Raising Steam

“Peace is what you have while incubating the next war.”

Terry Pratchett

Ladies and gentlemen, may I welcome you on board this special express version of the Ankh-Morpork and Sto Plains Hygienic Railway on its journey today through the wilds of Raising Steam, the fortieth novel in Terry Pratchett’s prolific, not to say superabundant, Discworld series, featuring, among other wondrous sights, the Amazingly Interchangeable Men Samuel Vimes and Moist von Lipwig, the Entirely Plotless Coup, and the Mangled Remains of Beloved Characters!

Our first stop is a rather lovely Map of the Sto Plains, possibly my favourite of today’s destinations. Look, ladies and gentlemen, you can see the Chalk! And Don’tgonearthe! And Twoshirts! And if you look over here there are some rather amusing puns. Para Mount, anyone?

Well, I do hope you enjoyed that, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s all downhill from here. Our next stop is First Sentence:

It is hard to understand nothing, but the multiverse is full of it.

Admire, ladies and gentlemen, the nigh-perfect mimicry of such first sentences as “There was nothing, which exploded” or “This is where the dragons went.” Look at how profound First Sentence would like to be, but notice how redundant it is as a sentiment. And examine the way it glides so contrivedly into First Paragraph, a literary edifice written from the point of view of nothing, ladies and gentlemen! Isn’t this what you’ve always wanted to see in a Discworld novel?

Aand now we’re really off, flying through the desert of Page Fourteen (“I’ve the knowing of the sliding rule!”), slowing briefly to wonder at the ingenious replacement of Character Development with Funny Voices, watching a piece of Untranslated Latin (or Latation, depending on where you come from) flash by hoping that everyone will understand it without resorting to Google Translate, and marvelling at the masterful removal of all suspense whatsoever from the landscape.

But if you look very, very carefully, ladies and gentlemen, you may just see the glimmers of something new shining through the wreckage of the Disc, something altogether stranger and darker and more serious. Slinking through the shadows is a moving and original story about cultural appropriation, and religious extremism, and the anger of the small shifting the councils of the wise.

Shame that guy in a gold suit with a golem horse is standing in front of it.


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