Thursday, November 8, 2007

Review of Making Money

Making Money, the thirty-second novel in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, is the second book in the series about con-artist Moist von Lipwig. Both stories are self-contained, meaning that you do not have to read any of the previous Discworld books in order to enjoy the newest one, although a few minor parts of the book will probably make more sense to you if you have read the first book about the main character, Going Postal. Some background on some characters appearing briefly exists in some of the previous Discworld books, but reading the previous novels in the series is certainly not a requirement for understanding what is going on in this book. It would just enhance the experience of reading it.

Moist finds he is getting bored with his work at the post office now that it is running rather smoothly and entertains himself by putting his thieving skills to the test and attempting to break into his own post office. Vetinari seeks to relieve Moist's lack of mental stimulation by repeatedly trying to entice him with the new challenge of running Ankh-Morpork's bank. Moist will not accept this position, which turns out to be an offer he can't refuse when the chairman dies, leaves her dog to Moist, and leaves all her shares in the bank to the dog.

Moist's leadership of the bank is somewhat complicated by the fact that making the coins is worth more than the value of the coins themselves, and in a fit of con-man brilliance (or madness) he invents modern economics. Unfortunately, his brain was lagging a bit behind his mouth when he did it, and he spends much of the book trying to deal with the consequences of an economy based on paper money. He must also contend with the Lavishes, the remaining family members of the dead chairman who feels they should be in charge of the bank, and their attempts to destroy his reputation. Furthermore, his secretary, a golem, has not only decided it's female but also that it has a crush on him, and Moist's fiance enlists his help in solving a mystery involving some golem artifacts she found buried underground.

I've read a lot of reviews saying this book was a disappointment and did not live up to the usual standards of a book by Terry Pratchett, so I was not sure what to expect when I read it. It was not my favorite of the Discworld books by any means, but I still thought it was a good book. The Discworld books beginning with Night Watch have been more serious in tone, and the ones from Monstrous Regiment on have not been quite as good as many of the old ones. I did not think that Making Money was any worse than any of the other more recent books in the series.

Moist is not as compelling a character as Sam Vimes or Death, but I do prefer his character to the wizard Rincewind or any of the witches. (That being said, I do believe that some of the books about Rincewind and the witches are better than either of the books about Moist.) However, Moist is an interesting character if you like to read about con men who can say anything and get away with it because they're just that charismatic.

I've also heard a lot of concerns about the plot of Making Money sounding similar enough to Going Postal that it would end up sounding like a rehash of the previous book about Moist. Although the general plot is similar (revolutionizing and modernizing an institution), the scenarios were very different. The circumstances, a lot of the characters, and the side plots were all different, so I did not feel like the books were too similar.

Pratchett has an amazing command of the English language and his ability with wordplay is perhaps unrivaled. He can create a descriptive and humorous scene using brevity, and he has a clever way with words that few do. His stories may seem simplistic on the surface, but he packs philosophy, sociology, religion, and other themes into his work that makes it more meaningful. This book does not disappoint in that respect and showcases this skill with language and adding layers of meaning.

The story is fun, but it does lack some of the excitement and craziness of the other Discworld novels. There were certainly parts that were amusing or worded in such a way as to make one smile, but none of it had me unable to stop laughing for any length of time.

While it is weak while compared to many of the books in the Discworld series, Making Money is still an entertaining book containing insights into economic theory and the foibles of human nature. I would recommend it to any fan of Discworld but not as a starting point for those interested in reading a book from this series for the first time.


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