Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

Moist von Lipwig is at the end of his rope–literally. He’s scheduled to be hanged for the crimes he committed under the name of Albert Spangler. A superb conman, his luck’s finally run out. Or not…

Lord Vetinari, being the brilliant political schemer that he is, has decided that while, yes, Albert Spangler has to die for what he’s done, Moist von Lipwig really ought to be spared and put to, shall we say, better use? Moist is presented with a choice: obey Vetinari, or walk out through a door leading to a very deep pit.

Moist makes the wiser choice, and is told that he must, no exceptions, restore the Ankh-Morpork Postal Service to its former glory. So off he goes, to the old Post Office where he encounters the two remaining employees, Postman Groat and Stanley Howler (he’s a little odd, but it’s only to be expected since he was raised by peas); literal tons of undelivered mail; and a very odd pigeon coop on the roof. Not to mention the unwelcome information that a number of previous Postmasters have died under mysterious circumstances shortly after being given the job, threats from the sinister head of the Grand Trunk clacks line (think a telegraph, but Pratchett-style), and a chain-smoking golem-rights advocate named Adora Belle Dearheart.

Failure is not an option; neither is mediocrity–Vetinari won’t allow it. Moist needs to use every one of his ill-gotten skills (and gains) to ensure the Post Office once again reigns supreme.

Going Postal is one of Pratchett’s best. The comedy is pitch-perfect; Moist is a brilliantly shady protagonist you can’t help but root for. The bizarre combination of hacking, government services, and equal rights shouldn’t work, but instead it elevates the book into something beyond mere words on a page. Read it for the fun, read it for the story, read it for the insights–it really doesn’t matter why you read it; only that you do.

Favorite Line:

What kind of man would put a known criminal in charge of a major branch of government? Apart from, say, the average voter.

Don’t read if: you hate obsessive pin collectors, bizarre midnight rituals, golems covered in paint, or smoking gnus.

The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf, by Gerald Morris–a Guest Post by CJ!

Quick note from Two: This is a guest review by our very own CJ, who can occasionally be found lurking in the comments. Everybody be nice, as it’s very nice for CJ to contribute.

There is none so cursed as those with stupid sisters.

Lynet’s sister Lyonesse is a doozy of a stupid sister. She is everything a lady should be. Beautiful if you go for doe-eyed, manipulative, and useless. Their castle is besieged by an amorous and amoral knight that thinks beheading all comers is the way to a lady’s heart. Of course with a lady like Lyonesse he is not far wrong.

Lynet on the other hand is smart and resourceful if a bit naïve. She sneaks from the castle and heads for Camelot. Armed only with the promise of her sister’s hand she seeks a knight of the round table to save her home. Along the way she meets and defeats a strange little dwarf named Roger. He helps her to Camelot. She was a bit lost if we are honest.

At Camelot she finds she is not the first to offer the hand of the fairest lady in the land. In fact, the knights suspect her sister is less lovely than claimed. To make matters worse she refuses to name her castle for fear Arthur will not aid a former enemy. All she manages to get for her trouble is a scruffy kitchen boy. She soon finds he is as dumb as he looks though not bad with a sword. She needs the help of the dwarf to counteract the idiocy.

This is the kind of story where nothing is what it seems. Morris takes the oldest of Arthurian lore and infuses it with wit and hilarity. He captures the beauty and peril of the fae world and makes it new. The damsels are savage and smart. Courtly love is seen for the farce it is and real love gets a chance.

Join the savage damsel, and the odd dwarf as they meet enchantresses, Sir Gawain, King Arthur, and more on the way to complete the quest.

Favorite Line:

‘A lady,’ he repeated. ‘I’ve just been disarmed and taken prisoner by a lady.’ He shook his head slowly. ‘I really am pathetic,’ he moaned.”

Don’t read if: you can’t stand witty banter, role reversals, enchantments, or dwarves who like farming.

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The Fifth Elephant, by Terry Pratchett

The first Discworld novel I ever read, it sunk its claws in deep and I’ve been hooked ever since… (Before we begin, a quick word. Discworld isn’t exactly like here, though there are similarities in the strangest places.)

His Grace the Duke of Ankh, Sir Samuel Vimes, Commander of the City Watch, is unhappy. That’s actually a fairly regular occurrence, but this time, it’s because things have gone too far–the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork has nominated Vimes to represent the city as ambassador for the coronation of the newly elected Low King of the Dwarfs in the distant region of Überwald. Him! Vimes! He’s not a politician! He’s just a copper the Patrician keeps punishing with ever-more-prestigious titles! He’d much rather stay home and run the Watch, but the Patrician insisted (and when the Patrician insists, it’s just safer all around to comply). So now he, his wife Sybil, and a motley crew of watchmen are off to play at politics.

Vimes isn’t the only one unhappy about his new posting–various shadowy figures aren’t happy about it, either. Vimes is notoriously impossible to corrupt, the walking embodiment of service to the Law. And if he finds out what they’ve been up to, there will be hell to pay…

Discworld is, for lack of a better phrase, almost exactly, but entirely unlike, our own world. For one thing, it’s flat and rests on the back of four enormous elephants, who in turn stand atop the back of the Great A’tuin, a giant turtle swimming through space. Racial tensions crop up in the ancient feuds between dwarfs and trolls. Magic is just another job. Politicians actually get things done. And crime, with a complicated system of vouchers and receipts, is well and truly organized.

But it’s not all fun and games. Terry Pratchett, the author, is a master of satire, the likes of which haven’t been seen since Jonathan Swift. His books always, always have a depth to them you’d never expect. Not only is The Fifth Elephant a roaringly funny and engrossing mystery, it’s also a fairly detailed examination of royal successions, labor unions, and geopolitical scheming.

If you’re looking for something funny, something different, something familiar. Something significant, something light, something fantastic and wonderful and strange…well then. Take a trip to Discworld, and see if you can spot the Fifth Elephant.

Favorite Line:

Sometimes Carrot sounded like a civics essay written by a stunned choirboy.

Don’t read if: you don’t like jokes, puns, mysteries, towns named Bonk, wolves named Gavin, or weaponized baked goods.