Terry Pratchett’s Making Money is his latest addition to his longstanding fantasy Discworld series. For those unfamiliar with either the author or the series – or indeed the fantasy genre in general – the series is set on the eponymous Discworld, which a flat world that is supported by four elephants that stand on a turtle swimming through space. This is in much the same way that the Lord of the Rings is a very long book about a midget trying to toss the Ultimate MacGuffin into a lava pit without anybody noticing, or how the Chronicles of Narnia are a bunch of books about magical talking creatures and the English kids who love them. In other words, there’s quite a bit more there: while the series began as a relatively straightforward (if hysterical) send-up of classic heroic fantasy (we’re talking Fritz Leiber and Jack Vance territory), it quickly morphed into something a bit more complex. The series is exceptionally versatile: it can and has supported everything from Shakespeare to police procedurals, and usually quite well*.
Making Money is the second (the first being Going Postal) in a sub-series about a character improbably-named Moist von Lipwig. Moist is a conman and swindler (although not, in point of fact, actually a bad man) who has become a more-less-voluntary fixture in the improbably-named Ankh-Morpork***, thanks to the decision of its current Patrician (one Lord Vetinari). Vetinari, who actually has the sort of mind and abilities that people erroneously ascribe to famous political operatives, decided that Moist’s skill set was of value to the city, so he hanged the man, and then gave him a job running the Post Office. After the events there (excellently described in Going Postal), Moist is then given a new assignment: fixing Ankh-Morpork’s banking system. Whether the current operators of it like it, or not.
There are also golems.
If the above sounds vaguely silly, well, it’s supposed to be, except for the “vaguely” part. Terry writes comic fantasy, after all. But it’s also a pretty good book on economic concepts; the author makes the concept of fiat money both entertaining and interesting, mostly because he’s using it to tell the story, instead of telling the story to highlight the concept****. The characters are (as usual) both distinctive and understandable, even if a few of them are quite mad – a designation that might include the hero. And the plot moves along nicely, although readers should probably read Going Postal before this book.
I would say that Making Money is a suitable book for 14-and-above: Terry Pratchett doesn’t go in much for graphic sex and/or violence, but some of the concepts mentioned in passing might make a parent wary. Buy this one for the burgeoning venture capitalist or Milton Friedman enthusiast (he would have liked this book, I think). While you’re there: if you like police procedurals, buy Night Watch or Men at Arms; Shakespeare, Wyrd Sisters or Lords and Ladies; or children’s stories that don’t insult, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. All of which are worth your time.
*Terry Pratchett is also quite fond of footnotes**, so we’ll use one to note that while his books frequently touch on concerns relevant to his readers, the books are refreshingly free of “tackling the tough issues.” His characters have them, but they usually end up handling them in a self-consistent manner.
**And footnotes of footnotes.
***Much of the Discworld series takes place in this city, which started off as a generic fantasy locale and is now an amalgam of London and Manhattan. It says much about Terry Pratchett’s ability for detail that someone was able to draw an accurate map of the place solely from his descriptions… and that the map (which I have framed and hanging on my living room wall) makes sense.
****Those interested in using fiction to pass along their ideas, take note: the reason that most fail at it is because while many people may write books to promulgate ideas, most people read books to be entertained.