Making Money
April 5, 2023 7:22 PM - Subscribe

Who can convince the people of Ankh-Morpork that slips of paper are as valuable as gold? Who can take on the most cunning blue-bloods and open up Finance to the masses? Who can bust out a death-row prisoner but twice get caught "breaking into" his own office? Who can withstand the love of a woman who digs up hordes of Golems as a hobby? And who can do it all while rocking a gold suit and hat? Why, Moist von Lipwig, of course! (Discworld #36, Industrial Revolution #5.) By Terry Pratchett.

Welcome (or welcome back!) to the newly-revived Discworld Book Club! We've been covering the City Watch subseries (Previously: Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo, The Fifth Elephant, Night Watch, Thud!) along with the "Industrial Revolution" books (Previously: The Truth, Monstrous Regiment, Going Postal.) The next book will be Snuff.


Reformed career con-artist Moist von Lipwig has gotten into a bit of a rut. Since taking on the role of Ankh-Morpork Postmaster, things have been running wonderfully - which is problematic for someone who needs to live on the razor's edge in order to feel alive. To compensate, Moist has taken to dangerous activities such as urban wall-climbing and extreme sneezing, which is not recommended, dear reader.

So Lord Vetinari approaches him with a new offer: take on the leadership of Ankkh-Morpork's mint. Since Moist had done such an accidentally successful job in getting the populous to treat postage stamps as a form of currency in their own right, certainly he could do something with the city's fiat currency, right? Moist doesn't think so, and refuses, but first meets Topsy Lavish, chairwoman of the Royal Bank, who sees him for what he is and takes an instant liking to him for it. She owns 50% of the shares of the bank. Her dog, Mr. Fusspot, owns one share. When she promptly dies, her will has left her shares to Mr. Fusspot, and left the dog to Moist.

The other members of the Lavish family are a decidedly unpleasant lot who of course immediately spring into action to remove Moist from his tenuous new position, led by Cosmo Lavish, who has a deep and unsettling obsession with Vetinari. Moist is aided in his new role by Mr. Bent, a clerk with a genius for numbers and a dark secret and a true bug up his butt about keeping to the gold standard, a point on which Moist disagrees completely.

As he's opening up the bank's doors to folks who normally wouldn't be allowed into the old boy's club of city finance, Adore Belle Dearheart is down a Dwarfhole on a mission for the Golem Trust, and she's keeping pretty quiet about it. Will she get back in town in time to save the day when Moist gets in over his head doing a job Reacher Gilt literally died rather than take on?


Note: I've been posting these at a pretty steady clip but I've got company arriving tonight so the next one will probably be Monday at the earliest. As stated above, the next one is Snuff, but then from there we're going to hold off on Raising Steam, I think, since even though it's the last "Industrial Revolution" book, I've been informed that it's also sort of a farewell tour to the series as a whole in a lot of ways, so I'm saving it to at or near the end of this project. Thanks!
posted by Navelgazer (4 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I really love this one, because I love Moist and Adora Belle, but damn Cosmo Lavish just isn't a good villain. On top of being clearly insane in ways that mostly just have him acting foolishly, he doesn't do anything clever in the book at all as far as I can recall, and I literally just finished it. Moist is still a delightful character, of course, and has more forces of antagonism working against him than just Cosmo (and Poochie) but these two offer him no help at all here.

By this point I've noticed that while the Ankh-Morpork Times has remained a very present institution in these books ever since The Truth, William de Worde has really taken a back seat to Sacharissa Cripslock in terms of being the face for it. Which is fine by me - Sacharissa is a more entertaining character anyway, and it makes more sense for her to be out there in the field than William.

Glad to see Anoia is getting along well, of course.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:28 PM on April 5, 2023 [4 favorites]

Cosmo is a total dumbass... and the Silicon Valley Bank fiasco demonstrates why that's a usefully satirical thing in a financier. That said, where is Vimes to comment about rich assholes getting off basically scot-free? I really don't love Cosmo's ending. He deserves to rot in the Tanty, but Pratchett gives him a plot coupon instead. (There's also some class... stuff... happening with Cranberry versus the Assassins' Guild that puts my teeth on edge.)

Later Discworld plots get very flaily and uncontrolled, and this is a prime example. The plotline with Adora Belle and the golems is nothing but a contrivance with no thematic weight or character development at all. Hubert and Owlswick are sometimes funny but kinda pointless. Pucci is purest fatphobia, unworthy of the author who created Sybil Ramkin Vimes. Flead is more horny-grampa stuff. I absolutely don't want to think he's an author insert, but... the case could be made.

(Also, what the hell actually happens to Heretofore, if anything? If I can't even remember, I think the answer is "not enough.")

That said, the courtroom scene works well, and Moist turning the tables with the truth is a terrific moment. (I, too, have used the "admit it before they try to pin it on you" rhetorical technique. Can vouch for its effectiveness.) Mr. Fusspot is a hoot, and Vetinari adopting him is both plot-plausible and a real "awwwww" thing.

Mr. Bent is a good creation, and a good mirror/foil for Cosmo. Cosmo's damage is self-inflicted; Bent is damaged from many rounds of abuse. This is the last we see of him, so I hope he manages to heal; he's got a lot to heal from.
posted by humbug at 5:18 AM on April 6, 2023 [3 favorites]

Have just re-read this one and agree about the problems (especially the in-one's-face fatphobia), and also agree that there are still things to enjoy in it. I also wondered what happened to Heretofore and went Googling - this review by Martin Crookall discusses that in the context of Pratchett's Alzheimer's Disease.
posted by paduasoy at 4:27 PM on April 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

That's a nice review, though it seems to me like it misunderstands the "Golden Golems." They're not gold. That was a mistranslation. Instead of Four Golden Golems, there are Four Thousand Golems. Making use of them to any large-scale degree would cause massive problems for Ankh-Morpork (either economically wrecking them by replacing the labor force, or dooming them to a future of military conquest) and so, because Moist was having trouble getting people on board with the paper dollar backed by, effectively, the GDP of Ankh-Morpork itself, the "Golem Standard" is a bridge for that. The Golems are undeniably valuable, but can't be used, so the Ankh-Morpork standard becomes one based on, basically, their potential labor. I don't see that as a "defeat" for Moist at all, but rather a somewhat more incremental victory that still manages to get them off the gold standard.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:13 PM on April 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

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