The late Terry Pratchett was a genius, there’s no other way to put it. His creation of the Discworld has kept me entertained for many years, and although his style changed a bit with the onset of Alzheimers his later books were still very, very good. Raising Steam was the only novel of his that I hadn’t read before (not including the Shepherd’s Crown which isn’t out until next month) and when I bought it for my Dad’s birthday, I knew I would get to read it when he had finished!
The book centers on the character of Moist von Lipwig, a talented con-man and scoundrel who is also in charge of the Royal Bank and the Post Office through rather odd circumstances dealt with in Pratchett’s other books. There is also a whole host of other recognisable Ankh-Morpork characters such as Sam Vines and the City Watch, City ruler/tyrant and assassin Lord Vetinari, trolls, dwarfs, vampires, goblins, and the endearingly Yorkshire Dick Simnel, the inventor of the steam engine. For those of you who have no idea what I’m on about at this point, I apologise, but you really need to read the Discworld novels to keep up. Basically, this one is set in an alternate magical universe which roughly coincides with our British industrial revolution.
The railway is big news obviously, and becomes vital when a Dwarf civil war threatens in Uberwald (think Transylvania). The grags (uber strict dwarfs who don’t approve of anything un-dwarfish… like sunlight) try to remove the Low King and it is up to Moist to get Simnel’s train up and running, and return the Low King from a meeting with the Diamond King of the Trolls to Uberwald before the crazy grags take over (and Vetinari decides Moist is no longer worth keeping around- he is a tyrant after all, he can do these things).
Pratchett’s amazingly well written characters and humour shines throughout the book and it is very much one I didn’t want to put down- I have to admit a 5 hour stint yesterday to finish it while feeling ill and sorry for myself in bed! The plot doesn’t sound like a lot, but Pratchett’s skill was in the interaction between characters and the small, funny events and comments that make up everyday life, rather than an epic adventure tale. Once again, he sucks you into the Discworld universe, and I can’t wait to return and re-read some of his books. As heartbroken as I was when he died, he did leave a wonderful legacy, and this book is another fantastic piece of it.