Raising Steam: A Discworld Novel
When Discworld fans learned that Sir Terry Pratchett had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, there must have been a collective groan heard ’round the real world, not only for his illness, but that one of the brightest, funniest writers in recent times may never be able to enchant his fans with the lives of the magical saga of the denizens of Ankh-Morpork, Quirm, the Uberwold and the Ramtops, all of Discworld. How would these strange but entertaining folks’ lives turn out?
Pratchett, the master of the sneaky simile and purveyor of the protracted pun, surprised us all when he continued to satirize the human condition with his latest, and perhaps last, Discworld novel. RAISING STEAM brings that medieval universe into more modern times when a brilliant young blacksmith develops a steam engine.
"RAISING STEAM makes the avid Discworld fan want to revisit the collection from the very beginning."
Pratchett brings his favorite characters back for a curtain call and adds a new protagonist, a straight-talking human being named Dick Simnel. Dick introduces a monstrous mechanical device, the Iron Girder, that revolutionizes transportation and commerce to Discworld. When clacks --- the Discworld equivalent to the telegraph --- first showed up in THE FIFTH ELEPHANT and then again in GOING POSTAL, telecommunications turned Discworld on its edge. This was a truly upsetting event, since Discworld is a flat planet and making its citizens edgy can be a dangerous thing.
Sentient beings could send instant messages to other sentient beings, and when it was discovered that goblins, formerly swatted or squished, had a talent for manning the towers, many equal-opportunity barriers both cultural and physical were broken. When a railroad made travel to the places formerly just accessible by the clacks, and beings could meet face to face with communicants they had never met, no end of trouble could ensue. And now, a non-sentient or magical object (dare we say being) takes center stage as the magnificent Iron Girder struts her stuff on rails of steel.
Every species known to science and a few known only to Grimm’s fairy tales have risen to power in the whimsical world of Pratchett’s genius imagination. Watch Commander Vimes and his interspecies police force, the former scoundrel Moist von Lipwig, Lord Vetinari, the Low King of the Dwarfs, and even MORT, who speaks only in uppercase when he makes the last visit any of the characters will ever encounter, all take a bow. These 40 magical novels that began in 1983 with THE COLOR OF MAGIC have introduced a growing number of fans to witches, vampires, trolls, dwarfs, dragons, golems, wizards and goblins, each applying their very special talents to ruling governments, guilds and clans.
When the world of dwarfs, always a quarrelsome lot, faces civil war and insurrection after the true believers of their god, Tak, begin destroying public property because of their religious tenants, Dick Simnel, Moist von Lipwig, Lord Vetinari and a multitude of Discworldians --- from giant trolls to miniscule goblins --- join forces to bring peace to their planet on the Iron Girder. RAISING STEAM makes the avid Discworld fan want to revisit the collection from the very beginning. Here’s a toast to Terry Pratchett, who has entertained and enlightened his millions of fans for over three decades.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on March 28, 2014