Whilst it is increasingly difficult to class Pratchett's work as "humour" in the same sort of sense that "101 Uses for a Dead Cat" is humour, his deteWhilst it is increasingly difficult to class Pratchett's work as "humour" in the same sort of sense that "101 Uses for a Dead Cat" is humour, his determination and commitment to satire is undiminished. And whilst none of the targets of Raising Steam are new within Discworld (we've had dwarvish politics/fundamentalist obsession/industrial revolution etc. often before), they fit together with the usual engineering quality that is a hallmark of the series and particularly appropriate to a story about controlling the world through measurement rather than faith.
The most striking thing about Raising Steam is the travelogue nature of the story. Most Discworld novels content themselves with one or two settings - even ones that are located in Ankh-Morpork are usually confined to specific places (like the University, the Opera House or the Bank.) Here, we revisit a lot of places that have appeared once or twice before (even if only in passing), and, combined with an alarming number of cameos from older characters (including HIMSELF), this gives a distinct sense that this is Pratchett perhaps saying his first proper goodbye to a world that no-one knows better than him.
The story itself is slight, but none the worse for that. And it gets an extra half-star from me because I am a lapsed train geek, so the engineering jokes and the railway movie references were all good fun (even if some of them were alarmingly unsubtle.) And I had more laugh-out-loud moments in this than I have for the last few of the series.
So no, objectively this is not one of the greatest in the series (although I think that it may well end up in my own personal top five simply because of the theme), but - as has been observed often before - even average Pratchett is better than the best of a lot of other people. ...more
This one is a tough call. Whilst I enjoyed it a lot, and it's certainly clear that Pratchett has settled into his new writing style well (some books bThis one is a tough call. Whilst I enjoyed it a lot, and it's certainly clear that Pratchett has settled into his new writing style well (some books back I was seriously worried that his well-advertised condition was proving too much for him), there is also the growing sense that he is running out of places to go with his well-established characters. We lost Death a long time ago, and the Witches had to be diminished to a supporting cast for Tiffany, who has now come to the end of her story. In the end, I felt I learned nothing new about Sam Vimes this time out that I didn't know before I started. And whilst this is hardly a criticism - perhaps I am expecting too much - there was a distinct sense of retreading old ground; even the "goblin" story felt a bit too much like the "orcs" from Unseen Academicals. But the set-pieces are as good as ever - the Austen tea-party and the village face-off are fabulous, and the river sequence is more epic than anything we've really had before (harking right back to the apocalypse scenarios from early-mid period Discworld), and the running gags manage to stay the right side of funny.
As usual, even deja vu Pratchett is way better than pretty much everyone else....more
Although Equal Rites was the debut of Granny Weatherwax, it wasn't until this story - and the introduction of Nanny Ogg - that she became such a cruciAlthough Equal Rites was the debut of Granny Weatherwax, it wasn't until this story - and the introduction of Nanny Ogg - that she became such a crucial part of Discworld.
And crucial she is, almost to the same degree as HIMSELF in the way that she is never the central character of her stories and yet without her they simply would not work. In other cases (Sam Vimes being the most notable), such a strong character would insist on muscling into the centre of the stage - but not Esme. She seems quite content to let events unfold in line with her plans without ever seeming to have done anything (it strikes me that she is a little like Doctor Who in this respect - the stories are ostensibly about someone else, but their individual success is dependent upon Esme/the Doctor knowing exactly what they are doing.
And Pratchett's genius is that he makes you forget that it's a story - that he is in complete control of the narrative, not his characters. All the absurd coincidences, plot devices and divers alarums seem perfectly reasonable at the time.
This isn't my favourite of the Witches books (I think that is probably Maskerade, although A Hat Full of Sky is close), but in the same way that Mort defined the Death cycle, this (more than Equal Rites) sets the template for the Witches....more
It's getting there. After two books that were really only about the jokes, this one is really about the story. It's a cracking story, but not as polisIt's getting there. After two books that were really only about the jokes, this one is really about the story. It's a cracking story, but not as polished as later titles, and the central narrative hook doesn't give room for the same sense of satirical parody that later ones do.
There's no such thing as a bad Terry Pratchett. If I were forced to be locked in a room with only this and the complete works of Jeffrey Archer, then my toilet and heating needs would have been taken care of and I'd still have this to enjoy. But for me it's not one I rush to reread. Maybe it's because I'm male?...more
It took two goes, but this is the one where Pratchett nailed it. He found a way to balance a character-driven plot with the social commentary that subIt took two goes, but this is the one where Pratchett nailed it. He found a way to balance a character-driven plot with the social commentary that subsequently became his trademark, without sacrificing the jokes (from sophisticated satire through to groanworthy puns) that had made the Colour of Magic and the Light Fantastic such good fun.
Sure, it isn't quite as clever as some of the later ones, nor is it quite as sharp. But for proper emotional character investment, it is splendid. The tragedy of Princess Keli is marvellously depicted, and the woes of Mort as he slowly realises what he has done are hilarious and sad at the same time.
But of course the real genius was taking the slightly cynical Death that we glimpse in his fruitless pursuit of Rincewind and transforming him into this engaging anthropomorphic personification - an idea that he later brought to perfection in Small Gods.
For a decade or so, this was the Discworld book I used to use to introduce people to Pratchett. Now, of course, I barely meet anyone who hasn't read him. Which is great. ...more