In the second half of the thirteenth chapter of Going Postal, the race begins, and Moist enacts his poetic justice. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
What a goddamn spectacle, y’all.
First, this was a lot of fun to try and guess, particularly since Pratchett has been leaving clues to this endgame for a while now. Even in the scene that opens this split, there are clues about sleight of hand, that reference the fact that Moist was desperate to cause a scene to direct people’s attention elsewhere, that reveal that Moist wanted Gilt to be angry so that he’d finally start making mistakes. Yet even once this started taking shape and I thought I knew how Moist would pull this all off, there was still one last surprise waiting up Moist’s sleeve.
Before we get to that, though—and lord, I’m so eager to talk about it!—there is so much that happens in just over twenty pages. LET’S GO THROUGH THIS.
“But it’s a book!” said Mr. Pony. “It’ll take all night to code.”
Which answered a question I had, too! While Moist doesn’t plan for everything, one thing that’s so captivating about this whole sequence is seeing Moist in his element. The text is very poetic in describing this, but it’s so damn entertaining, y’all. His improvisational skills are ridiculous, and he twists what he’s given. Everything is a tool for him, and that includes the book. Part of its use is for the spectacle; ripping out the pages gave the appearance that he was being charitable, despite that he was actually giving them mostly the images in the book. The same goes for the head start. The clacks didn’t actually need it, but it’s part of the show. But nothing here was more satisfying than the broomstick, and I’m SCREAMING at how perfectly Gilt fell into that trap:
“I protest, Archchancellor!” said Gilt, spinning around. “This man intends to fly to Genua!”
“I have no such intention!” said Moist. “I resent the allegation!”
Y’all, he’s not actually lying, is he??? Because he had no intent to do so; Moist wanted Gilt to complain so that he could then ask for “even-handed” treatment out of “fairness.” Thus, the set-up for the Woodpecker is PERFECT. Moist got Gilt to agree not to station horses at each tower in the event they went down. This meant Gilt would have to repair each tower if it went down, and the Woodpecker would ANNIHILATE the system.
Is Moist done, though? NOPE. And I loved that aspect, too. He kept pushing the envelope further and further, adding one new aspect to this con despite that he didn’t really need to. Though I feel there’s an emotional component here that’s important: Moist wants to destroy Gilt after what Gilt has done to him, to the post office, to the Dearhearts, and to others. So maybe he didn’t need to make the wager to defeat Gilt, but he had to do it to enact a more complete revenge, you know? And he did promise to bankrupt the man!
But despite that I may have figured out more of this book than I usually do, this is a Pratchett book. There’s always a surprise (or ten of them), and this one gave me one that is just DELIGHTFUL. Granted, I had noticed that Moist had some reluctance about executing the Woodpecker code, but I wasn’t sure if anything was going to come to it. But then:
“It’s a wonderful plan, Jim!” said Moist. And I shall have to make sure it doesn’t work.
There’s a moral component to Moist’s decision that is not something he would done at the opening of the book. Period! So much of what Moist does here is for other people. It does not really benefit him to save the clacks system or to turn it over to those who genuinely worked on it and helped construct it. Oh, it’ll win him some favor with Miss Dearheart, sure, but even then, this is still something that will benefit so many other people that Moist will never meet. He’s not thinking of running away or of stealing money from people who worked hard for it. This is Moist becoming himself, and he chooses not to destroy everything around him.
He chooses to build it all up.
He chooses a future in which people who love what they do—the coders, the people who have made the clacks system so advanced, so incredible, who have created their own language and their own culture—get to decide the future. And look, I understand why Al is furious with Moist changing this at the last second. The Woodpecker seemed perfect! In one act, they would have been able to deliver a brutal blow to Gilt’s enter enterprise. But it was a plan that would raze the towers, that would leave them all inoperative for a long, long time. Not just that, but what if people lost their lives when the code hit? How many others would lose their jobs in the wake of Gilt’s failure? Many of these people, as we’ve seen throughout this book, are experts. This is their whole life!
Thus, Moist’s decision echoes his claim that he’d get Gilt in a different kind of court. I had guessed the court of public opinion, which is close, but I couldn’t see how. What he comes up with… my gods.
“You’re sitting up in the tower in the mountains and you get a signal like that? You’ll get it away and out of your tower as fast as you can.”
“I don’t know if we ought to shake your hand or throw you off the tower,” said Sane Alex sullenly. “That was evil. What sort of person could dream up something like that?”
NO! I NEEDED TO KNOW! What message would be so bad as to nearly disgust these men but also excite them because they knew it would pass from one tower to the next?
The answer to this had been told to us before: GNU. No one dies on the clacks, not as long as their name is repeated, sent from one tower to the next, all the way to the end and back again. The dead are alive in the system, and they always will be as long as it keeps running. (Which also makes it rather lovely that Moist doesn’t want to use the Woodpecker; he knows that it’ll shut down the clacks.) And it’s so fitting that Moist returns back to Ankh Morpork to make an appearance at Unseen University just as the message makes it way to the omniscope.
Moist has surely got Gilt now:
“Who will listen to the dead? We who died so that words could fly demand justice now. These are the crimes of the Board of the Grand Trunk: theft, embezzlement, breach of trust, corporate murder—“
Belief is everything on the Disc. And this is the court in which Moist has proven the charges against Gilt: in the court of the dead who live on in the clacks.
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