I have, since late May, been chugging my way through Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, thanks in no small part to Jody‘s generosity in lending out chunks of her library. I’ve nearly caught up, but I’m jumping out of the sequence a bit right now, because the second-latest Discworld novel, Going Postal, has just come out in paperback.
Early Terry Pratchett is lighthearted fun, full of semi-disposable characters in ridiculous situations. Later Terry Pratchett… well, that’s something else again. The humor is as sharp as it ever was, but somewhere along the way, the characters stopped being mere puppets in service of the punch line, and started being the kind of people you find yourself caring about. Deeply. The result is magic — not the kind of flashy spellcasting that Pratchett’s wizards engage in, or are supposed to refrain from engaging in — but the kind that has you laughing, on one level, with almost every turn of the page, while on another it has you musing upon quite serious questions of right and wrong.
Up ’til now, Night Watch has been my favorite example of this tricky alloy, but Going Postal looks to equal if not exceed it. Moist von Lipwig is in some ways the perfect counterweight to Sam Vimes. Where the latter is a good, if gruff, man ever struggling to keep himself from crossing the line, the former is a bad, but charming, man trying desperately to claw his way across the line in the opposite direction.
I finished it this weekend; if I have any complaint about the book, it’s that it isn’t long enough. I could cheerfully have followed its characters for another few hundred pages at least. As it is, I can hope that Ankh-Morpork’s new Postmaster joins the lineup of regulars, and that we haven’t seen the last of him.