Raising Steam

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett, Discworld #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 the elements: earth, air, fire and water. This being Ankh-Morpork, it's soon drawing astonished crowds, some of whom caught the zeitgeist early and arrive armed with notepads and very sensible rainwear.

Moist von Lipwig is not a man who enjoys hard work - as master of the Post Office, the Mint and the Royal Bank his input is, of course, vital... but largely dependent on words, which are fortunately not very heavy and don't always need greasing. However, he does enjoy being alive, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse...

Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man wi' t'flat cap and sliding rule who has an interesting arrangement with the sine and cosine. Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs and some very angry dwarfs if he's going to stop it all going off the rails...

Terry Pratchett is world renown for his best-selling series Discworld. The Discworld series has been going on steadily for many years and Raising Steam is the latest edition to this still popular and going strong series. I have read quite a few of Terry Pratchett's non-Discworld related book but yes shame on my I haven't read any of the previous Discworld books, I know the idea behind the series, how the world is build up and was very intrigued by this fact. I have to say that I did have some reservations going into the 40th book of the Discworld series, mainly by the fact that I might miss out on a lot, not having read the previous book but I reckon that Raising Steam is a book made for the die-hard follower as well as people, like me, making a plunge into the series. I can safely say that Terry Pratchett has another fan added to his Discworld series. It's a whole lot of fun to read!

Raising Steam build the story around one big thing, which the name of the book already implies. Steampower is being brought to Ankh-Morpork, like I said I haven't known a different Ankh-Morpork than I read in Raising Steam, but I still got some of the past, the how-it-was-and-has-been, along with me. The introduction of steampowered technology isn't one that is made overnight. It's a slow and steady progress that you see develop all along the way of the book. 

The story opens up with the focus on Dick Simnel, who see the immense treasure of knowledge that he can get from books. This young mastermind, who is skilled in the sine and the cosine, greats the first ever steampowered engine. I liked how we were introduced to the story of Dick Simnel seeing him as a young boy with high ambitions and letting nothing stand in his way to achieve his goals. But raising his first steampowered engine seems to be amongst the easiest things for Dick, as he also has to find a means to get the engine running. So soon you see the construction of railroads to bring this magnificent piece of engineering to the conservative Ankh-Morpork. Because the main question here is: Is Ankh-Morpork ready for such an invasive change? If it's up to the ruler's of Ankh-Morpork and the dwarfish factions, the answer is no. Now Dick is in the middle of an uprising sort-of civilwar with the dwarfs who despise this particular piece of engineering. 

Besides the story of Dick Simnel there are quite a few other characters that you following along in Raising Steam. The first being Moist von Lipwig and I just found out that this is already his third book that he features in. But for me its the first. Anyhow, Moist is tasked by Lord Vetinari to see the advancement of the railway all throughout Discworld. Moist came over as a bit of an hesistant person, liking the flow of the life that he is currently leading, but with the task at hand of Lord Vetinari is more or less simple life is now being turned upside down as Moist now has to fear for his life once about every minute. Next to Moist and Vetinari, you also have Harry King, one of the wealthiest businessman of Ankh-Morpork who tries to get an advantage early on with Dick and his steamengine, Iron Girder, he promises Dick wealth that the young boy hasn't dared to dream off... But are Harry King's plan really only that or is there more to this? 

I really enjoyed reading about these different characters, this is my first introduction to them all, but it does kind of feel that Terry Pratchett had set up this story to be read as a standalone and though I didn't get the parts of the earlier book in which they features, in Raising Steam many of them really did shone. Although the cast wasn't that large, both sides, those of the dwarfs who are against the introduction of the steam engine in Ankh-Morpork and Vetinari and his followers who are pro to get steam rolling in Ankh-Morpork are well represented and storywise you see that Raising Steam is slowly turning out to be a story with a completely different layer. 

I have heard a lot about the jokes and the puns that Terry Pratchett cleverly hides within his stories and in The Long War I ready quite a few, and luckily Raising Steam also has quite a few of them. I still got the one with the martial artist in the back of my mind, the one who is master of the deja fu! brilliant. But like I said in the last paragraph there is much heavier and perhaps darker tone taking shape starting at the halfway mark of the book. It seems that certain factions haven't been accepted in the ranks in Ankh-Morpork, the Goblins have perhaps an higher motive to help bring steam to Ankh-Morpork. The earlier mentioned civil war on the rise mainly stoked by the strongly conservative and fundamentalist dwarfs isn't solely to keep steam from reaching their territory but also to keep the Goblins from being seen as equals. And when the fighting does take place between the warring factions it get downright and dirty with a darker tone than I had imagined. This taken on the whole did make me rethink a lot and made the story of Raising Steam resonate that much stronger for me.  

Though Raising Steam is for me the first book that I read in the Discworld series, I must say that I very much enjoyed reading this story and will look forward to any other story that Terry Pratchett will come up with in this series. I will also be on the look out for the earlier books of the series. Terry Pratchett sets himself apart with his writing on many fronts, he knows how to create interesting characters that stand out from the rest, but where he really makes a definite impression; is the creativeness of his ideas. His writing style and his play with words will really make you laugh out loud! I liked the footnotes at the bottem of the pages, though I normally hate these kind of things since they can misplace the rhythm of a book, they worked in full in Raising Steam. Bring on the next Discworld please!


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