Sunday, November 15, 2015

Audiobook review: Well-delivered entertainment

Editor's Note: I have been reviewing audiobooks I listened to in the car while driving to and from residency interviews. You can find other installments here and here and hereA combined review can be found on the IPRH Reading Matters blog.
On the recommendation of a friend, I checked out British author Terry Pratchett's Going Postal (2004). It is the thirty-third installment in his fantasy-fiction Discworld series, but you don't have to have read any of the other novels or even have heard of the series to understand the story. It takes place in Ankh-Morpok, capital city of a principality that exists in some feudal present in which transportation is by horse or carriage and execution is by hanging but money is counted in dollars. The main character is Moist von Lipwig, a conman with whom Lord Havelock Vetinari makes a deal: choose death or the position as Postmaster General. You see, communication is by "clacks" (a kind of visual telegraph) because the postal system had collapsed under the weight of too many regulations. When Moist arrives at the post office ("Neither rain nor snow nor glom of nit can stay these mesengers abot their duty"), it is stuffed with years of undelivered mail. However, the clacks is failing because it has been bought by ruthless capitalists who, in the name of making a bigger profit, have cut down on maintenance. The danger of making repairs while the clacks towers are operating means that workers are losing their lives while the rich get richer. Vetinari wants rid of the clacks fat cats, and Moist is his semi-willing pawn.

There follow maddening antics at the hands of the postal employees, a discussion of labor rights involving big clay golems, and a romance with a chain-smoking dame. The plot is fairly unpredictable, and the action is often laugh-out-loud funny. Hands down, the best part of this audiobook is Stephen Briggs, the voice actor. He gives the characters delightful and unique English, Scottish, and Irish accents. (One of the golems is French.) I guess I should not have been surprised that there is a British made-for-TV film adaptation. Unfortunately, I was not able to access it for viewing before posting this review, but here's the official photo of the cast, in all their steampunk glory.

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