Since the development of Vetinari and Vimes, I feel that a darker edge has appeared and the books are more allegorical than they were. Despite the almost square-jawed hero cliche, and the sometimes slightly cloying relationship details (not that I'm scoffing at girly romance you understand...) Sam Vimes is a character I have greatly enjoyed following.
Then, along came Moist von Lipwig, rescued from the hangman's hemp in order to do the bidding of Vetinari in setting up the Discworld mail service in Going Postal. And a fine novel it was, I would hazard, a complex and still darkly humorous adventure containing some excellent parallels with the communications industry on our own spherical floating rock.
So I eagerly awaited the next installment in the Lipwig series - Making Money. Apropos of nothing, perhaps, this was TP's first novel since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. I have a slight problem (and I stress slight. This is a purely comparative criticism...) with the book, I must confess, though it has been hard to put my finger on the reasons why. So I was glad to be presented with the challenge of critiquing it by my good friend from long ago and far away. I had forgotten, however, what a time-intensive and difficult task literary criticism can be. Add to this the slight indifference I feel towards Making Money (I mean the book of course, not the activity. Although...) and the huge amount of reading and writing there is to do, and I admit that I have struggled. After all, I ain't no Frank Rich. But, what the hell, here goes.
Where Making Money suffers most is that it follows the highly entertaining Going Postal, and - to rap on one of Terry's themes - it cannot match this gold standard. At times, it feels as if Pratchett is trying too hard, while at others it feels as if he isn't trying hard enough. I sense a little creative fatigue, an element of formula creeping in. As always, the cheesy old gags are tossed off in such a way as to endear rather than infuriate, but there is still a slight shifting in the chair; a sense of unease that so many don't quite come off as well as we all know they can.
Additionally, there are only so many ways to say that Vetinari is a devious political player, only so much mileage in references to his raised eyebrow, and it is, I feel past time to retire him. I have read that this move is on the cards in any case, but I think perhaps it hasn't been - to use a very Vetinari word - executed soon enough. Finally, to return to the girly kissy stuff mentioned above. What does Adora Belle Dearheart actually bring to the party? I think it says it all that she is conveniently shipped off for the first two-thirds of the book, and only returns towards the end to assist in a little lazy tidying-up of loose ends.
I must stress again that it is not my intention to be beastly, because the book is still good enough to rank in the higher reaches of TP's oeuvre. It is far and away (out beyond the Circle Sea) better writing than I could ever hope to achieve, and I will not be ceasing my subscription to the Ankh-Morpork club any time soon. Long may the man live and continue to gift us with his wonderfully dark and funny characters, but for now, let's just roll out a trite, glib cliche and say:
"Could do better."