on 14 November 2013
The majority of the negative reviews on here - in particular the WONDERFUL review by A Nailor - kudos to you, that is the best review I've read on Amazon - aren't entirely wrong. I can completely understand why people are saying that the language, the characterisation, the plotting are all slightly... well, off. This has been true to a greater or lesser extent of all his novels since Monstrous Regiment, and may be (I'm really not sure) a result of Terry having to accommodate the use of speech recognition software in dictation of the novels. Certainly, they are very different animals from the earlier novels, which are much easier to read and full of snappy dialogue and splendid jokes.
So why am I giving this 5 stars? I certainly struggled through the first hundred pages, and felt my heart sinking more and more at the long and convoluted sentences, and the rather jarring scenes which seemed to have little to do with the plot.
But then, something just clicked. I slowed down my reading (and in fact went back to the beginning and reread it with a different mindset). Yes, it's not the same old Discworld, but underneath that it is still the product of the superb mind of Terry Pratchett. It took a lot of effort, but I could see what he was doing, and began to appreciate it. The humour is still there, if not so obvious and instantly accessible.
There's less overt magic, which as a fantasy addict I regret, but this is a grown-up Discworld, where magic is gradually giving way to the increasing industrialisation of Ankh-Morpork.
Do I miss the old Pratchett? Yes, of course. But this is a new phase in the developing world, and I'm glad that Terry Pratchett is still giving us valuable new insights into human (and other species) behaviour. Long may he continue to do so!
on 5 May 2015
Raising Steam, Terry Pratchett – This is a difficult book to review fairly. I want to be kind, given the traumas the author was enduring when he wrote it. On the other hand, I don’t want to pander. I’ll start then by pointing out that Pratchett is, in my view, one of the greatest populist storytellers of the last six decades. I’ve been an avid reader of his Discworld series since I was a teen, and his death affected me as though I knew him. No other author has woven themselves so intrinsically and joyfully through my life to date. With that acknowledged, Raising Steam is not a book I would give to somebody to demonstrate why. It’s themes have been more deftly explored in previous volumes, the writing is clunky where it would usually glide, and the pace is glacial. There’s little sense of threat throughout the book, and almost no reason to care what happens to the protagonists. It presents a two-dimensional Discworld, that only loosely relates to the place in which I’ve spent so much time. That there are good real-world reasons for why does not alter the fact that, in my opinion, nothing in the vast canon of Discworld stuff is as weak as this. I can’t recommend Raising Steam to anybody other than the most loyal completists. There are dozens of Pratchett novels to exhaust before you come to this one. Read those instead.
on 15 August 2014
Nothing stays the same.
Some of the reviews almost stopped me from reading the book. Definitely stopped me from buying it. I borrowed it from a friend and read it in 2 evenings. No, it's not bad. Yes, it's still Discworld. It's just changing in the direction that I personally don't like. But isn't our world, too? It's unfair to suggest it wasn't written by the author, that it's so bad it's a waste of money. If you're a true fan, buy it by all means, it's part of the history. Yes, it's quite serious, rather surprisingly bloody for Pratchett, innocent people actually die here and bad guys are too bad for the otherwise subtle Discworld. But hey, it is after all a mirror of worlds, isn't it? Witty repartee and fantastic jokes are all well, but sometimes - especially with 39 books so far - it has to be a bit more somber and a bit closer to home.
If you're ne to Pratchett, you could probably start with something else, but don't be put off. I was introduced to Discworld with Going postal. The book didn't have the best reviews either, and know what? Personally I loved it so much, I haven't stopped reading Pratchett since.
So take a risk, buy it or borrow it from a friend and see for yourself. Hopefully you'll be reaching for more.
on 8 November 2013
... And not really in the good way. On the quite unlikely chance that Terry ever reads this, I don't blame him and I'm not even mad. I am very happy for him to have my £10; he deserves it and more. I wish him only the best, and would have happily given him the £10 if he asked for it, without particularly wanting or needing to finish the book.
I finished the book and felt like I'd just been to a funeral.
Terry Pratchett's Discworld series is a globally beloved institution, for good reason. He is to fantasy what Douglas Adams is to science fiction. Sadly, the 40th book of the Discworld is pretty much like Eoin Colfer's ghastly resurrection of the Hitchhiker's Guide series, only slightly worse. Colfer just didn't GET Adams and his humor, on a molecular level, so you weren't too bothered by it conflicting with your own nostalgia - you just accepted that you had paid your money for a bit of fanfiction. This is rather like buying the Officially Licensed Eighth Harry Potter Book to find that it's an alternate-universe tale of Harry laboriously taking public transport for two hundred pages while monologuing about the Industrial Revolution, and Frodo Baggins shows up near the end and breaks the fourth wall to explain to you that this is all very funny and satirical. And it's written by Dan Brown. For the young-adult market. You don't mind what's happening; you're just slightly puzzled, wondering why everyone is out of character and when the story is going to start. It's not actually BAD, it's just maybe not what you wanted.
This book echoes Discworld in its pedigree, but the prose has no engine behind it, no driving energy, no romp down a passing train of thought that suddenly sidetracks and opens up into a startling view, no diamonds in the coal seam, no clever twists of sentences that suddenly rear up and look you in the eye, no tunneling journeys into human nature, no clever bridges from one scene to the next, no non-sequiturs that turn out to be actually very meaningful, no sly tearing down of the status quo, no light at the end of the tunnel, no magic, no wonder, no satire, no sapphires. It has very little steam to lose, and it loses it. It makes me extremely sad to write this, but there it is.*
If you're an overly-dedicated and optimistic Pratchett fan like me, and you had this book on Kindle pre-order since it became available, then enjoy it as best you can. There is some charm here; in tone and twists it's, surprisingly, rather like a Trisha Ashley novel about middle-aged women finding love in a Lancashire village; you'll read it. It will also complete your collection nicely, and you will probably want to do that anyway. I understand that you'll want the closure and the completion of the series. Come over here and sit with me later; we'll commiserate. It was a wonderful run and we have so many good memories to love and share.
If you're a Pratchett fan who decided to wait and haven't purchased it yet, then I would recommend holding off for a while and trying for a good discount price - it's not something you need to rush out and buy in hardcover. In fact, get it from the library and read it on holiday, with your mind half-on-something-else, and with something pleasant to look forward to at the end, like a fancy dinner or a swim; this book will make you sad and put you in that frame of mind where you start contemplating mortality and the passing of flesh and heroes. Have some drinks available. Have my blessing. This is a sad book, not because of the content, but because of our own expectations. And, honestly, our own sense of entitlement. Who are we to demand that the poor man dazzle and delight us for decades upon decades?
If you're not so much of a Pratchett fan, you might conversely have much to enjoy about this book. Without the high expectations and starry eyes of a Discworld aficionado, you won't be disappointed. You'll recognize some of the characters, and the prose definitely brings you from one scene to another, which it is supposed to do. There is a train, and the Patrician, and an ending. It is *definitely* a book. There are many books! This is one! It has a cover and everything.
If you haven't read a Pratchett book before, then don't start with this one - it would be rather like visiting a museum after it's scheduled for demolition - nothing makes sense, the exhibits are being dismantled, you have no idea what's going on or why, inexplicable things are being thrown into dumpsters, and you get the feeling that you're not supposed to be there at all.
Oh, hell, buy it for yourself, do what you've got to do - I understand. I'll wait for you.
*I don't apologize for the train metaphors.
** Demographic information: well-educated 25-year-old female Pratchett fan.
on 9 June 2014
This one is a good 3 1/2 stars but not quite a 4.
Raising Steam is the Fortieth, four-zero, Discworld novel. A hugely impressive fact especially when you consider that Terry Pratchett only published the first in 1983 and didn't decide to take a full-time swing at it and follow that up until 1986 AND found time to complete a further dozen plus non-Discworld books (not to mention the numerous Science of Discworld and other such accompanying works).
As with any series of work, fans are prone to point to different entries as "the best" or "not as good as..." while reminiscing about the days when the Witches weren't resigned to the 'for young readers' books and Rincewind would make an appearance in anything other than footnotes (that being said, any fan will tell you that Pratchett's footnotes are the stuff of legend). There is a distinctive difference between the style of recent Discworld novels and those of, say, pre- Fifth Elephant. With a few notable exceptions (Last Hero, Nightwatch, Monstrous Regiment - the 'Vimes' books it seems are the last bastion of 'grit'), the books have certainly referenced previous novels and hinted at the past yet seemed less involved, lighter.
Raising Steam is just such a book. It nods toward Discworld novels past and depth (the darkness of the Grags and the friction among generations of dwarfs and Dirk Simnel is the son of Reaper Man's Ned Simnel) yet uses brush strokes far too wide to fill in too much detail and just as it appears that we may be reaching a thrilling, involving plot, it's all over but for a medal ceremony.
It's impossible to read a Terry Pratchett book these days (especially the 40th Discworld novel) without two factors clouding judgement - the legacy of brilliance of earlier Discworld novels and the impact (or looking for clues of it) of his Alzheimer's disease. This is a shame but those elements which prevent Raising Steam scoring higher reviews are likely drawn from the consequences of just such factors.
I'd love to see Pratchett approach a story across more than the one book again, to not feel the need to wrap everything up into a neat little, Patrician-knew-everything-all-along entry, really let something occur that took more than one novel to resolve. But then, it's not my Discworld it's his.
For all it's could-ofs and should-haves, any Discworld novel is full of humour and wordplay and Raising Steam is no exception. While not quite the romp of previous entries into the Discworld series, the fortieth (I do hope we get to fiftieth) is an enjoyable read that at the very least opens avenues for further novels to explore with a few chuckles along the way.
on 9 November 2013
I felt compelled to write this review after some of the negative reviews I read on here nearly stopped me from purchasing this novel (which would have been the first Discworld novel I didn't buy on publication since Men at Arms was published and I had just discovered the Discworld at the age of ten via my uncle, another long term fan).
I will say now that I am so far 25% of the way through the book, which doesn't leave me fully qualified to review but perhaps more so than someone who claims to have read 4%, hardly enough for any novel to get going. I have to say, I'm not sure exactly what some of the reviewers are wanting from this book, but I fear that Pratchett must feel akin to the England football team en route to another world cup, with the weight of expectation heaped so high that he can't possibly hope to meet it. Pratchett has written 40 novels in the Discworld series - in any series with that amount of novels, there are going to be some absolute belters and some that are mildly entertaining but not the best book you have ever read. I am going to say now, I struggled to finish Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad and Lords and Ladies and haven't returned to them, whereas I have reread Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, the Fifth Elephant and Thud more times than I could count. The books I didn't like were written by Pratchett a long time ago during a time which is considered by many as the height of the Discworld series (I don't believe there is a height - I think as a series it has fluctuated in quality throughout). This is the point of the Discworld - certain books will appeal to certain people more than others - some people's favourite novels in the series would probably only receive 3 stars from me and vice versa. This is why you have to take the Discworld as a whole, knowing that for every so-so book that appears, another great one will be just around the corner. While I acknowledge that Terry's disease and the impact on his work may prevent another masterpiece, he is still more than capable of entertaining books that add a little more to the Discworld universe.
I will agree that so far, this book has a different narrative style to some of Pratchett's earlier works, though it is not out of line with the last few novels, with less snappy dialogue and more dark introspection. Indeed, the whole tone of the Discworld in recent years has been far darker altogether - perhaps a sign of our times or Pratchett's opinion of them. We all change as we age, becoming perhaps more cynical and less tolerant of humanity and its foibles, and this is bound to be reflected in Pratchett's work.
To say that his work is sloppy and shouldn't be published though is far from correct. The characters that have been introduced so far are all behaving as I would expect them to, the story is jogging along apace and I have been reading as much as my toddler will allow me to, which says a lot as most of my own reading activity has taken a backseat these days to countless renditions of That's not my Tiger. Pratchett is still capable of prose that is far superior to anything most authors manage these days, and I have always felt that a mediocre Pratchett book is still a good book by most standards. If anything, I think that it is more challenging than I have come to expect, with a lot of the references a little more obscure than usual. As a history teacher who has ploughed their way through the GCSE Britain 1815-51 syllabus, I recognise the parallels to railway fever - Pratchett clearly has an interest in the railways matched by the early railway barons and their passengers and he has researched his topic. Some of the complaints of the Ankh-Morpork citizenry are genuine!
Although the railways aren't going to be everyone's cup of tea, I think that the criticisms of some of the other reviewers are overstated and if you are wondering whether to buy this novel as a fan of the Discworld, don't be put off by fears of nostalgic emotional breakdowns in the first few pages.
This is the 40th Discworld novel, published in 2013. This book features as the main protagonist Moist von Lipwig who finds himself compelled by the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, the rather frightening Lord Vetinari to oversee the newly developed steam engine which has appeared in the city. Vetinari wants to ensure that he has control over the introduction and use of the new-fangled technology (and of course makes some profit from it). Politics and dwarven unrest become entangled in the best of von Lipwig's intentions, and the action rattles along from there.
This is a really good Discworld novel, I thought. It is a fairly long book, at a little under 400 pages, and I did think the middle third or so of the book was a bit loose in purpose and narrative. While the first and last thirds of the book are filled with new information and interesting narrative, the middle third did get a bit repetitive in its unfolding. That apart, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, literally and narratively in this book. I liked the map included in the book which allowed the reader to follow the railway's evolution and which offered a real sense of momentum to the final third of the story. There were heaps of characters involved in the story, many of whom we have met before, but many of whom were also new, some fleeting in their part in the story, but all wonderfully and fully characterised for the reader, humorous and witty and `real'. Vetinari is one of my all-time favourite Discworld characters, and I thoroughly enjoyed his role in this story.
There are some Discworld novels that I absolutely love, and some I haven't bothered to re-read. I'm sure that every Discworld fan has some that are their favourites, for whatever reason. For me, any book with the Patrician, or with Rincewind and the wizards, or the City Watch, or set in Ankh-Morpork are the tops. To my mind, this book is one that I would read again - maybe not at the top of the pile, but definitely not at the bottom either. A good read for any fan of the Discworld novels.
on 2 January 2014
With Pratchett's illness giving this book a bad review makes me feel like I'm kicking a puppy - it just seems a nasty thing to do. The problem is though he just can't write any more. I'm not entirely convinced he wrote this to be honest as it just doesn't seem to be his voice - this feels like the next step towards the inevitable guest authors producing work tagged as "terry pratchett's discworld" as the publishers wrings every last penny they can from the franchise.
this follows the same formula as the last few books - Moist V-L gets to introduce a modern utility into the ankh-morpork. And that utility kind of has a magic life of its own. Been there before and there's nothing really new here - no character development, no new insights on our modern institutions when placed in an alien context but frankly the most important thing is that it's just not fun. This was a drag to read when earlier books were just a joy - I often finished them in 24hrs and re-read them a number of times.
to be fair though, the rot had set in a while back. Frankly most of the interesting stuff in discworld has been over-exploited now. The world has been mapped and there are no new interesting corners to explore and it's so weighed down in baggage whereas earlier books were dazzling with their novelty.
The last Pratchett book I really enjoyed was "Nation" - which showed how inventive he could be with a blank canvas. I'm sure this will sell well and find an audience as addicts just try and rediscover than initial hit of the joy which pratchett could produce at will. This is just not the same stuff, it's cut with baking soda and there's hardly any good stuff in there.
Time for us all to move on and remember the good times.
Raising Steam, Terry Pratchett, Doubleday, 2013, 375pp.
This is the fortieth Discworld novel, and we seem to have arrived at the Modern World, with the advent of the steam railway and equal rights for all sentient beings (and most humans). What apparently started as a satire on heroic fantasy has evolved into a study of human life and thought – and those of you who are familiar with ‘Cerebus the Aardvark’ will recognise the similar path that really creative writers seem to follow: growth - “The rising and advancing of the spirit”. Though here, unlike Dave Sim (author of the Cerebus series) this author has chosen the humanist path rather than the metaphysical. Can this be the ‘end’ of the main sequence of the Discworld series? As we know, Mr Pratchett has health problems, and this would make a fitting end-point, with peace on Discworld and goodwill to all sentients being the dominant principle. I’d like to see a ‘farewell’ to the Witches, of course; and inspiration might strike again, for where there’s life, etc., etc. But, if this is the end, then it has ended on a high.
The story itself is a ‘standard’ Lipwig plot – someone has an Idea, and it is up to Moist to implement it somehow, or else be thrown to the kittens. There is a wide cast of characters – everyone except the Witches gets a look in or at least a namecheck. There is no magic or supernatural force deployed – if we set aside the actual existence of Golems, Vampires Werewolves and Wizards – this story is about human (and Goblin) ingenuity; and though the supernatural does come to say hello – or farewell - at the end, it plays no significant part in the story. The Discworld has grown up, and Magic has become Romance; as is fitting when steam engines are involved.
on 28 May 2015
As an enthusiast of steam locos and railways in general, and a fan of Terry Pratchett, this was bound to be a winner for me. Suffice to say that it lived up to expectations. Plenty of the impossible but believable, and not too much of the possible but unbelievable. It was all over far too quickly.