It seems that even the very wise have neglected to take notice of one rather important goddess… Pippina, the lady with the Apple of Discord. She knows that the universe, while it requires rules and stability, also needs just a tincture of chaos, the unexpected, the surprising. Otherwise it would be a mechanism – a wonderful mechanism, ticking away the centuries, but with nothing different happening.
I almost wondered if I could get away without writing this one, I borrowed this and Snuff from my dad to complete the series following Sir Terry’s death. Snuff was classic Pratchett, laugh out loud funny, but this, returning to the world of Moist Von Lipwig, seemed clunky, My bold assertion about Pratchett’s ability to follow a formula without it being boring seemingly made too soon, as here Pratchett follows his own formula, the Von Lipwig formula, where Vetinari pulls him in to oversee the introduction of the railway to the discworld, while in the background the Grags, traditional dwarves hell bent on keeping dwarves traditional rumble along causing disruption and taking over the throne.
Perhaps more importantly, Vetinari finally overcomes the Times crossword compiler, as every tyrant should, just for the look of the thing, and realises the inevitability of the railway and the revolution it will cause, whilst Moist revels in being in the eye of the revolution, working the hustle (albeit a legal one, mostly) keeping his hands on all the levers, as it were. What keeps Raising Steam enjoyable is the interplay between Vimes and Moist, two key discworld protagonists who get almost equal billing for much of the book. Vimes has been built up over pretty much the whole series of the discworld and it’s interesting seeing him interact closely with a fairly new central character who Pratchett obviously thought had legs. While drafting this review I had a thought that perhaps it might have been a handover, Vimes representing the old, archaic Ankh-Morpork, and Moist pushing, cajoling and enticing it into the future, with Vetinari pulling the strings of both in the background.
The last few books have introduced a lot of modernity to the discworld, through Pratchett’s wonderfully cutting and satirical eye but sadly for me the introduction of the railway seemed to run through the motions. There are some brilliant laugh out loud moments throughout the book and the pull of the steam engine is wonderfully played up but this seemed less like a discworld book and more like a normal novel, rushing along literally like a train to it’s conclusion, and that’s the first time I’ve felt that way about a discworld novel.
Even so, I would still recommend this if you’re a Pratchett fan, I’ve not come across anyone in the world who writes like him, and I would love to even spend one day on the discworld, so vividly did he bring it to life, and yes, I reckon I would take the Ankh Morpok Hygienic Railway.
Dick just loved talking about Iron Girder and everything else to do with locomotion, but he was a straightforward man and the press of the Sto Plains could eat up for lunch a straightforward man if he wasn’t careful. Moist, on the other hand, in the vicinity of the press, was as straightforward as a sackful of kaleidoscopes.