Going Postal is, as you might anticipate, about the postal service. My dad is a mail carrier, and I have some opinions about the postal service. Luckily, this is the postal service of Ankh-Morpork, which is… actually more functional than the USPS we are familiar with. Also, the protagonist of this book is named Moist von Lipwig. So if you really hate the word ‘moist’ as many do, I apologize. Moist.
Moist is a con man who is spared the death penalty by being assigned to revitalize the post office of Ankh-Morpork – a punishment that some would consider to be worse than death. He eventually comes to employ golem workers, with the help of golem rights advocate Adora Belle Dearheart, or Spike, as she prefers. And also they fall in love, and it’s adorable and great and I love them together. They work so well together and their personalities play off each other so well, and wow I love them almost as much as I love Sam and Sybil.
There’s some beautiful bits in this book about the importance of the mail – the character of a handwritten letter, the personality, the intimate nature of taking the time to write to someone, as opposed to the impersonality of the “clacks”, which has become the Discworld equivalent of texting or emailing. I’m not a hundred percent sure I agree with that – I can’t say I’ve ever really written people letters in this day and age. But there’s definitely an argument to be made about how there’s still an important place for it in our culture and our society that I don’t disagree with.
The core of this book, however, is about the immorality of the clacks corporation, which was bought by a corrupt evil businessman after the original inventor the clacks (Adora’s father, John Dearheart) went bankrupt. In the end, this book isn’t about the technologies involved. If Reacher Gilt had owned the post office and Moist took over the clacks company, this could have still been the same story. Because in the end, the conflict here isn’t between new and old technologies, it’s about ethical vs unethical business practices. It’s about doing right by your employees and the people who make your business function. It’s about putting the people first and not the dollar.
I also think that Moist himself is a character who’s grown on me with time. He was always a rather charming, conniving, but ultimately goodhearted character, but I think my appreciation of that kind of character has increased. Not only can he think on his feet, he infinitely prefers to fly by the seat of his pants, and I admire that kind of quality in both real people and fictional characters, because it is something I am utterly incapable of. So, good thing we get to see Moist in at least one more book, Making Money.
“People were strange like that. Steal five dollars and you were a petty thief. Steal thousands of dollars and you were either a government or a hero.”
“Run before you walk! Fly before you crawl! Keep moving forward! You think we should try to get a decent mail service in the city. I think we should try to send letters anywhere in the world! Because if we fail, I’d rather fail really hugely. All or nothing, Mr. Groat!”
“Words are important. And when there is a critical mass of them, they change the nature of the universe.”
“He didn’t know why, and he didn’t know what he was going to do next, but it was going to be fun. … It was the thrill not of the chase but of the standing still, of remaining so calm, composed, and genuine that, for just long enough, you could fool the world and spin it on your finger. These were the moments he lived for, when he was really alive, and his thoughts flowed like quicksilver, and the very air sparkled. Later, that feeling would present its bill. For now, he flew.”
“It was garbage, but it had been cooked by an expert. Oh, yes. You had to admire the way perfectly innocent words were mugged, ravished, stripped of all true meaning and decency, and then sent to walk the gutter for Reacher Gilt, although ‘synergistically’ had probably been a whore from the start.”
“Moist couldn’t have stopped himself now for hard money. 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. For this he offered glass as diamonds, let the Find the Lady cards fly under his fingers, stood smiling in front of clerks examining fake bills. This was the feeling he craved, the raw, naked excitement of pushing the envelope.”