I Don’t Want to Be First in Line to See Mrs. Train


Raising Steam, by Terry Pratchett – Pratchett’s output might be slower since his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s, but he’s still writing. While I read a few of his other recent books, it’s still Discworld that I feel the most attachment to, and this new one finally brings steam locomotives to the world on the back of a turtle. What I find interesting is that the Discworld was originally introduced as a swords-and-sorcery sort of place, and when modern technologies were introduced, they either had fantastic equivalents (cameras with picture-painting imps inside date back to the very first book in the series) or were presented as something that didn’t belong and had to be banished. This was the basic theme employed with movies in Moving Pictures, guns in Men at Arms, and rock and roll in Soul Music. Later, however, Pratchett updated the Disc somewhat, keeping in many of the old-school fantasy elements, but making such technologies as the telegraph (in the form of semaphore signals from towers), the printing press, and paper money commonplace. In Reaper Man, Death seeks to destroy Ned Simnel’s combination harvester, but now Ned’s son Dick successfully harnesses steam power and ushers in the creation of the Disc’s first railway. I do appreciate the continuity nod with the Simnel family, and there’s also a reference to the Ephebians making steam-powered vehicles, as they did in Small Gods. Anyway, like other recent books in the series, it’s not as laugh-out-loud funny as earlier ones, but there’s still a fair amount of satire. Former con man Moist von Lipwig and waste magnate Harry King both play major roles, and the Low King of the Dwarfs is having troubles of his (or should I say “her”?) own with extremist factions. There’s definitely a sense of a world that’s progressing, both in terms of technology and attitudes toward other sentient beings. I think Pratchett is aware that every new Discworld book might be his last, and hence trying to wrap up some of the main character and plot arcs; but there are still some tantalizing glimpses at what might come next. The goblins are working on a subway system and have mastered the bicycle, and we still haven’t seen the perpetual motion machine from Thud! really being put to use.

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1 Response to I Don’t Want to Be First in Line to See Mrs. Train

  1. Pingback: The Last Days of Discworld | VoVatia

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