I’ve just finished reading ‘Raising Steam’ by Terry Pratchett. It’s not the sort of book I would normally read to be honest, despite a general love of science fiction and sympathy towards fantasy, especially the tongue in cheek variety; but I’ve not read a Pratchett Discworld novel in years.
However I was desperate to stick something easy to read and fun on my Kindle after several non fiction works in a row, and having read the two Long Earth novels Pratchett co-authored with Steven Baxter and enjoyed them recently I thought I would give a universe I last paid attention to more than 10 years ago another look.
Raising Steam is a book about the invention of rail travel on a world that is flat and supported on the backs of four elephants riding a great turtle through space.
In what seemed like just a few months the steam engine was perfected and railways built from Ankh-Morpork to several neighbouring city states and a far flung land of vampires and dwarfs.
The Discoworld has changed a lot since I last checked in, magic and fantasy tropes seem to be more like off stage colour or bit part roles that feel like afterthoughts aimed at keeping the hardcore fans happy.
Now we’re in the throws of a rapid industrial revolution with it’s attendent growth of the cities and expansion of new suburbs, and naturally a politics made richer by easier and more rapid migration and communication has taken centre stage.
I think this makes for a more fulfilling read and Pratchett has performed a fine balancing act creating an easy fun read with some real philosophical and political meat, which is exactly what I think he has always been trying to achieve.
There are still some clunky bits – for instance when the main leader of the book’s generic extremist terror group is trying to stir up support for his cause in Ankh-Morpork itself it feels just a little too forced.
All in all though this was a nice little book with a few good chuckles which was all I was looking for, so the extra layers are pure bonus.