I grew up reading Pratchett. I am a fan. I am predisposed to liking his books. I can remember reading Pratchett books in the lunch room whilst waiting to rehearse my small part in the annual school play. Yet despite all the goodwill I bring to a new Pratchett book I wasn’t completely sold on ‘Raising Steam’. Truth be told I’m still not quite sure of my feelings towards it. I enjoyed it but, unlike Pratchett’s best works, there is nothing here that is going to make me read the book again.
You see Moist Von Lipwig is the nominal protagonist of the plot but the true protagonist is the freshly invented railways which the author clearly loves. This presents two real problems. One, if you don’t love trains then the ‘magic’ of the railways isn’t really going mean that much to you. Two, there is no real protagonist or antagonist. Unlike bad guys, such as ‘The Auditors’, there is no real sense of there being any stakes at play with the dwarf fundamentalists. Indeed throughout they are portrayed as fighting for a hopeless and ultimately meaningless. This makes it hard to take them seriously. Of course if you don’t have a real villain to inject a sense of threat into your story then it will lack urgency which is definitely the case with ‘Raising Steam’. I would hazard a guess that Pratchett was aware of this problem because, at times the novel seems like it would work better with be a better fit with Commander Vimes as the main character but, that this is impossible because, the story would then be too similar to the ‘Thud!’ and the main villains are a bit naff.
If I was to sum ‘Raising Steam’ up I would say the footnotes made me laugh and it is certainly readable but the plot is unfulfilling. As such whilst the book is enjoyable for discworld fans new readers (if there any left) would do better starting out with almost any other in the series. I gave this 4 out of five in truth its probably a three and a half, but I’m a fan so I rounded up.