Steam engines, and the ideas that come with them

Review of Raising Steam, a novel by Terry Prachett. Also my first Discworld novel, so this review might be more generic to the series than specific to the book.

I honestly wish I’ve known Prachett for longer, that I’ve started reading his books far earlier. The man was a genius, clever with his words and all his characters and this manificent little world he’s built.

Raising Steam is the fortieth (ya, seriously, 40th) RaisingSteam-covernovel set in the world of Discworld, a world that, far as I’ve heard, is disc-shaped, sits on top of four elephants, who themselves sit on top of a turtle swimming in space. That ought to tell you how things work in that world, because if I am to explain everything, all the workings and the humors and the great landscape of the world, it’ll take all day and more.

In Raising Steam, the world has discovered the power of, well, steam, and how to harness it to create a running locomotive. Meanwhile, politic has gone a little sour, and a group has formed who oppose all sort of modernization and liberation between the many sapient species of Discworld.

Prachett’s work is a bit of a work to get a first taste of. The way of his words are, by nature, humorous. Also a bit long-winded, for humorous effect. Also often throwing common conventions out of the window, because that’s often how humour works. This results in chuckles while reading it, a great many chuckles, but often a newcomer will have to actually double-check the paragraphs to understand what’s going on. For some it could be easy, for some it could be an exhausting time before they understand that you really ought to just chug along with the story, laugh at the puns, nevermind the little details because don’t worry, the author has them all taken care of.

So, a bit of a work to get started with, but once (or if) you’re accustomed to his words, you’ll be glad there’s thirty-nine more books where that came from*.

And Raising Steam is a marvellous book. Not only is it funny, but also very wise, with some serious ideas about the world we live in. Technology, new changes, politic, how people treat each other, among others. I often dislike stories with moral opinions and philosophy smacked right at your face, but in Raising Steam*, its ideas are weaved in the narrative so even when they blare a bit too loudly, instead of complaining about it you’re already busy laughing, chuckling, smiling, or otherwise amused.

Really, it’s a clever book. And funny. And who doesn’t like that almighty combination of funny and clever? Not something you just to read to pass the time but… okay, you can definitely read it to pass the time, but my point is that it’s worth every second you put into it. If you have some thoughts to spare, this book is highly recommended.

And if you’re new to Discworld, don’t be fooled by the trolls and goblins in the front cover and the thick smell of fantasy. It’s fantasy, yes, but not an epic of the Tolkien sort. Everything is taken with good humour and good practice and even if the world is not our own, its ideas are definitely not far-fetched.

* Are all the other Discworld novels like this? This is fantastic 


2 thoughts on “Steam engines, and the ideas that come with them

  1. As I understand it, this is your first DW? That’s an odd choice since it is chronologically, the last Discworld to come out. But you’ll be surprised at how many more fantastic stories you’ll find. The Moist von Lipwig novels are good. As were the Witch centric ones. But I find the Watch novels (police procedural satire) to be the most satisfying! Hope you have a good time reading more DW! 🙂

    1. Well, I don’t really have a choice. English books aren’t commonplace where I live and Prachett’s books are hard to find among them. I was basically squeeing when I saw this book, having hitherto only heard wind of the series in the internet.

      But I’m definitely in the lookout for more now.

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