Volume 26, Number 1, Fall 2007

Making Money

By Terry Pratchett

Harper, 2007
Reviewed by William H. Stoddard
Fall 2007

Making Money, Terry Pratchett’s new Discworld novel, is a follow-up to Going Postal. That novel’s hero, Moist von Lipwig, sentenced to death for his career as a con man, was granted a last-minute reprieve by the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork and put in charge of the long-defunct post office. As Making Money starts, his revival of the post office has been so successful that he’s growing hopelessly bored—just in time for the Patrician to give him a new job: running the Royal Mint and the Royal Bank. Seemingly these are private institutions, owned by one of Ankh-Morpork’s wealthiest families, the Lavishes (famous for the lifestyle that’s named for them)—until the widow who owns a controlling interest leaves it to her dog, Mr. Fusspoint, and appoints Lipwig as the dog’s guardian, entangling him in the family’s internal power struggles.

In other words, like Going Postal, this is a novel where the villains are rich people trying to get richer. The plot seems a little more tired this time around; where Going Postal’s conspiracy had seized control of Ankh-Morpork’s semaphore-based telecommunications system, and was running it into the ground by economizing on maintenance, Making Money’s Lavishes seem to have no goal other than hanging onto the family money and fighting over it. The one exception is Cosmo Lavish, who, like some of Pratchett’s other villains, has insane schemes against the Patrician…but literally insane, to the point where his own plans endanger him.

The novel’s other thread is about Adora Belle Dearheart of the Golem Trust and her efforts to free all the world’s golems. This takes her to a remote part of the Discworld, where she investigates relics of the Discworld’s most ancient city, built 60,000 years ago. Pratchett eventually links this storyline back to the main one, ingeniously, but perhaps not as dramatically as usual.

In sum, this is a competent, enjoyable Discworld novel, but not one that stands out. It brings in mostly familiar characters, showing them from slightly different angles; it has a new variation on a somewhat familiar plot; it has some good jokes, but perhaps not quite as stunningly good as in earlier novels. It almost suggests that Pratchett, like his hero, has succeeded a little too well in making the Discworld a smoothly running machine.

For readers of Prometheus, the antislavery theme about golems will be sympathetic, as always. The treatment of money doesn’t seem to endorse any particular point of view; there’s some satire of people who believe in the gold standard, but also some satire of economic modeling, complete with a bizarre hydraulic simulation of Ankh-Morpork’s economy—though it turns out to be based on a project that was actually carried out in the 1940s! Pratchett’s story of a con man recruited by the government to protect the public against the schemes of the wealthy won’t score as many points with libertarians as his defense of freedom of the press in The Truth, though if we have to have a government, we certainly might wish for it to be run by someone as competent and as benevolent as Lord Vetinari. On the other hand, Lipwig’s defense of his own criminal career against that of the founders of the Lavish fortune sounds oddly like the verdict in Joshua Norton’s trial for insanity, which compared his record favorably with that of other kings and emperors. On the whole, though, I don’t think Pratchett has given us the next Prometheus Award winner in this book.

In terms of the larger evolution of the Discworld series, though, some interesting things are going on here. As head of the bank, Lipwig finds the city of Ankh-Morpork coming to him for funds, apparently seeking to improve its infrastructure: infrastructure in the most literal sense, a new subterranean level of the city based on the dwarven technology revealed in Thud!. Pratchett seems to be putting the Discworld through an analog of the Industrial Revolution, with a continent-wide communications net, a golem labor force, and now central banking. Making Money may turn out to be a big step in the development of this more serious historical theme.

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