Terry Pratchett delivers again in "Going Postal" (excuse the pun). This is no less than his 33rd book in the Discworld sequence, but nevertheless ranks among the best.
As the book opens, fraudster extraordinaire Moist von Lipwig is about to be hanged when he is offered a chance of redemption by Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of the city of Ankh-Morpork. Only by agreeing to become Postmaster General and restoring the all-but-defunct Post Office to its former glory can he win his freedom. A number of obstacles stand in his way, but largest of them all is the Grand Trunk Semaphore Company, which controls the network of 'clacks' that provide telecommunications across the continent. Its unscrupulous chairman, Reacher Gilt, is determined to thwart the upstart Moist and to maintain at all costs his monopoly on the communications business.
As we have come to expect from Pratchett's writing the humour is sharp, the dialogue strong and the pace fast. Pratchett knows how to keep a story moving and draw the reader in to the story. Amidst the humour "Going Postal" has a serious undertone too regarding the nature of politics, big business and the growth of technology, as well as about the ability of even hardened criminals to redeem themselves. Though still very funny, this book is therefore slightly grittier and less playful than many of Pratchett's other novels. There is something decidedly edgy about those scenes which involve the technical jargon and workings of the clacks system. In this respect "Going Postal" reminded me of "Night Watch" - another very fine read although much darker again.
All in all, "Going Postal" is an excellent book. Readers coming to the Discworld for the first time would do well to start here, while returning visitors will find a number of pleasing references to earlier novels in the series. As for Moist, I look forward to his return in the forthcoming "Making Money".