Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Going Postal

I picked up Terry Pratchett’s latest book, Going Postal, at Keplers this weekend (after watching people sit outside Cafe Barrone, trying to feel like they were enduring cold weather). I think there’s at least one copy, and maybe two, floating around my in-laws possession, and I’ve just reached the part in System of the World where Jack launches his attack on the Tower of London; but I know I’m going to want to own and read any Terry Pratchett Discworld novel, so I just bought it.

Pratchett is probably the most consistently great writer I know. Alan Furst is brilliant, but Pratchett’s work juggles more elements– barely-in-control humor, heavy doses of magic and the supernatural (of the fantasy/SF sort, not the horror sort), a heavily rotating cast of wonderfully realized characters– and he gets two books out in the time it takes Furst to write one. Bruce Neal Stephenson [ed: my bad!] is unquestionably brilliant, but there are large sections of the Baroque Cycle that I just skip over, fully confident that I won’t miss whatever I’m missing. A Discworld book, in contrast, is something I want to read closely, and probably will read many times (and enjoy just as much in the tenth reading as in the first or second).

This one is a little different, though. Most notably, it has chapters, which may have been something that Pratchett just decided it was time to experiment with, or which may have come at the insistence of his editor or publisher. It’s also got fewer of the regular cast members appearing in it; I’ve noticed that the last several Discworld books have alternated between having the usual characters– the wizards, the Night Watch– front and center, and having them in the background. However, so far the chapters haven’t gotten in the way of the story, and the characters he’s created are no less entertaining than his usual suspects.

Normally, I would have it done in a couple days, but I’m going to have an avalanche of work falling on me for the next several weeks– trying to finish up a giant project, and tying up the loose ends for the move– so progress on it will be slow.


  1. This August Maclean’s Magazine interviewed some of Canada’s richest people
    and asked them, “What would you do if you suddenly lost all your money?”

    Hal Jackman, former Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, financier worth $655 million responded:

    “I would like to teach history at a university. I’ve always been interested in history because you can project what you’ve learned into the future. It’s very valuable in business, especially the stock market.”

    (Macleans, August 2, 2004 p. 26)

  2. "Pilkunnussija"

    October 29, 2004 at 6:16 am

    “Bruce” Stephenson?

    I think you mean, for values of “Bruce” that are astoundingly close to “Neal”.


  3. I constantly confuse Stephenson and Bruce Sterling. I once wrote a review of a Bruce Sterling book, and nearly included a paragraph about how much more interesting his books “Snow Crash” and “Cryptonomicon” were than this latest offering… only to have one of those forehead-slapping moments.

    At least I had it in the privacy of my own home, and no one else knew about it….

    Oops. D’oh!

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