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“. . . raises important questions while it entertains. . .”
An endearing whiz-kid engineer inadvertently shakes up the slow pace of life in Terry Pratchett’s fortieth Discworld novel Raising Steam. Dick Simnel’s creation of a prototype steam engine starts a commercial, transportation and technological revolution practically overnight, and of course it can’t remain a secret for long. The newfangled invention inspires rabid trainspotters and Luddite-type detractors alike, as well as attracting the attention of those in power and those who are forced to maintain it, namely the Patrician Lord Vetinari and his right hand man, the amiable scallywag forever in his debt, Moist von Lipwig.
Throw in a few grease-loving goblins, exercising their newly acquired civil rights, and some very angry dwarves, voicing quite a political agenda, and the fireworks begin in earnest. Pratchett constructs the conflict on his flat-disc fantasy world parallel to a Dickensian Earth where the steam engine shook up more than a few people’s notions of how life could be and should be like. Because, when you think about it, the ability to travel to distant places faster than previously imagined can mean only one thing: There are many more opportunities for sharing ideas—sometimes dangerous ideas. What brings sentient beings together can also work to tear them apart. Humans, vampires, werewolves, goblins, and dwarves alike are forced to contemplate seriously the Discworld’s new railroad system and how it will impact their groups’ interactions in the future.
An enjoyable read for fans of the series, Raising Steam raises important questions while it entertains, presenting humanity’s foibles clothed in fantasy allegory.
Reviewer: Cindy A. Matthews