“If you kept changing the way people saw the world, you ended up changing the way you saw yourself.”
Day Two: A Book You’ve Read More Than 3 Times
I actually do quite a lot of re-reading. Much of it happens when I’m deep in the throes of a really dense book and need some light relief. Or when I just feel like revisiting an old friend.
But today I’d like to write about Going Postal, the thirty-third novel in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, because by some extraordinary oversight it hasn’t made its way onto this blog yet.
Going Postal follows what is quite a common Discworld plotline, the introduction of something new to the thriving city of Ankh-Morpork which immediately takes off in a big way and allows us all to learn important lessons about ourselves along the way. Except in Going Postal, the thing isn’t so much new as so old that it only seems new. Moist von Lipwig, serial con-man and fraudster, is given a choice: restore the city’s decrepit postal service or hang.
So why do I keep reading Going Postal? you may ask. Well, firstly, Ankh-Morpork is a reason all of itself. It’s Victorian London…but with vampires and golems and wizards and other, more unutterable things wandering the streets, with magic embedded in the very stone, a place where semaphore works like a kind of very expensive Internet and a Tyrant with a mind like a great engine rules, mostly by committee and manipulation and knowing how people work. It’s possibly one of my favourite settings ever.
Then, of course, there is the story, which is wonderful, a proper fairy-tale-like story that is yet real and somehow true, complete with menacing villains and faithful sidekicks and a plotline that is basically about the power of words, of communication, to change people.
It’s also very funny. I put that last because it sometimes seems to me that that’s the only thing people see about the Discworld series, its humour, which does all the books (apart from possibly The Colour of Magic) a great injustice.
I’m not saying it’s perfect. I didn’t really understand what happened in the end until I saw the film, which was almost certainly not the effect Pratchett was going for. But it’s pretty damn close.