Review: Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

 

Transworld Publishers

2013-11-07

In the 40th Discworld novel it’s steam engine time.

In the rural town of Sheepridge Dick Simnal goes one better than his old Dad and works out how to tame steam and produces the first ever working steam locomotive on the Discworld. Like anyone who wants to be anything on the Disc, he and a couple of his lads take their new wonder to Ankh-Morpork.

In Ankh-Morpork Sir Harry King is as rich as Creosote and looking for a new venture, one that could be talked about in polite society. When Dick comes calling he gives him a few days to prove his point. Moist von Lipwig, when prompted by Lord Vetinari, helps Sir Harry see the potential in these steam engines. And a grand new venture rolls out across the Discworld.

In Uberwald the dwarfish grags aren’t happy with the Low King Rhys Rhysson and his modernising ways. They set out to do something about it. Unfortunately that means upsetting the political balance of the Disc.

This really upsets Lord Vetinari of Ankh-Morpork and Lady Margoletta of Uberwald. Not to mention the Low King and Diamond King of Trolls.

Moist and his goblin friends set out to drive the railway all the way to Bonk in Uberwald (at Lord Vetinari’s insistence) and when the grags organise a coup against the Low King their work takes on greater urgency.

With a host of new characters (and species) and the return of several familiar characters, Raising Steam is the most recent of the acclaimed Discworld novel. Terry Pratchett’s world is a mirror of worlds and he usually tackles some important idea or current issue in Roundworld. In this case it’s modernisation and its opponents, touching on religious objections to the changing world. The dwarfish grags are offended by any dwarf they consider non-dwarfish – dwarves living in Ankh-Morpork, dwarves who talk to trolls, dwarves one go outside – and are desperate to turn things back to some time when dwarves didn’t do any of those things.

Hmm, I wonder to whom Terry Pratchett could possibly be referring…

I have heard that reviews of this novel have been negative, but I haven’t looked myself, I prefer to read a book and make my own decision. Raising Steam isn’t a funny as earlier Discworld books and it’s a bit rambling, less tightly written, compared to earlier novels but it is well written, and makes the author’s points in an intelligent manner. Most importantly it’s a good story. I like it more than other recent Discworld novels, such as ‘Unseen Academicals’.

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