Raising Steam – Terry Pratchett

Saying that Terry Pratchett is on the wane is like saying that Louie Spence is less camp these days.

Pratchett might have allowed a sense of melancholy to slither through the Disc in his last couple of novels, and it’s still debatable whether this has purely been a literary choice or a reflection of his personal circumstances, but he still spins a rousing romp in Raising Steam that is several notches above the modest pickings that we have had in the genre these past few years.

Raising Steam sees the rise of the steam engines in the Discworld.  The taming of steam might seem a tad anachronistic in a world on the back of four elephants standing on a turtle, but technology has been welcomed in the Discworld ever since its semaphore towers have allowed people to instantly share images of what they had last had for dinner.

The steam revolution on the Disc is a force of nature. There is a feeling throughout the novel that the cast of characters around it, with the notable exception of the indomitable Patrician, is just there to lay down the tracks (figuratively and literally) for it to progress on while they tinker with a few adjustments here and there.

And it is their undertaking that makes for a ripping tale.

Lord Vetinari is still at the pinnacle of a biting satire of management and politics. The different races in Ankh-Morpork still offer plenty of fodder for Pratchett’s views on social inequality, racial integration and blatant racism. But a less subtle but very biting caricature of extreme fundamentalism is also made on the back of what has been brewing in the Dwarf community for more than twenty novels. Terry Pratchett doesn’t pull any punches on this, and I will personally shake his hand if I ever get to meet him for the way this is portrayed.

Moist Von Lipwig is back and although readers will feel that the challenge that he is facing this time around is more straightforward and requires less of his ingenious and improvisational artistry, he accomplishes what he sets out to do with a panache that is expected from the Postmaster General and Master of the Royal Mint of Ankh Morpork. This novel unfortunately doesn’t offer him a Reacher Gilt to square up against, but he remains the Moist Von Lipwig that we know and adopted all the way back in Going Postal : a con artist, a fraud, and more honourable than most people on the Disc and in the real world.

Lord Vetinary remains 10 steps ahead of everyone, and this will never change.

Sam Vimes drops in and out of the novel;  a character that’s almost mythical and larger than life when viewed in a story that is not directly about him, and that is no less than what he deserves.

Notable figures, such as the Low King of the Dwarfs and Harry The Sewer King, come back to the forefront of the Disc in Raising Steam. What was revealed about them in previous novels, whether these be secrets or aspirations, is tackled head-on in the novel and this is immensely satisfying to long-term fans.

The Discworld novels will come to an end sooner rather than later. We can all sense it. But rest assured that Terry Pratchett will leave the series as it deserves to be left: with those that built it at the top of their game and the turtle hurling through space with a smirk on its face.

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~ by ashd10 on March 18, 2014.

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