Books Read in 2014 – 2. Raising Steam – Terry Pratchett

Genre: Humorous fantasy

Narrative Style: Third person from a variety of points of view. The_front_cover_of_the_book_Raising_Steam_by_Terry_Pratchett

Rating: 4/5

Published: 2013

Format: Paperback

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.


Day 5 – Comfort book – Pratchett and Rankin

When I am feeling a bit low, I tend to look for reading that is either going to make me laugh or that is going to be nicely tied up at the end. There are two things that I periodically turn when I am in this mood – one of the many Discworld books, guaranteed  to lift your spirits or detective fiction of some description which would give me a puzzle to solve and hopefully leave me with the correct answer.


The next task for me was to decide which Discworld book to talk about. This was stupidly difficult. As far as I am concerned, they are all good so it wasn’t even a question of eliminating the ones that were bad. Eventually, it came down to favourite characters – and that came down to Death. Of the

reaper-man-1books which feature Death as a main character, Reaper Man is my favourite. In this, Death goes miss and lives as a human called Bill Door. Appropriately, he becomes a reaper of corn. There is a wonderful scene where he becomes aware of the nature of time, something he has never had to worry about before. He cannot imagine how humans manage to live with clocks in their houses, quietly ticking off the seconds of their all too brief (from the point of view of an immortal) lives. As Death is no longer doing his job, life force starts to build up and Ankh-Morpork becomes home to a number of undead – vampires, zombies and old wizards who fail to die when they are supposed to – all of which add to the humour.

This is a novel that manages to be both comic and profound. It tackles big ideas without them seeming big or pretentious. It makes you think about life and death without being the least bit depressing.


The other type of novel I like when I feel a bit under the weather is detective fiction. Although I have read Rendell, Kellerman, Patterson and others, I find that Ian Rankin’s Rebus just resonates the most with me. My favourite

question of blood

Rebus Novel is A Question of Blood. The murder takes place in a school; a shooting by a loner who then kills himself. I like this because it appears an open and shut case but, of course, it isn’t. As ever, Rebus’ personal life gets him into trouble and is as much a concern as the case he is working on when it seems he may have committed a crime in order to help DS Siobhan Clarke.

I try not to read books that I have read before especially when there are so many books waiting patiently on my to-read list but there are times when it is comforting to know exactly what you are going to get. And both Pratchett and Rankin never let you down.

Day two- Favourite side character – Walser, Spud and Ponder Stibbons

As you will discover as this challenge continues, I am incapable of picking a single book for anything. So each post will probably look at two or three books.
My first choice for favourite side character is Walser from- Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
Jack Walser is the straight man to the magical, winged woman Fevvers in Angnights-at-the-circusela Carter’s wonderful tale of mystery and intrigue. In a lot of ways, he performs the function of a reader, incredulous and duped by the amazing Fevvers. He gets drawn into her chaotic world almost against his will and is amazed by her along with the reader.
In the course of the novel, Walser is frequently injured and humiliated. He completely loses himself at one point before being reborn a new and wiser man. As a reader, we feel for him and worry for him, in a way that you don’t have to about Fevvers who is strong and confident and although she gets into scrapes, she seems so together that there seems little need to doubt she will survive.
The reason I like him so much is that as a journalist, he should be cynical but in the face of the Fevvers, he cannot remain so. He is described as unfinished and does not reach his true personality until he has been through his series of adventures and falls for Fevvers in every way.
Spud from Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
Spud is one of my favourite comic characters. He is involved in one of my favourite incidents in Trainspotting – the job interview which he attends with Renton having taken speed and in which he informs the interviewer that htrainspottingas lied on his application form. Welsh perfectly captures his voice, calling everyone ‘cat’ and ‘kitten’ and showing his eternal optimism and friendliness. Unlike Renton, Sickboy and Begbie, Spud is a warm character who maybe a little naive and hopeless but is not as flawed as the others.
Spud has perhaps the most poignant moment in the novel where he begins to feel close to a woman but loses his nerve after remembering a line from There is a light that never goes out by The Smiths. It is heartbreaking.
Ponder Stibbons from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
If you have ever worked in an office (or wherever) and felt that you were the only sane person in the place, then you will have a great deal of sympathy for my third choice, Ponder Stibbons. He is the only sensible wizard in Unseen University. Having to deal with Arch-chancellor, Ridcully  on a daily basis would try the patience of a saint and Ponder is often on the very edge of his patience. But what is really great about this character is the strategies he employs in order to ensure that things are actually done his way. The way he plays Ridcully is a joy to behold.