Friday, 17 January 2014

Book review: Raising Steam

The latest terry Pratchett novel, or at least the later Terry Pratchett Discworld novel, sees the railways arrive in Ankh-Morpork in Raising Steam. Over the years the Discworld books have become the story of a society in a state of unstoppable progress, its landscape unrecognisable from the cod-mediaeval swords-and-sorcery spoof it started out as. Pratchett is the gently genial voice supporting progress and Raising Steam has particularly little patience for the Luddites and reactionaries of this world or his own: The arrival of trains on the Sto Plains proves the last straw for a breakaway group of religious dwarfs who start a terror campaign against the railway and the clacks machine (the telecommunication system introduced a few books ago.)

Of course racism, or at least speciesism, is behind a lot of this, and the recent integration of the goblins into Ankh-Morpork has put a lot of backs up. Pratchett's metaphors for the real world are getting, if anything, even less subtle than ever, but it's hard not to like how eloquently and passionately he argues against the sort of people who fight against change on principle. This isn't one of his funnier books unfortunately, and a lengthy buildup in the second half of the book ends in anticlimax, although that's kind of the point. Still enjoyable though.

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