstein’s lisping assistant, Igor, into an entire species of medically obsessed ghouls, but does what fantasy writers are supposed to do, and confounds expectations set up by familiar archetypes. A post-boy, obsessed by pins, blossoms when transferring this Asperger’s type monomania to stamps. Pump the golem mutates into ponderous pathos and affection. Most surprising of all, Moist embraces his destiny as a hero-postmaster, golden suit, a winged helmet and all, because he can’t give up an agreeable lie. ‘This was where his soul lived: dancing on an avalanche, making the world up as he went along, reaching into people’s ears and changing their minds.’ The trickster tricked is always a captivating spectacle.
Pratchett’s joy in his creations, in jokes, puns, the idea of letters and language itself makes Going Postal one of the best expressions of his unstoppable flow of comic invention. Every once in a while, the anoraks get it right. If only some of them would join the postal service. Amanda Craig, in The Times
On the face of it, here is the tale of a career fraudster who is made Postmaster General and told to make the business pay. What qualifies him for the job? Well, ask yourself just how many of our newly-appointed Postmaster Generals had spent an hour behind a Post Office Counter. So, we have someone in charge. In charge of what? The building has been in mothballs for 20 years and new technology has made post pointless. It would seem we have a challenge. Time to push the envelope.
Surely the Discworld’s most modern subject yet, this is a story inspired by the decay of the British postal system and the sudden supremacy of e-mail. Except it isn’t e-mail, of course, it’s a semaphore system called ‘the clacks’.
It’s all there though: the nerds; the techno-speak; the dot-com confidence market, and rogue transmissions of a ‘Trojan horse’ virus.
It isn’t just email that receives the treatment. Traditional snail-mail gets it in the neck too. There are mountainous drifts of letters lost in the post, crumbling buildings and the hint of over-regulation madness.
Pratchett’s sympathy, however, extends to the dependable engineers who built the clacks system, long before the yuppies moved in. He portrays the postmen as unsung heroes who are still proud of what they used to represent. That was before the postal system was seen as a moneybox, rather than an efficient method of getting your letters from A to B.
The novel laments the lost era when letters ruled supreme. The art of handwriting, tears on the page, those little personal enclosures. The ‘clacks’, like e-mail, is shown as devoid of human emotion. There are brutal little pay-per-word messages like ‘Grandad’s dead, funeral Tues’ delivered with, as Pratchett says, ‘all the charm and warmth of a thrown knife’.
This is no ordinary city. It is the train set of a medieval patrician who, like a Jeeves or Machiavelli, studies ‘the psychology of the individual’. His world turns by the understanding of people and the elegant art of playing them off against one another. Also fascinated by folk, the author manages this manipulation at one remove, but only Lord Vetinari of Ankh-Morpork lives his life like it. Adam Corres in Sunday Express
Given his prolificacy and breezy style, it’s easy to underestimate Pratchett, author of Monstrous Regiment and The Fifth Elephant. He’s far more than a talented wordsmith, though. His books are almost always better than they have to be, and Going Postal is no exception, full of nimble wordplay, devious plotting and outrageous situations, but always grounded in an astute understanding of human nature. San Francisco Chronicle
Once again proving that Pratchett has a unique talent for writing fantastical yet believable stories that are consistently spellbinding, well paced, and which contain a host of intriguing plot elements that help to keep these stories as fresh as the first Discworld novels. This is a wonderful satire about bureaucracy, the postal service, and business management ethics and techniques. I give this book a five star rating on all counts! Auggie Moore, in Large Print Reviews