Making Money - Terry Pratchett
Moist von Lipwig is the latest Discworld character to get his own spin-off series, and what a corker it is too. In Going Postal, he took on the cut-and-thrust world of, um, stamp collecting and telecoms regulation; now, in Making Money, he's faced with the bloody business of, um, banking, and the economy's reliance on the gold standard... is anyone else thinking that Pratchett's rather lost it? It can't be a dearth of source material - I mean, he hasn't even done a book on pirates yet! - so he obviously thinks that this is a suitable subject for a comic fantasy novel. Looking back at older Discworld menaces - creatures from the Dungeon Dimensions; bloodthirsty elves from Over There; dragons, religious dictatorships and insane gods - it's clear that he's lowered his horizons somewhat, and the world is a greyer place for it.
So, Moist is bored now that the Post Office is running smoothly; the Patrician is well aware of this, and "persuades" him to take over the Bank. It's running at a loss; the Chief Cashier has an unnatural love of numbers and a dark secret; the shareholders are a posh and vicious Old Money family; there's an Igor in the basement supervising dastardly experiments; and the casting vote on the Board is held by a small dog. All very wacky, as you can see. There's also a sub-plot with Moist's girlfriend off digging up golems, too. And someone from Moist's own shady past is threatening to expose him. Yawn yawn yawn. As usual, Moist wings it with flair, and succeeds by the skin of his teeth, etc. Pratchett's not even trying any more.
The book was an easy read, but overall was just a catalogue of disappointments. Moist's adventures with paper money and currency conversion were frankly boring; Mr Bent's Dark Secret Hidden Past was a huge anticlimax, and Adora Belle Dearheart's golem issues were badly built up to a flash in the pan near the book's end, fizzling out ineffectually as soon as it started. For a supposed "comic" fantasy, the jokes were pretty thin on the ground too; it barely raised a smile, let alone the falling-off-my-chair laughs that Pratchett's books used to generate. I was looking at this one as Pratchett's last chance to stay on my hardback-buying list, and it's fallen quite comprehensively short of the mark. I'll probably still buy his books, but from now on, I'm sticking to paperbacks.