Raising Steam (Discworld #40)
by Sir Terry Pratchett
Publication Date: November 7th 2013
Format: Kindle E-Book
To the consternation of the patrician, Lord Vetinari, a new invention has arrived in Ankh-Morpork – a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all the elements: earth, air, fire and water. This being Ankh-Morpork, it’s soon drawing astonished crowds, some of whom caught the zeitgeist early and arrive armed with notepads and very sensible rainwear.
Moist von Lipwig is not a man who enjoys hard work – as master of the Post Office, the Mint and the Royal Bank his input is, of course, vital… but largely dependent on words, which are fortunately not very heavy and don’t always need greasing. However, he does enjoy being alive, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse…
Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man wi’ t’flat cap and sliding rule who has an interesting arrangement with the sine and cosine. Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs and some very angry dwarfs if he’s going to stop it all going off the rails…
My first impression of Terry Pratchett was also the first time I came to Germany by myself. In a little bookstore in…Bamberg, I think it was, visiting my cousin, I picked up a book with a funny title and a comical picture on it. I think I read it maybe 10 times in a row in the next two weeks, and couldn’t put it down or stop talking about it. The book was Unseen Academicals, one of Terry’s Discworld series.
My love for Sir Terry has not waned, nor is it likely to wane in the next century. As soon as I heard about his passing, the immediately logical thing to do was to go out and find his latest book, Raising Steam, what is to be the last in the Discworld series, and read it. It was my own small memorial ceremony.
I was not in the least disappointed. Not a thing can dull Pratchett’s wit and cleverness. All of my favorite characters were there–Vimes, Veterinari, Lady Margolotta, Moist von Lipwig and his wife, Adora Belle “Killer” Dearheart, and various other quirky denizens of Ankh-Morpork. The plot was slightly slow at first, puzzle pieces fitting together with the creation of the first train, but once it reached Ankh-Morpork the plot began to hop along, quite amusingly (no plot with Moist von Lipwig is going to be boring).
And yet, it also managed to be touching in unexpected ways. Pratchett has always had a deft way with political satire, getting the point across without hammering it in. In this case, he fairly well described what happened when extremist views take over a population, the problems that arise when a society is so determined to cling to tradition that they let morals take a secondary place. He also showed a population coming to grips with a rapidly changing world and technology, a transition from magic to steam (which, as he points out, has a kind of magic all of its own). I wish that he could have taken the Discworld all the way to the present day, but if it had to end, this was a wonderful time for it to do so.
What new readers to Pratchett might find disconcerting is that there’s no truly unified plot…there are 5 chapters at the beginning about making the train, half of the book about making trains popular, and then the rest about extremism and a mad rush to save a kingdom. They all tie together, but its thanks to Pratchett’s gift as a writer that they flow together, and not particularly through any sort of logic. It’s also not necessarily the best place to start the series…the casual reader wouldn’t have nearly as much fun without really understanding Moist’s character, for instance, or Vimes’. Still, for a last tribute to the Discworld universe, it is more than satisfactory. My only wish is that it weren’t the last, and that I could lose myself in fifty more books written by the wonderful Sir Pratchett. To say that he will be sorely missed is indeed an understatement.
Fortunately for all who love him, this is not actually his last book. There is one final draft to be posthumously published, a fifth in the Tiffany Aching series–we can all look forward to its release.
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.