Raising Steam (Discworld Series #40)

Raising Steam (Discworld Series #40)

4.3 26
by Terry Pratchett

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Steam is rising over Discworld. . . .
Mister Simnel has produced a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all the elements—earth, air, fire, and water—and it’s soon drawing astonished crowds. To the consternation of Ankh-Morpork’s formidable Patrician, Lord Vetinari,

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Steam is rising over Discworld. . . .
Mister Simnel has produced a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all the elements—earth, air, fire, and water—and it’s soon drawing astonished crowds. To the consternation of Ankh-Morpork’s formidable Patrician, Lord Vetinari, no one is in charge of this new invention. Who better to take the lead than the man he has already appointed master of the Post Office, the Mint and the Royal Bank?
Moist von Lipwig is not a man who enjoys hard work—unless it is dependent on words, which are not very heavy and don’t always need greasing. He does enjoy being alive, however, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse. Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs, and some very angry dwarfs if he’s going to stop it all from going off the rails.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 02/24/2014
A brash new invention brings social upheaval, deadly intrigues, and plenty of wry humor to the 40th installment of Pratchett's best-selling Discworld fantasy series. When intrepid inventor Dick Simnel comes to Ankh-Morpork looking for a backer for his revolutionary steam engine, the Iron Girder, entrepreneur Sir Harry King is quick to grasp the possibilities. So is Ankh-Morpork's ruler, Lord Vetinari, who immediately puts master facilitator (and former con artist) Moist von Lipwig in charge of the Discworld's first railway. But while the would-be railway tycoons are busy cutting deals for right-of-ways, supplies, and second class coach service, a group of radically conservative dwarf extremists are determined to stop the railroad, along with anything else that threatens "the truth of pure dwarfishness." In a realm where "even the factions had factions," Moist finds himself cast as Vetinari's agent to help defeat a political coup that could re-ignite ancient hostilities between dwarves and trolls. As always, Pratchett's unforgettable characters and lively story mirror the best, the worst, and the oddest bits of our own world, entertaining readers while skewering social and political foibles in a melting pot of humanity, dwarfs, trolls, goblins, vampires, and a werewolf or two. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
Pratchett's 40th Discworld novel brings in one—or, as it turns out, two—intriguing new characters and introduces a radical new concept: the railway. Young genius engineer Dick Simnel invents a steam locomotive he names Iron Girder. Waste management tycoon Sir Harry King immediately grasps the lucrative possibilities and invests part of his fortune in the railway. Ankh-Morpork's Lord Vetinari intends for the city to keep control of the new enterprise and appoints con man–turned–civil servant Moist von Lipwig to keep an eye on matters. The railway proves wildly popular with the public. Unfortunately, dwarf fundamentalists opposed to fraternization with trolls or humans begin making terrorist attacks, murdering railway workers and setting fire to clacks communications towers. The terrorists eventually overthrow the legitimate dwarf government in Uberwald while the dwarf Low King is more than 1,000 miles away. Only by means of the railway, declares Lord Vetinari, can Low King Rhys return to Uberwald in time to foil the plotters. But Uberwald, haunted by vampires and werewolves, may be approached only across high plains covered with stumbleweed ("like tumbleweed, but less athletic"). And, Moist protests, the railway isn't finished. Somehow, Vetinari explains kindly, Moist better find a way to finish it if he wants his head to remain attached to his neck. Young Dick, meanwhile, entertains a most peculiar notion: that Iron Girder is female and sentient. And after witnessing the locomotive deal with a misguided dwarf's attempted sabotage, Moist is inclined to agree with him. In recent years, Discworld humor has become implicit (check out the hilarious names of Uberworld towns, for example) rather than explicit, while continuing to explore serious themes with impeccable Discworld logic, and the trend continues here. Brimming with Pratchett's trademark wit, a yarn with a serious point made with style and elegance.
From the Publisher
 “Spectacular. . . . A tremendous synthesis of everything that makes Pratchett one of the world’s most delightful writers.”
    —Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

“Consistently funny, wise and clever. . . . Filled with characters who leap off the page and metaphors that make you laugh out loud.”
“Salted among all the treacle miners and nascent trainspotters are some serious ideas about technology and the irrevocable changes it brings. . . . [Pratchett] seems to be having fun. . . . And forty books in, why not?”
    —The Washington Post

“Delightful. . . . How many writers are more fun to spend time with? . . . Pratchett melds politics, finance and the occasional dark turn with his fantasy and humor, and as ever his footnotes are not to be missed.”
    —The Seattle Times

“A Dickensian mirror of contemporary western society. . . . Raising Steam is the latest transformation of a remarkable fictional world that has evolved and grown with its creator—and it shows how . . . the Discworld has taken on a life of its own.”

“From the first, the novels demonstrated Pratchett's eye for telling detail and the absurdities of the human condition. . . . He remains one of the most consistently funny writers around; a master of the stealth simile, the time-delay pun and the deflationary three-part list. . . . I could tell which of my fellow tube passengers had downloaded it to their e-readers by the bouts of spontaneous laughter.”
    —Ben Aaronovitch, The Guardian (London)

“Terry Pratchett’s creation is still going strong after thirty years. . . . Like Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster stories. . . . It is at the level of the sentence that Pratchett wins his fans.”
    —The Times (London)

“As always, Pratchett’s unforgettable characters and lively story mirror the best, the worst, and the oddest bits of our own world, entertaining readers while skewering social and political foibles in a melting pot of humanity, dwarfs, trolls, goblins, vampires, and a werewolf or two.”
    —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Brimming with Pratchett’s trademark wit, a yarn with a serious point made with style and elegance.”
    —Kirkus Reviews

Library Journal
The industrial revolution has come to Discworld in the form of a new steam locomotive. Invented by young, self-taught engineer Dick Simnel, this new technology is quickly seized upon by Ankh-Morpork's Lord Vetinari, who sets Moist von Lipwig the task of managing the new project. Meanwhile, political upheaval among the dwarfs threatens the railway, as terrorists attempt to sabotage the line while the dwarf king is aboard. VERDICT Full of Pratchett's usual sly humor and clever wordplay, this is another solid entry in the hugely popular "Discworld" series. Spearing of politics, religion, and society as a whole is what one usually expects in a Pratchett book, and if this doesn't reach the heights of some of the best books of the series (such as Guards!, Guards! or Going Postal), it will still be much in demand in public libraries. [200,000-copy first printing.]

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Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Discworld Series, #40
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.35(d)

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Read an Excerpt

It is hard to understand nothing, but the multiverse is full of it. Nothing travels everywhere, always ahead of something, and in the great cloud of unknowing nothing yearns to become something, to break out, to move, to feel, to change, to dance and to experience—in short, to be something.

And now it found its chance as it drifted in the ether. Nothing, of course, knew about something, but this something was different, oh yes, and so nothing slid silently into something and floated down with everything in mind and, fortunately, landed on the back of a turtle, a very large one, and hurried to become something even faster. It was elemental and nothing was better than that and suddenly the elemental was captured! The bait had worked.

Anyone who has ever seen the River Ankh sliding along its bed of miscellaneous nastiness would understand why so much of the piscine food for the people of Ankh-Morpork has to be supplied by the fishing fleets of Quirm. In order to prevent terrible gastric trouble for the citizenry, Ankh-Morpork fishmongers have to ensure that their suppliers make their catches a long, long way from the city.

For Bowden Jeffries, purveyor of the very best in seafood, the two hundred miles or more which lay between the fish docks at Quirm and the customers in Ankh-Morpork was a regrettably long distance throughout the winter, autumn, and spring and a sheer penance in the summertime, because the highway, such as it was, became a linear furnace all the way to the Big City. Once you had had to deal with a ton of overheated octopus, you never forgot it; the smell lasted for days, and followed you around and almost into your bedroom. You could never get it out of your clothes.

People were so demanding, but the elite of Ankh-Morpork and, indeed, everyone else wanted their fish, even in the hottest part of the season. Even with an icehouse built by his own two hands and, by arrangement, a second icehouse halfway along the journey, it made you want to cry, it really did.

And he said as much to his cousin, Relief Jeffries, a market gardener, who looked at his beer and said, “It’s always the same. Nobody wants to help the small entrepreneur. Can you imagine how quickly strawberries turn into little balls of mush in the heat? Well, I’ll tell you: no time at all. Blink and you miss ’em, just when everybody wants their strawberries. And you ask the watercress people how difficult it is to get the damn stuff to the city before it’s as limp as a second-day sermon. We should petition the government!”

“No,” said his cousin. “I’ve had enough of this. Let’s write to the newspapers! That’s the way to get things done. Everyone’s complaining about the fruit and vegetables and the seafood. Vetinari should be made to understand the plight of the small-time entrepreneur. After all, what do we occasionally pay our taxes for?”

Dick Simnel was ten years old when, back at the family smithy in Sheepridge, his father simply disappeared in a cloud of furnace parts and flying metal, all enveloped in a pink steam. He was never found in the terrible haze of scorching dampness, but on that very day young Dick Simnel vowed to whatever was left of his father in that boiling steam that he would make steam his servant.

His mother had other ideas. She was a midwife, and as she said to her neighbors, “Babbies are born everywhere. I’ll never be without a customer.” So, against her son’s wishes, Elsie Simnel decided to take him away from what she now considered to be a haunted place. She packed up their belongings and together they returned to her family home near Sto Lat, where people didn’t inexplicably disappear in a hot pink cloud.

Soon after they arrived something important happened to her boy. One day while waiting for his mother to return from a difficult delivery, Dick walked into a building that looked interesting, and which turned out to be a library. At first he thought it was full of poncy stuff, all kings and poets and lovers and battles, but in one crucial book he found something called mathematics and the world of numbers.

And that was why, one day some ten years later, he pulled together every fibre of his being and said, “Mother, you know last year when I said I were going ’iking in the mountains of Uberwald with me mates, well, it were kind of . . . sort of . . . a kind of lie, only very small, mind you.” Dick blushed. “You see, I found t’keys to Dad’s old shed and, well, I went back to Sheepridge and did some experimenting and”—he looked at his mother anxiously “—I think I know what ’e were doing wrong.”

Dick was braced for stiff objections, but he hadn’t reckoned on tears—so many tears—and as he tried to console her he added, “You, Mother, and Uncle Flavius got me an education, you got me the knowing of the numbers, including the arithmetic and weird stuff dreamed up by the philosophers in Ephebe where even camels can do logarithms on their toes. Dad didn’t know this stuff. He had the right ideas but he didn’t have the . . . tech-nol-ogy right.”

At this point, Dick allowed his mother to talk, and she said, “I know there’s no stopping you, our Dick, you’re just like your stubborn father were, pigheaded. Is that what you’ve been doin’ in the barn? Teck-ology?” She looked at him accusingly, then sighed. “I can see I can’t tell you what to do, but you tell me: how can your ‘logger-reasons’ stop you goin’ the way of your poor old dad?” She started sobbing again.

Dick pulled out of his jacket something that looked like a small wand, which might have been made for a miniature wizard, and said, “This’ll keep me safe, Mother! I’ve the knowing of the sliding rule! I can tell the sine what to do, and the cosine likewise and work out the tangent of t’quaderatics! Come on, Mother, stop fretting and come wi’ me now to t’barn. You must see ’er!”

Mrs. Simnel, reluctant, was dragged by her son to the great open barn he had kitted out like the workshop back at Sheepridge, hoping against hope that her son had accidentally found himself a girl. Inside the barn she looked helplessly at a large circle of metal which covered most of the floor. Something metallic whizzed round and round on the metal, sounding like a squirrel in a cage, giving off a smell much like camphor.

“Here she is, Mother. Ain’t she champion?” Dick said happily. “I call her Iron Girder!”

“But what is it, son?”

He grinned hugely and said, “It’s what they call a pro-to-type, Mother. You’ve got to ’ave a pro-to-type if you’re going to be an engineer.”

His mother smiled wanly but there was no stopping Dick. The words just tumbled out.

“The thing is, Mother, before you attempt owt you’ve got to ’ave some idea of what it is you want to do. One of the books I found in the library was about being an architect. And in that book, the man who wrote it said before he built his next big ’ouse he always made quite tiny models to get an idea of how it would all work out. He said it sounds fiddly and stuff, but going slowly and being thorough is the only way forward. And so I’m testing ’er out slowly, seeing what works and what doesn’t. And actually, I’m quite proud of me’sen. In the beginning I made t’track wooden, but I reckoned that the engine I wanted would be very ’eavy, so I chopped up t’wooden circle for firewood and went back to t’forge.”

Mrs. Simnel looked at the little mechanism running round and round on the barn floor and said, in the voice of someone really trying to understand, “Eee, lad, but what does it do?”

“Well, I remembered what Dad said about t’time he were watching t’kettle boiling and noticed t’lid going up and down with the pressure, and he told me that one day someone would build a bigger kettle that would lift more than a kettle lid. And I believe I have the knowing of the way to build a proper kettle, Mother.”

“And what good would that do, my boy?” said his mother sternly. And she watched the glow in her son’s eyes as he said, “Everything, Mother. Everything.”

Still in a haze of slight misunderstanding, Mrs. Simnel watched him unroll a large and rather grubby piece of paper.

“It’s called a blueprint, Mother. You’ve got to have a blueprint. It shows you how everything fits together.”

“Is this part of the pro-to-type?”

The boy looked at his doting mother’s face and realized that a little more exposition should be forthcoming. He took her by the hand and said, “Mother, I know they’re all lines and circles to you, but once you have the knowing of the circles and the lines and all, you know that this is a picture of an engine.”

Mrs. Simnel gripped his hand and said, “What do you think you’re going to do with it, our Dick?”

And young Simnel grinned and said happily, “Change things as needs changing, Mother.”

Mrs. Simnel gave her son a curious look for a moment or two, then appeared to reach a grudging conclusion and said, “Just you come with me, my lad.”

She led him back into the house, where they climbed up the ladder into the attic. She pointed out to her son a sturdy seaman’s chest covered in dust.

“Your granddad gave me this to give to you, when I thought you needed it. Here’s the key.”

She was gratified that he didn’t grab it and indeed looked carefully at the trunk before opening it. As he pushed up the lid, suddenly the air was filled with the glimmer of gold.

“Your granddad were slightly a bit of a pirate and then he got religion and were a bit afeared, and the last words he said to me on his deathbed were, ‘That young lad’ll do something one day, you mark my words, our Elsie, but I’m damned if I know what it’s going to be.’ ”

The people of the town were quite accustomed to the clangings and bangings emanating every day from the various blacksmith forges for which the area was famous. It seemed that, even though he had set up a forge of his own, young Simnel had decided not to enter the blacksmithing trade, possibly due to the dreadful business of Mr. Simnel Senior’s leaving the world so abruptly. The local blacksmiths soon got used to making mysterious items that young Mr. Simnel had sketched out meticulously. He never told them what he was constructing, but since they were earning a lot of money they didn’t mind.

The news of his legacy got around, of course—gold always finds its way out somehow—and there was a scratching of heads among the population exemplified by the oldest inhabitant, who, sitting on the bench outside the tavern, said, “Well, bugger me! Lad were blessed wi’ an inherited fortune in gold and turned it into a load of old iron!”

He laughed, and so did everybody else, but nevertheless they continued to watch young Dick Simnel slip in and out of the wicket gate of his old and almost derelict barn, double-padlocked at all times.

Simnel had found a couple of local likely lads who helped him make things and move things around. Over time, the barn was augmented by a host of other sheds. More lads were taken on and the hammers were heard all day every day and, a bit at a time, information trickled into what might be called the local consciousness.

Apparently the lad had made a pump, an interesting pump that pumped water very high. And then he’d thrown everything away and said things like, “We need more steel than iron.”

There were tales of great reams of paper laid out on desks as young Simnel worked out a wonderful “undertaking,” as he called it. Admittedly there had been the occasional explosion, and then people heard about what the lads called “the Bunker,” which had been useful to jump into on several occasions when there had been a little . . . incident. And then there was the unfamiliar but somehow homely and rhythmic “chuffing” noise. Really quite a pleasant noise, almost hypnotic, which was strange because the mechanical creature that was making the noise sounded more alive than you would have expected.

It was noticed in the locality that the two main coworkers of Mr. Simnel, or “Mad Iron” Simnel as some were now calling him, seemed somewhat changed, more grown‑up and aware of themselves; young men, acolytes of the mysterious thing behind the doors. And no amount of bribery by beer or by women in the pub would make them give up the precious secrets of the barn. They conducted themselves now as befitted the masters of the fiery furnace.

And then, of course, there were the sunny days when young Simnel and his cohorts dug long lines in the field next to the barn and filled them with metal while the furnace glowed day and night and everyone shook their heads and said, “Madness.” And this went on, it seemed forever, until ever was finished and the banging and clanging and smelting had stopped. Then Mr. Simnel’s lieutenants pulled aside the double doors of the big barn and filled the world with smoke.

Very little happened in this part of Sto Lat and this was enough to bring people running. Most of them arrived in time to see something heading out toward them, panting and steaming, with fast-spinning wheels and oscillating rods eerily appearing and disappearing in the smoke and the haze, and on top of it all, like a sort of king of smoke and fire, Dick Simnel, his face contorted with the effort of concentration. It was faintly reassuring that this something was apparently under the control of somebody human—although the more thoughtful of the onlookers might have added “So what? So’s a spoon,” and got ready to run away as the steaming, dancing, spinning, reciprocating engine cleared the barn and plunged on down the tracks laid in the field. And the bystanders, most of whom were now byrunners, and in certain instances bystampeders, fled and complained, except, of course, for every little boy of any age who followed it with eyes open wide, vowing there and then that one day he would be the captain of the terrible noxious engine, oh yes indeed. A prince of the steam! A master of the sparks! A coachman of the Thunderbolts!

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Raising Steam 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Kurt149 More than 1 year ago
This book really made me sad. I've been trying to get through it for months. It has none of Pratchett's style. I'll continue to reread the previous Diskworld books but fans are going to have to say goodbye to the series. Thank you Terry for many hours of reading enjoyment
Cinorjer More than 1 year ago
Fans of Pratchett and the Discworld series will know why this feels like a fond farewell from a wonderful writer who created a marvelous world.  The train is indeed pulling out of the station, and he tries to at least give an honorable mention to every one of our favorite characters while giving us an interesting story of what happens when progress hits a world mired in magic and tradition.  This story settles down on Moist as the main POV for most of the story, although it takes its own sweet time getting to the point where the plot - so to speak - picks up steam.  Magic in the form of the Wizards and witches takes a back seat, and we may assume as the Rule of the Slide takes hold, will eventually fade away as much as magic can, on a flat world carried on the back of a turtle.  But the world will continue, and we may assume the Mended Drum will continue to serve the best Ale in Ankh, and tavern fights will still be a nightly feature.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
His ability to handle detail and moralize in a subtle way aremostly gone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The only reason I rated this book five stars is that I can't get the rating to jump any higher. Sir Terry Pratchett still writes the best satire there is, and his Discworld is a fully realized world that can actually feel real (aside from it's being flat and resting on four elephants standing on a humongous turtle). He takes various fantasy races, such as dwarfs and trolls, and makes them into real people that we can relate to, and relate their problems to certain problems with our own world. How can he make us think so much and so hard about the human condition while making us laugh so much? Terry Pratchett is one of a very few authors who can write a novel that can make me laugh out loud - repeatedly! Obviously, he is a one-of-a-kind treasure. Even if you normally don't like fantasy, you'll like this book. And if it's the first Discworld novel you've read, you'll find yourself running out to get all the rest of them. This book is just that good.
Rob_Grwlr More than 1 year ago
If you're a Discworld fan you'll love this. While Moist is the main character, you get to touch base with many of the old favorites. I really enjoyed it.
crackerjack1 More than 1 year ago
As I find myself thinking with each Pratchett novel I read, "this is the best one yet," but as I just finished this one today, I must say it is by far the most interesting. Pratchett has managed to bring in to the story almost all of his characters in the Discworld series and without doubt has nailed down his ongoing theme that progress is not to be stopped and one had better just lay back and accept it. He continues to develop his idea that everybody should be accepted for who and what they are without others making judgments about them based on preconceived notions of what another being is or should be about or like just to fit our own narrow world view. I can't wait for the next book in the series. Write on Mr. Pratchett, the world would be a much poorer place with out you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this one. Moist becomes more complex. And the dwarf side story touched my romantic heart. I am grateful for every book.
Docxen More than 1 year ago
Terry Pratchett is back with a bang...or should i say whistle.  This is one of the best disc world novels in a while. Moist (a character i'm really enjoying) is back and taking on the train.   Moist is having to  deal with my 2nd favorite character Lord Havelock Vetinari (favorite is death) who's wanting miracles again.   Like all great Disc World novels we see some great funny moments along with a few to make you think.     So come back to your favorite city Ankh-Morpork and catch the new contraption the steam engine making the might disc world a smaller  place.  But please don't eat the goblins they are people (of a sort).  My only negative (and not the author's problem) is the nook makes the maps a little  hard to read so if i did it again i would prob go with the hardcover instead of the nookbook. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is real is real exiciting, because when the the charcters come up with new ideas with the railroad, you feel as though you are making the railroad as well. I absolutely love this book!
stuckathome More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much that I wanted a way to have it read to me as I drift off to sleep!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is typically excellence at showing a mirror to humanity, whatever shape it comes in. We must laugh at ourselves or we would cry.
Go4Jugular More than 1 year ago
Yet another thoroughly enjoyable addition to Terry Pratchett's continuously expanding, and immensely creative, Discworld universe. Moist von Lipwig (previously featured in "Going Postal" and "Making Money") is not only in charge of building the first railway, but must do so in time to avert an impending political crisis. Clever plotting, witty dialogue, and laugh-out-loud humor prevail, with a subtle subtext of social commentary. With Harry King, Lord Vetinari, and cameos from many other familiar characters, it is the type of book where you can't wait to turn the page, in order to get to the next one, until you come to the melancholic realization that there's just a few pages left...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
it did feel like a farewell. age of machinery stepping in. it was a terrific book, but i felt restless reading it and in some ways not liking the changes to Discworld or maybe our world. the changes made me feel sad yet it was a great book
Johng4490 More than 1 year ago
While not my favorite Discworld novel, This book continues to develop the ever growing world and characters that I have loved for so long. I found it very clever, interesting, and a great chapter in the Discworld. I am eager to see where Pratchett takes us next, as always, Though I don't believe and book will ever beat Men at Arms.
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great read
RobertJB More than 1 year ago
Good new chapgter in discworld.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hes baxk
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
one of his best in a long line of very good books