Terry Pratchett's "Making Money" -- economic comedy

I just had the immense pleasure of reading the latest Terry Pratchett Discworld novel, Making Money, the sequel to one of my favorite books in the series, Going Postal.

Making Money is the continued adventures of Moist von Lipwig, the con-artist who was bullied into going straight and re-establishing the Ankh-Morpork post office in Going Postal. The post office is now running like clockwork, and Moist is growing bored, doing stupid, dangerous things with lockpicks and climbing-gear just to convince himself that he's still bent.

But all that changes when he is put in charge of Ankh-Morpork's major bank, in charge of the city's thoroughly disordered monetary supply. Like The Truth, which recapitulates much of the true history of the early days of newspaper publishing as a comic fantasy novel, Making Money tells the tale of the difficult transition from the gold standard to an economy based on fiat currency. And, like The Truth, Making Money manages to extract an enormous amount of humor, pathos, and keen insight from the subject, especially through its use of well-drawn and well-realized characters (the secret to good comedy).

There are 33 Discworld novels out there, and I imagine that being confronted with that many books would be a little daunting (on the other hand, Vernor Vinge told me that when he finally started reading Pratchett, a couple summers back, it was like being 10 and discovering a writer like Baum or Howard with a huge corpus of works, something that hadn't happened since he'd caught up with all those writers, decades before). Luckily, the books largely stand alone. You can probably enjoy Making Money without reading any other Discworld novel, and you can definitely enjoy Making Money if you read Going Postal first.

Moist von Lipwig is fast becoming my favorite Discworld character, a flawed, likable, canny comic hero who manages to surprise and delight with each volume. And Pratchett remains one of my favorite writers in the world, a man who is clearly having so much fun, he must be breaking some law, somewhere. Link to US edition, Link to UK edition, Link to UK audiobook


  1. The effect of all the breathless hyperbole in the first paragraph in this, and most, Doctorow book reviews is that each subsequent review is less meaningful.

  2. Gah! I don’t know how I missed the release of this one already, I am definitely off to the bookstore today. As an aside, if you’re entirely new to Discworld, my starter book was Night Watch, which I found tremendously easy to use as an entry point to the books – I didn’t even realize it was part of a greater series when I started reading it, and it will get you caught up on who’s who and what’s going on very easily without overloading you with information.

  3. The book had me at ‘extreme sneezing’ – damn yes Moist is likable.

    I prefer the Nightwatch books over the witches but will read any of the Susan books … though you shouldn’t miss the supposedly children’s books like “Maurice and his Educated Rodents” as well as “A Hat Full of Sky” …

  4. @Steve #1

    Doctorow hyperbolic??? Why, that’s the single most insanely crazy thing I’ve ever heard in my whole entire life!!!

    The man is a steam-driven hyperbole machine.

  5. It may sound paid, but I read Pratchett, and would probably say the same thing.

    I agree with Santos, I’ll take the Nightwatch over the witches any day. Susan and Death are definite favorites. The wizards, Rincewind in particular, can be quite entertaining.

    My intro book was Soul Music, which had me hooked. As someone who got a degree in filmmaking, Moving Pictures had me laughing every step of the way.

  6. Cory, I have to say I’m envious. The Brits get a much better cover for their Discworld novels then we get here in the states. The subdued covers really don’t do the comic feeling of the work justice.

  7. Paid review? I’m willing to bet that Doctorow would pay Terry Pratchett to write a review. My first read was “The Fifth Elephant” and I was hooked. I went to our local bookstore and bought every single Discworld volume that was there. I have re-read every one a minimum of six times. I have worn out several of the books and have had to replace them. This is one time where the hyperbole is insufficient. Read the books. I’m off to get my copy of “Making Money”.

  8. I was wandering through Barnes & Noble here in the states and at first glance, thought the book was some type of motivational material for get-rich-quick schemes. I snatched up the display copy and rifled through, and was astonished to discover that I had picked up one that had been signed by Pratchett himself.

    So far, the book has been an excellent read, and after 12 hours of ownership, I have spent a vast percentage with my nose buried in it. So far, so good.

  9. I’ve bought six copies of Guards! Guards! for friends, and all six of those friends are Pratchett fans now. That’s my recommended starter point, since the satire concerns Arthurian tropes and police dramas, which I think are more accessible to American readers. It’s also the first Night Watch book, which is the strongest thread in the Discworld tapestry.

    I’m amazed by otherwise fans of fantasy who won’t read Pratchett. Fantasy satire does sound kind of generic and a little lame – one expects to read about Dildo Baggins in some ham fisted Mad Magazine parody.

    That’s not what Pratchett’s work is. He’s a genius. Cory is being hyperbolic, but sometimes the hyperbole is deserved.

  10. For the record, no “paid review” has ever run on Boing Boing, and none ever will. All consideration for reviews (e.g., free demo units) are always disclosed in the review.

  11. Further, I paid for my copy of Making Money out of pocket, at a highly inflated price of EU35, at an English-language bookstore in Amsterdam.

  12. There’s a lot of economics in there to think about- he takes the city off of the gold standard, embraces microlending, and sells municipal bonds to finance expansion of a subway system… it’s all concealed by the storyline’s fun and humor, but there’s a lot of interesting ideas lurking under the surface.

  13. Pratchett books are such ‘potato chip books’ for me, perhaps they’re mental ’empty calories’ but nevertheless they’re so danged addictive it’s impossible to stop after reading just one. Rincewind is by far my favorite character but Moist sounds rather fun, too – I’ll have to give this one and Going Postal a try…

  14. I fell in love with Terry Pratchett books after seeing him at a convention in passing and later reading “Small Gods” from the library. His early books are far more silly and lightweight than the recent ones. The early ones seem to parody other mediums and stories, while the more recent ones are biting satire on larger concepts. They feel less and less like ‘potato chip’ books with each new one, though still incredibly entertaining.

  15. StacyJ, are have you read all of Prachett’s Discworld novels? I would agree with you about the early series, but the last several books have been deeper then ’empty calories’ with much better targets of the satire (i.e. our world instead of fantasy tropes).

  16. Actually no, I haven’t read ’em all yet and in fact it’s been the last several books that are still on my ‘to read’ list. I’m glad you pointed that out, Pilitus, that’s pretty darned exciting to hear that the ones I still have to look forward to might even offer a bit more depth along with all of the other enjoyable qualities (oh boy, ‘carrot stick books’ instead of potato chip ones … or perhaps ‘chocolate covered carrot sticks’ =)

  17. You know what would make this world a lot better? A lot more breathless hyperbole — especially when it comes to reacting to art.

    Any critic who is incapable of it, who depends instead on irony and disinterest and the jejune neutrality of an impoverished imagination, shouldn’t be a critic.

  18. Carlos, I love your attitude.

    I don’t think it’s hyperbole if you really mean it. When you read a book that blows your mind, do you recommend it to the world in modest and timid terms?

  19. Terry Pratchett’s work is worth getting breathlessly excited about.

    He is a writer whom other writers read for sheer escape and pleasure. Is there any higher praise? …And he’s a writer who gets stronger and better and funnier with every book. He’s a continual inspiration for those of us who all too often wind up dealing with people who believe that the only way to be original and exciting is to be between twenty and thirty. :) It’s too easy, in the dark watches of the night, to start believing such people. Terry makes a continual nonsense of them all and gives those of us who’re working in the same general arena a high bar to try to clear when we’re working.

    Can’t wait to get my hands on the new book.

  20. I just finished “Wintersmith” a couple of hours ago so I was especially happy to see this post. I really don’t think one can say enough good things about Terry Pratchett’s writing. So lively, funny and full of joy.

  21. @all the folks complaining about “irrational exuberance” here — this is not Wikipedia, guys, don’t expect NPOV. I love Cory’s reviews, including this one. No, we never accept payment for reviews, and I think it’s accurate to say we even pay for most of the stuff we review (books and gadgets and whatever), which is not the norm.

    BB is a place where we share things we’re excited about with anyone who cares to drop by. If you’re not into it, there are many other places to spend your time and attention on the internet, and by all means, life is short! Be happy elsewhere!

    Please also let us know where we can mail your subscription fee refund.

  22. I’ve read all the Discworld novels up to this one, so I will definitely be buying it. I have to say I prefer the ‘adult’ novels, though the ‘young adult’ ones were good until wintersmith, where the second half felt way too rushed. My favourite characters are definitely Death, Rincewind, Vetinari and Sam Vimes.

    Also, someone needs to write a GreaseMonkey script to strip ‘downandoutint-20’ from the links to amazon.com on boing boing.

  23. To me, that’s where. Cash, cheques or PayPal.
    I remember reading the Colour of Magic 4 times in a row when I was 14 or so and crying with laughter(I think it had just been released as a paperback then. Fuck, that was a long time ago). I miss the footnotes that the earlier books had in them, they were incredibly funny. .303 Bookworm, anyone?

  24. My first Pratchett book was The Truth. I got it at an airport and annoyed my fellow travellers by my laughter the entire flight.

    One sentence describes Terry Pratchett’s Diskworld series. “Milk through the nose funny!”

  25. Why worry about removing the referral, Tehmoth? I don’t mind if Cory makes a few ducats when I buy a book, especially if it doesn’t cost ME anything. :)

    Of course, I would have bought this book without the referral, but there are other books that I have bought via amazon that I would have never heard of without Cory’s mentioning them here.

  26. I too think Terry’s work is deserving of a good rap. Everything that I have read by Terry Pratchett has rewarded me with such a sense of fun and narrative and just a deep joy for the experience of reading and being immersed in that world it’s hard not to be breathless advocate for them! I have read all his books (with the exception of making money, but I will be remedying that later today) at least twice and in most cases 3 or 4 times.

    I have a signed copy of pyramids which is amongst my most treasured possessions. I saw him speak when he toured many years ago, and I have a huge amount of respect for his writing – it’s too easily dismissed as fluff, when it really does delve a little deeper than most would credit.

  27. I can’t wait for this! Now that I’ve started taking the train to work I’ve been re-reading the series, starting with The Colour of Magic. I’ve just started Mort so I’ve got a long way to go, but by the time I finish Thud! we should have the paperback down here in NZ…

  28. May the gods help me, but I judge harshly anyone who has read and doesn’t like Pratchett. Or worse still, reads other comic fantasy writers, but dislikes Pratchett.

  29. No, seriously — he really IS this good.

    I read no fantasy other than Pratchett, and I don’t really think of him as ‘a fantasy author’; he’s a classic English light comic novelist in the vein of Woodhouse and Waugh. Even on obsessive re-reading, his books can make me laugh until my sides hurt. I reread them all, in a vast, joyous indigestible lump, at least once a year.

    Small Gods, to this day, is my favorite book, although my choice of favorite character lies between Granny Weatherwax and Death. Possibly Death, who is the coolest animate natomy in the multiverse.

    I’m delighted to see the new one…

  30. Thank you for covering Terry Pratchett’s work. I discovered him as a teenager and have been an obsessive reader for years.
    More people need to hear about him. Try passing some around to people you know that read. Many a friend has gotten hooked on his fantastic writing.

  31. I’ll agree on those UK covers. The “classy” US covers have no character and totally misrepresent the stories contained within.

    I highly recommend Paul Kidby’s “The Art of Discworld”, his illustrations are just how I imagine the streets of Ank Morpork.

  32. I have been reading Terry’s book for years and well pretty much own all the discworld stuff except for some strange reason, Jingo which I will have to remedy. I enjoyed Going Postal, especially and coincidentally after deciding to read Ayn Rand’s truly awful ‘Atlas Shrugged’ and saw GP as the ultimate critique of the book, objectivism, libertarianism and fr. I have to say though my favorite of all time would have to be Small Gods and its history of the abrahamic faiths. It’s kind of historically accurate, delves into the endless arguments of translation and mistranslation all the while keeping you laughing at the absurdity of it all. This theme is also expressed in Good Omens with Crowley and Aziraphale brilliant drunken discussion on how the whole garden of eden thing was a bit pantomime. Unfortunately Making Money has yet to be released here in NZ but the bookstore has my name down already and I look forward to reading it in the space of a day or two.
    PS I wasn’t kidding about Atlas Shrugged, it is awful.

  33. I find there is a direct connexion between my level of knowledge of the theme and the number of times I find myself having to explain to friends and passers-by why I was passing from titter through laughter to full guffaw at the speed of heat. I love Phantom of the Opera in its many forms — book, films, plays — and I loved that Terry played with the problem many of us have with the Loyd-Webber musical (other than the borrowed musical phrases). In the West End, where I first saw it, I sat in the audience telling myself “this is Michael Crawford…this is NOT Frank Spencer.” So Terry takes the overcoat, beret, and Spencerian convoluted reason and puts them right in the middle. Whilst we’re at it, anyone who has ever had anything to do with the business end of theatre (particularly opera, but any house, rep, or touriong company has the same situation) will appreciate the way that “the magic of the craft” can look downright insane to the outside world.

    Having been a faculty member of several schools at one time or another, and having had the joy of doing sutdies (albeit limited) in Cambridge, Unseen University and its denizens reduce me to tears within seconds.

    Hyperbole is a matter of viewpoint. When I say that Mr. Pratchett’s observation and depth of detail are brilliant, and his ability to imbue each character with a readily identifiable, completely acccurate “voice” is without peer, I believe myself to be understating the case.

    There are very few writers alive who can do what Terry Pratchett does. There are a great many who try.


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