Mark Reads ‘Going Postal’: Prologue / Chapter 1, Part I

In the first half of the first chapter of Going Postal, our hero dies. I think. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Welcome to Book #33, Discworld friends! WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON.

The Nine-Thousand-Year Prologue

Hi, what? Who the hell is Anghammarad??? I am certain I have never come across this character or the dead ships. Is this like… a god on the Discworld associated with shipwrecks? So, I am wondering how this first prologue relates to the second one. An anchor dropped? From what? 

The One-Month Prologue

I guess I didn’t really notice this in the greater sense, but wow, the Discworld has progressed a lot since the beginning of the series, hasn’t it? Like, the introduction of the clacks was a big deal, but now the clacks are being updated themselves? We’ve also seen the introduction of journalism as well, and the Night Watch books are full of evidence of how this culture has progressed from what it used to be. I know that’s not a huge revelation or unique take on this (it’s clearly supposed to be intentional), but this second prologue had me reflecting on this. (It also made me laugh because my agent HATES prologues and the idea of a book starting with TWO of them is just exceptionally funny to me.) 

So… what actually happened here? The anchor imagery was clearly intentional, but what does this have to do with a clacks tower? Did that young man die? What the FUCK is going on?

Our Hero Dies

I am not used to Discworld books with prologues, with chapters, and with those weird summaries like the one we get at the start. (Do they have a name? I recognize them as a staple of a lot of fantasy books and classic literature.) It’s also an odd thing to experience specifically in this context: I knew a bunch of “spoilers” for this chapter before I’d even read a word of it. But I can also recognize how much this is used to toy with the reader. Once I read, “Our hero dies,” I wasn’t sure if this was truth. What I expected was for Pratchett to make fun of this or to use it as a red herring. But Going Postal’s first chapter opens with the promise of death: Moist von Lipwig is going to hang for theft. It’s stated multiple times, and yet, half the tension here is seeing whether that’s going to happen.

The rest of it is achieved through the unknown. We don’t really know what it was that Moist stole or its value; we don’t know how he got caught and put in prison; we don’t know all that much about him period. I figured that he was a con man of sorts, and it’s one of the reasons why he assumed he’d find a way out of all of this. He was Alfred Spangler in this version of himself; he’d figure out a method of sliding into a new identity, right? 

Except this is Ankh-Morpork, and it sounds like he may have escaped other cities, but not this one. The Patrician’s presence is distant, but it still impacts what happens here. In Vetinari’s city, no one gets past him unless he wants them to. Thus, everything in this chapter feels like Moist got every expectation of his thwarted. He thought he was going to escape from his cell, only to learn it provided entertainment for the guards. (Vetinari’s influence.) Then, he expected to be saved at the last minute by Vetinari, only to learn that Vetinari was impatient because Moist hadn’t been executed yet. 

It’s so very surreal, and it makes for a bold opening to Going Postal. We meet a character who desperately does not want to die, who has managed to get out of every predicament he’s been in so far, and before the first chapter is over, he’s executed. Now, I don’t know if Pratchett is toying with me, if there’s some clever technicality within the text that means it didn’t actually happen, but y’all… I think he did it. I think he executed one of his protagonists IN THE FIRST FIFTEEN PAGES OF THE BOOK. What the fuck, you know? What a bold opening! I don’t expect that this is the last we’ll see of Moist, but I also don’t understand how the story can continue from here. He’s dead. I think??? I mean, I can’t look past that the text says, “Alfred Spangler died,” not “Moist von Lipwig died.” Those are two very different statements.


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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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