Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett
"If you can't trust governments, whom can you trust?" - good to see Pratchett has decided to try and answer the unfathomable in his latest Discworld novel. For an author whose powers must be declining due to his unfortunate health issues, every novel that comes from his prolific pen becomes even more of a treasure. There are quite a few negative reviews on this one, but I have to say I liked it. Primarily because it was a subtle novel, with a strong intellectual layer under the usual deft satire. As one gets older, the need to "bestow wisdom", to opine based on experiential knowledge, gets stronger. Many an author inserts their own cobbled philosophies into their book - trying to teach as well as entertain.
That was the case here.
The story has a theme of "progress", which is followed through two plots in the novel.
Firstly, in this case the evolution of steam, the advent of industrialization, given life by Iron Girder and Dick Simnel. The pulse of that action is maintained by Moist von Lipwig (aka to the goblins as 'Mr Slightly Damp'), tyrant Lord Vetinari, and Harry King - wannabe rail baron.
The second plot is the narration of political problems in the Dwarven kingdoms with the struggle of the progressives versus the graggy traditionalists. Rhys Rhysson, Low King of the Dwarves is up against the crags, led by the ironically named Ardent.
As kilometre after kilometre of track is laid to meet the challenge of saving a Kingdom, coupled with endless politicking to satisfy everyone (most of Pratchett's characters are present in this one) Moist comes to conclude that dancing on a "speeding locomotive. That was living all right!". The inaugural trip involving golems, train fights that would grace any Hollywood movie, the Clacks, and a blocked coup is a fitting end to the theme of Pratchett's effort here.
As I mentioned the novel is littered with philosophic utterances. Covering topics from feminism to minorities, from economic theory to political practice - with a modicum of psychology and social mores thrown in - Pratchett has chosen to try and gently point out the flaws that exist in a heaving society, whilst advocating that change is inevitable and that is must be embraced rather than hated. After all, "when you've had hatred on your tongue for such a long time, you don't know how to spit it out."
I rather liked this one because, it is more intellectual than the early years of Discworld. No author's style can remain identical over thirty-plus years, nor should it. The legacy that Pratchett will leave behind is one of diversification and of variety; he has produced a set of novels where everyone will love at least one. This one? It's for those who love philosophy because there's plenty of it in here.
Oh, spotted on tiny error on the Kindle - "insurgent dwarfs will get their just deserts" - the sweet analogy would have been more accurate than this barren one.
I have been reading Terry Pratchett books for almost 15 years now, allowing me the opportunity to plough through a massive backlog of existing material as well as continue to enjoy the thrill of new releases.
Over the past decade, Terry Pratchett has consistently managed to write books easily rated ten out of ten, reaching a plateau of excellence most authors will find near-impossible to reach, let alone set up camp and start selling merchandise. The past decade has seen the creation and growth of some of Pratchett’s most beloved characters; Vimes, Tiffany Aching, Moist von Lipwig.
The world of Discworld is as solid, three dimensional, and weighty as most historical textbooks, and any addition has a lot to live up to, but similarly a lot to rely upon.
And for the first time in 15 years, I am devastated to conclude a new release Terry Pratchett novel and not know in my heart of hearts that it is an incontrovertible perfect book. For the first time since the publication of ‘The Last Continent’ in 1998 (not including Pratchett’s young adult book ‘The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents’), Terry Pratchett’s prose has slipped up.
Many of you will already know that Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with a very rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at the end of 2007. As of the updated biography on his website (15th May, 2011), Pratchett now dictates his writing either to his assistant Rob Wilkins or to a voice recognition program. This detachment – however it plays itself out – is, I believe, the root cause of why this book has slipped up in comparison to what has come before it.
Simply put, the imagination is still there, the storytelling is still there, and the biting and intelligent humour is all still there – all that is missing is the polish, and it’s the polish that will make all the difference in a book rating 9 or 10. The polish is what cuts a paragraph because it’s unnecessary, or trims a sentence because it goes on a little long. Polish is what will erase a character for being superfluous to the story, or restrict the message in a paragraph which is already running on a little.
Polish is what made Terry Pratchett’s writing some of the greatest English literature ever to grace the shelves of the English-speaking world. The knowledge that less was better kept his books humming along like the well-oiled machine that takes pride of place in this latest novel, ‘Raising Steam’.
Yep, it took me that long to mention the book in question, but I feel entirely justified in doing so. I am not some hack critic out to make a name for himself by harshly reviewing an author simply for the joy of pulling down a star. Terry Pratchett is a writing idol, for me, and someone I aspire to be like – someone to emulate in my own creative writing. And though I enjoyed Raising Steam, relished the opportunity to return to Ankh Morpork and the lives of Lipwig, Vimes, and Vetinari, I have long endeavoured to provide reviews which were accurate – not sentimental.
Raising Steam continues the slow and steady growth of Ankh Morpork into an industrial-themed fantasy city – alongside all the tropes and quirks Discworld fans have come to love. It is the time of the steam engine, as well as troll hairdressers, goblin engineers, and dwarfish courage.
There is much more I could say in defence of my review, and much more I could say in support of Raising Steam. But in lieu of the fact I have already passed an A4’s worth of writing, I will sum up my thoughts in as succinct a fashion as possible.
Terry Pratchett is simply one of the greatest writers to have ever lived. His prose, humour, insight, and imagination are individually rare in current literature, and absolutely unparalleled when combined. But all things fade, and the horrific disease which is Alzheimer’s is robbing us of one of the brightest stars, slowly, but inexorably.
Joshua S Hill, 9/10
All reviews for: The Discworld Series
The Colour Of Magic
The Discworld Series: Book 1
In the beginning there was…a turtle. Somewhere on the frontier between thought and reality exists the Discworld, a parallel time and place which might sound and smel...
Lords and Ladies
The Discworld Series: Book 14
The fairies are back – but this time they don’t just want your teeth… It's Midsummer Night - no time for dreaming. Because sometimes, when there'...
Feet of Clay
The Discworld Series: Book 19
For Commander Vimes, Head of Ankh-Morpork City Watch, life consists of troubling times, linked together by…well, more troubling times. Right now, it’s the latt...
The Light Fantastic
The Discworld Series: Book 2
A red star has appeared in the sky and the Discworld is heading right towards it. There is only one person who can save the world; but unfortunately this is the rather inep...
The Discworld Series: Book 20
Throughout history, there's always been a perfectly good reason to start a war. Never more so if it is over a 'strategic' piece of old rock in the middle of now...
The Fifth Elephant
The Discworld Series: Book 24
They say that diplomacy is a gentle art. That its finest practitioners are subtle, sophisticated individuals for whom nuance and subtext are meat and drink. And that master...
The Discworld Series: Book 28
For a policeman, there can be few things worse than a serial killer at loose in your city. Except, perhaps, a serial killer who targets coppers, and a city on the brink of ...
The Discworld Series: Book 3
Death comes to us all. When he came to Mort, he offered him a job. After being assured that being dead was not compulsory, Mort accepted. However, he soon found that romant...
The Discworld Series: Book 3
The last thing the wizard Drum Billet did, before Death laid a bony hand on his shoulder, was to pass on his staff of power to the eighth son of an eighth son. Unfortunatel...
The Wee Free Men
The Discworld Series: Book 30
Nine-year-old Tiffany Aching thinks her Granny Aching – a wise shepherd – might have been a witch, but now Granny Aching is dead and it’s up to Tiffany to...
The Discworld Series: Book 31
Polly becomes Private Oliver Perks, who is on a quest to find her older brother, who's recently MIA in one of the innumerable wars the tiny nation of Borogravia has a h...
A Hat Full of Sky
The Discworld Series: Book 32
Something is coming after Tiffany . . .Tiffany Aching is ready to begin her apprenticeship in magic. She expects spells and magic – not chores and ill-tempered...
The Discworld Series: Book 33
Moist von Lipwig is a con artist... ... and a fraud and a man faced with a life choice: be hanged, or put Ankh-Morpork's ailing postal service back on its feet. It'...
The Discworld Series: Book 35
Tiffany Aching is a trainee witch — now working for the seriously scary Miss Treason. But when Tiffany witnesses the Dark Dance — the crossover from summer to w...
The Discworld Series: Book 36
It’s an offer you can’t refuse. Who would not to wish to be the man in charge of Ankh-Morpork’s Royal Mint and the bank next door? It’s a job for li...
The Discworld Series: Book 37
Football has come to the ancient city of Ankh-Morpork. And now, the wizards of Unseen University must win a football match, without using magic, so they're in the mood ...
I Shall Wear Midnight
The Discworld Series: Book 38
A man with no eyes. No eyes at all. Two tunnels in his head... It's not easy being a witch, and it's certainly not all whizzing about on broomsticks, but Tiffany Ac...
The Discworld Series: Book 39
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a policeman taking a holiday would barely have had time to open his suitcase before he finds his first corpse. And Commander Sam...
The Discworld Series: Book 4
There was an eighth son of an eighth son. He was, quite naturally, a wizard. And there it should have ended. However (for reasons we'd better not go into), he had seven...
The Discworld Series: Book 40
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 of...
The Shepherds Crown
The Discworld Series: Book 41
Deep in the Chalk, something is stirring. The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength. This is a time ...
The Discworld Series: Book 8
Here there be dragons . . . and the denizens of Ankh-Morpork wish one huge firebreather would return from whence it came. Long believed extinct, a superb specimen of draco ...
Have you read Raising Steam?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Raising Steam reader reviews
Tanya from England
Agree totally, found myself having to re-read sections thinking I'd missed something as it just didn't flow as well as the other books. Very sad to think this may be the end of the Discworld as we know it.
9/10 from 2 reviews
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
The Bartimaeus Trilogy
When the 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus is summoned by Nathaniel, a young magician's apprentice, he expects to have to do nothing more taxing than a little levitation...
Meet Thursday Next, literary detective without equal, fear or boyfriend. There is another 1985, where London’s criminal gangs have moved into the lucrative literary m...
Lockwood & Co
When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in... For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A nu...
In a world full to bursting with would-be heroes, Jim couldn't be less interested in saving the day. His fireballs fizzle. He's awfully grumpy. Plus, he's been ...
A Lord of the Rings for the 21st century. Only a lot shorter. And funnier. And completely different. Conor thought he was an average teenager. OK, so his father only had on...
When young Jimbo Mambo books a room with Captain and Mrs Fanshaw in their Northernville lodging house, he is gradually introduced to their bizarre social circle. However, n...
May Contain Traces of Magic
There are all kinds of products. The good ones. The bad ones. The ones that stay in the garage mouldering for years until your garden gnome makes a home out of them. Most a...
The third planet out from the star was blue, with green splodges. Dirt. Oh, the bomb thought. And then its courage, determination and nobility-of-spirit subroutines cut in,...
A Heist Too Far
Mallik, an assassin with a short temper and an assortment of sharp weapons, Dick Swede a.k.a The Black Moustache, an almost famous highwayman, and Jules Van Jives, a scruff...
If Pigs Could Fly
"West Kensington Paranormal Detective Agency. Doctor Ravinder Shah speaking. No case too weird, no problem too bizarre. Strangeness a specialty. How can I help you?&qu...
Far away in the realm of Mythos, an evil entity has broken free of its prison to darken the land. However, entrusted with her father’s magic scroll – the only h...
The Banned Underground: The Amulet of Kings
Will Macmillan Jones
What could be worse? Having to take a holiday with an aunt who turns people into frogs? Or battling the local dark lord? Or getting involved with a jazz-loving bog troll an...
To Say Nothing of the Dog
When too many jumps back to 1940 leave 21st century Oxford history student Ned Henry exhausted, a relaxing trip to Victorian England seems the perfect solution. But complex...
Bingo Sac Grabbins is asked by the coughing wizard Gandef and some (oddly Welsh) dwarves to help them relieve the great dragon Smug of his gold....
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
Paris was supposed to save Hallie. Now... well, let’s just say Paris has other ideas. There’s a strange woman called The Chronometrist who will not leave her alone. Garbled warnings from bizarre creatures keep her up at night. And there’s a time portal in the keg room of the bar where she works. Soon, Hallie is tumbling through...
A corrupted city. A dark dream of power. Luke is a prisoner, condemned for a murder he didn’t commit. Abi is a fugitive, desperate to free him before magic breaks his...
The Fifth Empire of Man
Rob J Hayes
The Pirate Isles are united under Drake Morrass’ flag, but the war has only just begun. There’s still a long way to go before he’s able to call himself Ki...
Ian C Esslemont
After the disappointments of Li Heng, Dancer and Kellanved wash up on a small insignificant island named Malaz. Immediately, of course, Kellanved plans to take it over. To ...
Age of Swords
Michael J Sullivan
Raithe, the God Killer, may have started the rebellion by killing a Fhrey, but long-standing enmities dividing the Rhunes make it all but impossible to unite against the co...
A Time of Dread
The Ben-Elim, a race of warrior angels, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands. But their dominion is brutally enforced and their ancient en...
The Last Dog on Earth
Adrian J Walker
Every dog has its day... And for Lineker, a happy go lucky mongrel from Peckham, the day the world ends is his: finally a chance to prove to his owner just how loyal he can...