Going Postal - Terry Pratchett

I'd been reading a Discworld book with every round of treatment I was on, but had something of a pause when my treatment changed. The current treatment is getting me down a bit, so I decided to reward myself with another Pratchett. This is not the book I was expecting. It's better.

The old word play is still there - I laughed out loud when I finally twigged on a grocer's apostrophe joke - but it's the plot that surprised me.

I had been assuming it would be somehow a little like a history of the postal service, Discworld-ified. It's not! Of course, there's the social commentary you'd expect, but on a slightly different backbone. The key insight is that Ankh-Morpork is undergoing a renaissance. Just like the Watch being rebuilt after a long decline, the Postal Service is being reinvented, not invented!

In particular, Vetinari is revitalising it as a competitor to the clacks system (proto-telegraph/internet), that has been bought out by unscrupulous new owners who are driving it into the ground. I did not expect this book to be an allegory of over-promising tech startups and unscrupulous private equity! It's not subtle - the new head of the postal service is a literal reformed con-man!

There's a little magic in there, but it's much more on the vein of the Vimes books than, say, Rincewind. Speaking of Vimes, it's rather fun how in the books centered on him, he's got a lot of personality, but when viewed from the outside in non-Vimes books, he's something of a cipher. The internal and external views are very different!

As always, the book represents further tweaks to the standard structure. Historically the books have been rather chapter-less, this one has Victorian-Like chapter headings, which feels odd-yet-appropriate. The knowing retrospection of earlier books (Vetinari asking if the printing press in The Truth will open a hole to the Dungeon Dimensions) continues, with the comic-fantasy bar brawls at The Mended Drum turning into an actual team sport.

I'll admit I have some bias, working in tech, but I really enjoyed this book. You can tell Terry must have had a really bad time with an awful monopolistic ISP!

Posted 2021-09-07.