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 of 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….
Still doing the very long daily commute so it was time to bring some Terry Pratchett into my journey. I have been a fan of the Discworld books since the late 1980’s, I have read and re-read each title multiple times – mostly.
Even my favourite authors (and Sir Terry has been my favourite for many a long year) do not always hit the mark with their books. Although Mort, Wyrd Sisters and Nightwatch are virtually imprinted onto my brain – I am less fond of Pyramids, Eric and Monstrous Regiment. Raising Steam had fallen into the latter category, I bought the book on first release but never really got into it and it remained unfinished (a state previously unheard of for a Discworld novel). So when I wanted a Discworld book for my car journey – Raising Steam was getting a second chance.
Happy I am to report that I got much more involved with the story this time around and I enjoyed it a lot more as an audio experience than I had when I tried to read it.
Raising Steam sees the return of Moist von Lipwig, saviour of the Post Office and Vice-Chairman of the bank (with a small snuffly dog as the actual Chairman). I have loved both the previous Moist novels and this time around we see him coming to the fore as an industrial revolution blooms and the railways spring up.
Once again Pratchett has perfectly captured the best bits of our history and lampooned it perfectly. We have the luddites (represented by Deep Down Dwarves) and the innovators – an engineer who gets a cracking Yorkshire accent from the narrator, the Patrician oversees the development using Moist as his conduit. But Raising Steam is much more than an industrial revolution as there is a Political Revolution going on too. Dwarf’s are revolting (as in rising against their King) but stability and progress is the more desirable outcome for The Patrician, the King, The City Watch and also the Trolls (long time enemy of all Dwarf people). Tensions will rise and it will take a cast of many of our favourite characters to sort this mess out.
Raising Steam highlights again that there are few that can hold a torch to Terry Pratchett – his work is the stuff of legend and I sorely miss having the opportunity to enjoy new adventures with characters I have loved for all my adult life.
As for the audio – well Stephen Briggs does an admirable job and brings life to the whole cast. He gives accents to all the races (and characters) and Yorkshire, Wales, South-West and Cockney all shine through. My only quibble is that the bad dwarf was Scottish and so was one of my most loved characters – “Spike”. My mental image of Ms Dearheart were slightly tarnished by Mr Briggs making her sound like Supergran.
All in it was a great few hours of listening – with minor quibbles over Scottish accents – but only a Scot would pick up on that I feel!
Raising Steam is available in paperback, digital and audiobook. Terry Pratchett remains a legend.