Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

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Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

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1RobertDay
oct. 13, 2014, 8:23am

I have just acquired a copy of the latest Discworld novel (and probably the last to come from Terry Pratchett's own pen), 'Raising Steam'. It involves the one-time confidence trickster and now Postmaster-General, Moist von Lupwig, introducing the delights of railway travel - including timetables and trainspotters - to the Discworld. Has anyone else had the chance to read this yet?

(For the uninitiated, Pratchett's 'Discworld' is a comic fantasy setting of a flat world carried on the backs of three elephants, who in turn are carried on the back of a giant turtle swimming through space. It is a world where magic works, but in the course of forty novels over something like thirty years, Pratchett has raised his game from writing a pastiche - and a very good one at that - of heroic fantasy set in what looks like an identikit 'Medieval World (TM)' to writing comic novels of some considerable depth and wit. Over the same period, he has advanced the Discworld from the afore-mentioned medieval setting into a sort of 19th-century setting with a level of industrialisation and technological advance alongside the magical characters.)

There was a rather clever model railway based on this novel on show at the World Science Fiction Convention in London this August; the layout is on the UK exhibition circuit, and the modeller has indulged themselves, not only with detail from the novel but also as an excuse to bring together some fairly exotic locomotives that wouldn't normally be seen together.

Terry Pratchett is suffering from early-onset dementia and recently announced that he was giving up writing because, even with the help of an amanuensis, the task is now getting beyond him. There is the possibility that his daughter - herself a talented computer games designer - will be continuing his writing work where he has had to leave off.

2John5918
oct. 13, 2014, 9:03am

Thanks, Robert. I read it some time ago and really enjoyed it. I wrote a two-sentence review, simply, "The railway comes to Ankh-Morpork. As intricate and exciting as most of the Discworld novels, this one also demonstrates a good understanding of the world of steam railways." I think he must have talked to a lot of real gricers to get some of the atmosphere. Wish I'd seen that UK model railway.

3ulmannc
oct. 13, 2014, 9:19am

Hmmmmmm. . . I have never read anything in the graphic novel (is that the right name for it) line but if you add railroad items to it! The American Railroad Association (I don't think I have the name right - it was a promotion group for railroads in the US back in the 50's . . . read lobbying group today) printed several comic books on different railroad subjects but to say they were dull is making the word 'dull' sound exciting!

4RobertDay
oct. 13, 2014, 10:40am

>3 ulmannc: These aren't graphic novels, but real written books, with words!

5ulmannc
oct. 13, 2014, 10:54am

>4 RobertDay: That's even better!!!!!!!!

6gilroy
oct. 14, 2014, 3:49pm

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

For the sake of the touchstones.

7thorold
Editat: oct. 21, 2014, 7:43am

I've just read it as well. Good on railways, as John said, and I loved the comic details, like the (totally irrelevant) Brief Encounter pastiche and all the Buster Keaton stuff. Not to mention Jenny Agutter's petticoat... In the acknowledgements he says he got a lot of help from "the boiler-suited gentlemen of the Mid-Hants Railway", and it looks as though he must also have read one or two of the standard books about Victorian railway development. He runs through all the familiar landmarks, but it's all telescoped in time (the First Steam Engine is still taking people for rides in the park as the Transcontinental Railroad nears completion). I was a bit disappointed that no-one gets Huskissoned, though. Patriarch Vetinari is obviously too good to waste!

8John5918
oct. 21, 2014, 8:31am

>7 thorold: Not to mention Jenny Agutter's petticoat.. He runs through all the familiar landmarks

Yes, I also appreciated these little details.

I also loved the sense he gives that the steam engine is alive and needs to be understood and cossetted, which is very much my own experience working on the footplate, although I haven't yet seen one come quite as consciously alive as his does...