Genre: Humorous fantasy
Synopsis: A new invention has arrived in Ankh Morpork and it quickly grabs everyone’s attention. Particularly those with anoraks and notebooks. The steam engine has arrived and is definitely hear to stay despite the efforts of those who wish to stop progress whatever its form. It falls to Moist Von Lipwig to try and keep the railway safe which means pleasing Lord Vetinari, nobody’s idea of an easy life. Moist will need all skills as a scoundrel and a few more besides to survive this adventure.
This was a Christmas present from my husband. It felt like high time that I got round to reading it, having read all the others. Normally, Pratchett’s are purchased the minute they are released but I’m not a big fan of the other books with Moist Von Lipwig so I didn’t rush this time.
It was so long that I’d forgotten what a pleasure it always is to read a Discworld novel. Especially one with such good subject matter. There is no doubt (in my mind, anyway) that there is something fascinating about the steam engine and something elegant that more modern trains just cannot compete with. Pratchett captures this perfectly in his descriptions of Iron Girder and of her creator’s love for her. Simnel, the engineer with the flat cap and the Northern accent, is one of Pratchett’s better recent creations and was totally believable.
Of course, this isn’t just a novel about steam and the men who tinker with it. This is also a novel about discrimination, extremism and politics. Extreme members of the Dwarfish community have been knocking down the Clacks and are now attacking the train. While the low king is away, they take over and try to place their leader on the Stone of Scone. Pratchett is at his best when he writes of such subjects. There is a strong moral at the heart of this novel but it is never preachy. At the very heart of it is a message of tolerance which is impossible to argue with.
It is less successful, I think, when dealing with the gender issues in the Dwarfish community. Dwarfs do not reveal their sex normally but many were starting to break with the tradition and near the end of the novel, the Low King reveals she is in fact a queen and not only that but about to become a mother. I’m not sure what it is about this that rankled but I just didn’t find it convincing.
As for Moist Von Lipwig, he still remains one of my least favourite Pratchett characters but there was so much other stuff going on that he didn’t annoy me as much as he has done before. The pace is fast with exciting train rides, battles and action aplenty. I could have happily continued reading.