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Scrapes 3 stars, but only just... (attention - spoilers!)
on 3 January 2017
As a long time fan of Discworld, I have always found the characterisations wonderful, particularly given Terry Pratchett's wonderful ability in writing dialogue. The way characters develop over a series of novels - the witches and the night watch in particular - is what makes Discworld engrossing. I bought this to finish the Moist von Lipwig series, which started so well with Going Postal and Making Money.
Wow, was I ever disappointed! Dialogue is stilted and out of character, the narrative is confused, and the main Discworld players go absurdly off point with little (and not so little) asides. There's a glimmer of a good Discworld novel in there somewhere, but only a really die hard fan could enjoy this. It is very much NOT representative of Pratchett's writing style.
Random characters from other series appear to give their two pennies' worth. Lu Tze pops up briefly to have a word with Mustrum Ridcully, on the lines of 'Isn't it a bit early in history for railways', 'No, if railways have happened, then it's time for railways'. Then nothing is heard from them again.
The 'gang' encounter a tribe of gnomes (remember Buggy Squires and the Nac Mac Feegle?), who emerge fearfully from their holes after one of the many 'battle scenes', and randomly offer the information that they make shoes. 'Did you say you make shoes?' asks Moist. 'My railway workers need big boots.' The gnomes agree to make hobnail boots in return for being left alone. Not very gnome-like. And that's it. Totally random.
Vetinari, usually so inscrutable, lays bare his worries, motivations and internal struggles to anyone who will listen. Some tyrant...
Make no mistake, this is very badly planned, written, and edited. All writers rely heavily on their editor, who is a very important part of producing the final product. But in this case there are 3 possibilities.
1) Terry Pratchett wrote this but it was uncharacteristically rubbish, and his editor didn't point it out for some reason.
2) It is the work of a ghost writer, possibly from Pratchett's skeleton notes, and Pratchett's editor thought it was the best a third party could do.
3) Pratchett's editor tried to put something together from Pratchett's notes, was reluctant to leave anything out, and therefore it wasn't properly edited.
Look, it's not terrible. In terms of story, it's the next logical move for Moist von Lipwig. It's an interesting move towards the future for Discworld, the history of which has basically been story of human endeavour from the dark ages up to industrialisation, crammed into about 30 Discworld years or so. If Sir Terry hadn't been so ill it would probably have been very different, and we would all be looking forward to the next 3 books. As it stands, it's not worthy of the man, being badly written and badly edited.
Fans, used to Terry Pratchett's usually crisp style, will struggle but like it in the end. And I'm sure it will spawn a whole load of fan fiction, which will probably be fun.
Basically, as a fan, I'm only a bit miffed at paying the Kindle price. I would consider the paperback price a waste of money.
As a standalone book, I would give this 1 or 2 stars. I gave 3 because it at least is Discworld. Just not as you know it...