Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Review: "Raising Steam," by Terry Pratchett

The steam engine has come to the Discworld, but is the Disc ready? We find out in Terry Pratchett’s latest, “Raising Steam” ($26.95, Doubleday).

Dick Simnel, a young lad out of Sto Lat, has succeeded where many others have failed – usually in a messy pink mist. He’s harnessed steam to create the Discworld’s first locomotive, which (or should we say who) he’s named Iron Girder. And where else would he take this new invention but Ankh Morpork?

Dick ends up in the offices of one Harry King, a man who has made a very good living for his family in sanitation, but is looking for something he and his wife can take a little more pride in. He sees the engine as a way to provide that.

And, of course, anything new happening in Ankh Morpork has to meet the scrutiny of its reigning tyrant, Lord Vetinari. That’s where the fast-talking scoundrel Moist von Lipwig comes in. He’s become Vetinari’s go-to guy, in a manner of speaking, when it comes to making unlikely events succeed.
As if getting the first railway off the ground wasn’t enough, though, there’s a group of extremist traditional dwarves known as grags out to make sure that all progress stops in its tracks.
So we’re 40 books into the Discworld series now, with Pratchett, as most everyone knows, racing against the clock with Alzheimer’s. Even after all this time, I always look forward to another trip back to the Disc, and I’ll miss it when it’s gone.
“Raising Steam” has most of the characteristics of a good Pratchett novel. There’s social commentary through parody and satire, a parade of some of our favorite characters from over the years and plenty of chuckles throughout. But there seems to be just a little something missing here. “Raising Steam,” to me, just doesn’t have the flair and personality of Pratchett’s best works.
There’s a fun story, though the humor and dialogue don’t seem to be as cutting or cunning. There have been up and down Discworld books over the years, and “Raising Steam” is really neither. It’s an enjoyable installment, but not entirely, I’m guessing, what many fans hoped for.

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