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Raising Steam: Discworld    by Terry Pratchett order for
Raising Steam
by Terry Pratchett
Order:  USA  Can
Anchor, 2014 (2013)
Hardcover, Softcover, Paperback, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Raising Steam is the 40th episode in Terry Pratchett's outstandingly (and deservedly) popular Discworld series. In these books, he uses his mind boggling fantasy world to satirize our own many failures and foibles. And each episode tends to have a theme. For example, one of my favorites, Monstrous Regiment, shone a feminist light on women and war, while Moving Pictures poked fun at movies and Hollywood.

Our latest (and brightest) Discworld hero is an inventive young engineer, Dick Simnel, who has a passion for steam. He brings in a new railroad era, despite Lord Vetinari's reservations about anything that might unbalance the staus quo. These lead Ankh-Morpork's Patrician to involve my favorite fixer, con artist Moist von Lipwig, in matters, leading to the antic adventures and hilarity we can expect when he is around. Early on Moist concludes, 'No doubt about it, the railway was going to turn coal into gold.'

Simnel's first engine, the magical (and evolving) Iron Girder is immensely popular with the public. She quickly becomes a key and engaging character in the story, doing a lot more than puffing along tracks. Which is just as well as events culminates in a challenging mission for Iron Girder and those who ride on her - including Dick, Moist, Commander Vimes, the dwarf king and a goblin shaman. Gnomes do their part too. The grags will do anything to stop them - as Vimes muses, 'When you've had hatred on your tongue for such a long time, you don't know how to spit it out.'

The pains of progress (into a Discworld Industrial Age) and the madness of terrorism (in this case, that of dwarf extremists) are themes in Raising Steam. Terry Pratchett's witty way with words is as evident as always but he has mellowed over the years and his irony does not bite as deep as in his earliest books. Of progress, he tells us (in Vetinari's words): 'New things, new ideas arrived and strutted their stuff and were vilified by some and then lo! that which had been a monster was suddenly totally important to the world.'

If you're not a Pratchett fan yet, you've missed some of the very best reading around. Any of his funny and thoughtful books, including this latest, Raising Steam, is worth your time.

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