Raising Steam – by Terry Pratchett
“Raising Steam” is Terry Pratchett’s 40th Discworld novel – quite an achievement! It seems to be a novel that has split his legions of fans, some of whom feel that this latest offering is “not in keeping” with the Discworld series. That being said, it doesn’t seem to be a fifty-fifty split, most Discworld fans (including me) seem happy enough.
It’s certainly true that the latter Discworld novels, from about “Monstrous Regiment” onwards, have been getting a little grittier – some would say darker. “Raising Steam” may be the grittiest yet, but if that’s the way that Sir Terry wants to take it, then fair enough. He is the author after all.
Personally speaking, I have always found that although Discworld and Ankh-Morpork are full of wizards, werewolves, vampires, trolls, dwarves, goblins etc. – you definitely feel right at home. It has always been full of humanity’s triumphs and failures – albeit that many of the key players are not human (and some of them are downright inhuman} – and that has surely been a great part of its appeal. However, it may just be that Terry Pratchett is currently making these just a little too obvious for some readers.
For myself, I enjoyed the book. Yes it is a little darker than the last one, which was a little darker than the one before – and so forth, but I don’t think Pratchett has taken things “too far”. It remains an enjoyable read, outrageously funny at points and with plenty in jokes and references to his earlier Discworld novels. The fact that Discworld’s parallels with our own society are a little more in your face doesn’t spoil thing for me at all. You may not agree of course.
In summary, the railroad has arrived in Ankh-Morpork – and it’s going to spread throughout the Disc. It’s a new and exciting age which is bringing change to Ankh-Morpork and Discworld as a whole. Change can be a good thing, as long as it’s properly controlled of course, which is why Lord Vetinari “appoints” Moist von Lipwig (in the form of an offer he can’t refuse) as controller of railway development.
It’s nothing short of the industrial revolution on Discworld, with all the opportunities for success and epoch changing events that entails – and all of the backstabbing and underhand tactics that huge stakes like that always engender. It’s up to Moist to keep thing on the right track.
It is the darkest of the Discworld novels to date, but I enjoyed it (and laughed out loud a few times) nevertheless. Fans of Discworld will enjoy this book – but if you’re new to Terry Pratchett’s work, I would probably start with one of the earlier novels. “The Colour of Magic (Discworld)“, being the first in the series, would be as good a starting point as any.