The new Discworld novel, the 40th in the series, sees the Disc's first train come steaming into town.
Change is afoot in Ankh-Morpork. Discworld's first steam engine has arrived, and once again Moist von Lipwig finds himself with a new and challenging job.
It is hard to know how to characterize this and so many of Pratchett's other books in order to convey the desired impression which is, "If you have not already tried them, you really should read one right now." If a review mentions the goblins and trolls and werewolves and vampires, and the Leprechauns and, oh yes, the witches, it risks giving entirely the wrong impression. These have nothing in common with Tolkien and the least of them is far more human than your standard fantasy hero. If one refers to Pratchett as a brilliant humorist with a needle sharp wit, it suggests a self-conscious wordsmith who is too clever by half. Referring to his ability to crystallize the essence of human folly with deftly drawn plots which prick all our narrowest prejudices and suppositions with unerring accuracy suggests a tiresome agenda dressed up in borrowed whimsy.
Perhaps it is simplest just to say that his books are an accumulated treasure trove of wisdom and delight. This particular one is not the best place to begin exploring since it depends upon some familiarity with its forebears for complete appreciation. This is, after all, book 40. But you needn't go back to book one. I would suggest Going Postal, which will get you nicely on track for the characters in Raising Steam. My personal favorite is Monstrous Regiment, but a quick survey of the reviews for the books Audible offers should give you an idea of other starting places. And since both the narrators available are terrific, you can't go wrong there either.
One caveat. It may take you more than a chapter to get into the swing of things in Disk World. In fact, one of the hallmarks of these books is that their meaning and relevance accumulates, moving from whimsy to wisdom as each story progresses. This particular one starts a little more slowly than most and depends somewhat more on its predecessors, but by the end I was entirely delighted. Enjoy!
28 of 28 people found this review helpful
This is obviously not the book to start with if you are new to Discworld, instead, given Sir Pratchetts's condition, it is more of a coda: there could still be more books in the series, but there won't be many. It is hard not to think about that fact constantly throughout the audiobook.
It is hard not to think about it because the book, while very good, is not as great as the absolute highpoints of the series: Thud, Night Watch, Going Postal, I Shall Wear Midnight, etc. That said, some of the criticism is unwarranted, since, while not the best Discworld novel, it is better than either the early novels, or the last couple of books. The writing is still generally very sharp, the characters still familiar, and the plot is fun. A little of the magic fades, however, for obvious reasons.
It is also hard not to think about because of the themes of this book. As the series has progressed, Pratchett's Discworld has changed from fantasy parody to sharp-eyed social commentary. This book, even more than Thud, develops the themes of tolerance and progress in ways that are sometimes a bit hokey, but even more often left me a bit misty-eyed. While the real world connections here are perhaps a bit too sharp (I am looking at you, Dwarven terrorists), it does advance the optimistic vision of the future that permeates Pratchett's.
Finally, it is hard not to think about because the series itself seems to be drawing to a natural close. The book features many of the key characters from the earlier novels, offering the chance to say goodbye to them. The technology and development of the world has advanced to be close to our own, and magic is clearly disappearing from the picture. And, of course Ankh-Morpork is simply becoming London (or New York), just with more trolls and goblins.
I was reluctant to read the book after some negative reviews, but I am very glad I did. It was touching, sweet, and a fun read. It may not be as tight or sharp as some of the best books, but these are not lapses that detract from an otherwise terrific experience, with, as usual, amazing reading. If you are a Discworld fan, this is essential reading. If you aren't do a search for "discworld reading order" and get started!
15 of 15 people found this review helpful
Stephen Briggs is a standout narrator, as Discworld listeners already know. He (along with Nigel Planer) is as much a part of the series as the characters, much like Jim Dale is for the Harry Potter books or James Marsters is for the Dresden Files. And Terry Pratchett is a singularly gifted writer: nimble with stories, pointed with social relevance, creative and vivid with his fantasy worlds.
But there is a feel to this book that's similar to all the post-climax scenes in Star Wars movies or to all the post-climax moments in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies. This feels more about wrapping up relationships and bringing some kinds of closure to the Discworld than it does like an addition to the magnificent multi-volume romp that life in the Discworld has been so far. And that's perfectly understandable: Pratchett's career is winding to a close, and so, I guess, should the series. But there is an unaccustomed tinge of melancholy permeating the typically fine story that didn't feel right.
It's always sad to say good-bye.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
What did you like best about Raising Steam? What did you like least?
This is a review I hate to write. I love Terry Pratchett's writing, and I love his Discworld, and I spent every hour of the narration hoping like mad that he would pull this one out at the end. He didn't. Raising Steam brings back a nearly complete cast of Ankh-Morpork characters, tackles an ambitious plot, and reads like fan fiction.
One of the things that distinguishes Pratchett, at his best, is his absolute mastery of understatement. I'd say that his economy of style rivals Hemingway's, except Pratchett is better at it. That economy is almost completely lacking here, and the lack makes some of his greatest characters ring false.
He hasn't lost his eye for detail (the E. Nesbitt cameo is superb). He hasn't lost the compassion that has informed every one of over forty novels. He has not, I think, lost his scope of vision. It's only that he seems no longer to know what not to say. I didn't realize, until it wasn't there anymore, how much of Pratchett's brilliance depended on that.
That being said, if this was anyone else's book, I'd be delighted with it. The narration is excellently done, and I think that Stephen Briggs has superb timing, and a good sense for the characters.
I cannot imagine the strength of will it must take to write a novel at all, in the midst of such health problems. I admire Mr. Pratchett more than I can say. I only wish I could admire the book as more than a tremendously valiant near miss.
If you love the Discworld, you won't want to skip this one...just....don't start with it. In fact, start at the beginning, and follow the curve of this man's incredible, hilarious, wise and profligate and generous vision. That way, by the time you get to Raising Steam, you can have your heart a little bit broken, too, in all the best ways.
19 of 21 people found this review helpful
I feel as if the world is a sadder and less magical place. This is a wonderful last book written by a great man.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
This Moist story wasn't quite up to snuff compared to the others. This story is much more serious with a lot fewer plays-on-words and a great deal of jumping around. I had hoped for another Moist story, and instead I received a Moist-Grag-Vetinari-Dwarf King-train story. Entertaining as all Terry Pratchett novels are, however, and the twist at the end took me totally by surprise. I enjoyed the evolution of the train, though I could have done with more hilarious hijinks and fewer total successes with no problems.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
It's like a miracle, this book. I read that Pratchett dictated it to his computer with text-to-speech software. Hoorah for assistive technology! Admittedly, I can tell that it wasn't solely created by the brilliant voice of Sir Terry — or not the Pratchett we know and love — but that's okay, because I sense that the ideas are his, if not the full execution. The invention of trains!! Plus, it's got my favorite characters (even though they aren't portrayed the same as in previous books). I just adore Sam Vimes, Lord Vetinari, and Moist Von Lipvig. And they are ALL here (minus Carrot, oddly enough).
This book has some problems with characterization (especially Lord Vetinari) and pacing. It took too long for the plot to move forward and for any sense of urgency to pick up steam.
As for satire and parody, the focus on fundamentalists and on gender (female dwarfs) has been done before.
And the tenor of the book felt too ...umm...lighthearted and even jolly. Despite the horrible hate crimes, there was so much good-will and happiness. In prior books we got maybe one inscrutable smile from Vetinari, maybe one good belly laugh from Vimes. In this book, the characters of Vetinari, Vimes, Harry King, and even King Rhys were bent askew by laughter and far too many grins and glad hands. Only Moist Von Lipwig has been portrayed in previous books as a charismatic social creature.
But maybe all that bonhomie is good, a right proper salute to this brilliant series.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Is there anything you would change about this book?
Compared to previous Moist titles, this one lacks something. I am not sure if it is just me, but where as Going Postal was brilliant and Making Money was at least fun, Raising Steam seemed, for lack of a better word, forced.
Would you be willing to try another book from Terry Pratchett? Why or why not?
Of course I would! There are too many examples of where TP has clearly hit the mark and made me laugh out loud in my office for me not give him a great many more chances if time and his talents permit!
Have you listened to any of Stephen Briggs’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
I have listened to Stephen Briggs a number of other times and this one is no exception in his ability to give the characters presented their own voices.
Any additional comments?
If you are new to Terry Pratchet's books, Do Not read or listen to this one first! Hogfather, Mort, the afor mentioned Going Postal and even the first two books of the series (the Colour of Magic and the Light Fantastic) are much better starting places.
7 of 9 people found this review helpful
Raising Steam is not a bad story, but it is not one of Pratchett's best - nor even as good as most. It is OK. Even the performance in this one didn't seem up to snuff with the past books.
The story is more contrived than usual, and in some cases, held together by barely a thread. What does set this story apart from the 40 preceding books, is the number of cameos involved. It seems that almost everyone makes a showing in this book, even if just for a moment. Even Rincewind who hasn't been seen in many a story. Though, the Librarian was notably absent.
With all the cameos, many of which did not really add to the story, and some even seemed a little out of character, the story felt more like a goodbye. Like a final bow of good friends that have performed together for years. I just wish the cameos fit the story the better, or the story was bent to the cameos more. At times it felt like a parallel story line that just seemed to touch this one.
Despite all of that, even an average Pratchett tale is a good one. I did enjoy it and recommend it to anyone who is already a fan. If you have not reach Pratchett before - do not start with this one. If after that you still feel like reading this as your first, imagine an orangutan beating you with a thick man-eating book until you decide to read another Pratchett story first. If you still persist in reading this one first - avoid zoos, libraries, and other areas where you may run into an orangutan - because you will get beaten with a man-eating book.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
Stephen Briggs could read the phone book and I'd listen. . . His skills shine in this, the third (?) Moist Von Lipwig book by Pratchett. The plot of RS is the weakest of the three, with a long, slow decline to the end--even one of the characters asks, essentially, "Is that all there is?"--but Pratchett still made me laugh out loud in various places. I recommend it, but it's not his best, so don't start with it!
1 of 1 people found this review helpful