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I want my money back.
Better than Snuff, which isn't saying much.

Established personalities once again take a gigantic step back in favor of how awesome the goblins are, even as the book bends over backward to showcase how sad and pathetic they are.

Moist, a man who makes a point of never using violence, ingests a goblin made potion that turns him into a killing machine, allowing him to take on an entire squad of delvers, all of them trained warriors, and come out with nary a scratch and yet the goblins are somehow unable to prevent random bandits from eating their children who, just because the goblins are that sad and pathetic, taste like chicken.

Vetinari breaks character yet again to be a smug twat about making the crossword puzzle lady quit and threaten Moist to prioritize a railway to Uberwald, implicitly because it would make his booty calls with Margolotta more convenient. Also he's apparently secretly a legend in the railway business. A business which has existed for like...three months...moving on.

The dwarfs have become more blatantly religious. Where previously Tak was "Just some guy that made the dwarfs and that's cool and all but you're just some guy and there's gold right here and gold > you, so bugger off" now he is the almighty font from which all good things flow.

The plot cuts out at random points to showcase characters from previous books which have literally zero effect on the rest of the book, most notably when Feeney from Snuff takes five pages for Pratchett to tell us that cultural assimilation is wrong, you guys. He's super cereal.

Moist has been completely neutered. No more the ne'erdowell from the previous two books, now he's just a vaguely Moist-shaped hole in the story who does things.

The actual plot doesn't even start until like three quarters into the book and it's okay. Not great. Not even particularly good. But okay. Solid. Unobjectionable. Harry King has always been an enjoyable character but he's not really main character material. But he manages with the help of...the train guy...forget his name...and they are solid. Not great but they get the job done.

Overall, it was a terrible book. The "good" parts are weighed down by the bad parts and completely not worth the fifteen dollars. Avoid it unless you think Pratchett can do no wrong. I want a refund.
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It said Pratchett on the cover.
Having started Disc World with Going Postal and Making Money, I learned after that these stories were in fact, not typical Discworld fare. I read THUD, Unseen Academicals and Snuff and enjoyed them, but when I went back to read the earlier novels such as Guards, Guards, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Hoggfather, The Light Fantastic and the Color of Magic, I realized there was a shift in the later books. Fine, Discworld is a mega series that stretches decades.

Of course, it must be known that Sir Pterry's mental health is in decline, and that a suitably established author can sell a subpar book on name alone. Raising Steam is this in action. I don't know if anyone would have bothered with it if this hadn't been a Discworld book. I cannot tell if he only did it for the paycheck, or if he genuinely enjoyed writing a boring story.

There is very little of interest. A few jokes that haven't been used before, and its nice to see some character development and references (Mr. Nutt, it seems as though the goblins are more interesting than you). However, what little there is to enjoy is damned by the derailment of other characters, some heavy-handed philosophizing, and most ghastly, the lack of any plot or conflict or even danger. Just train rides and logistics, and not in an entertaining way like the first two Moist novels. Just characters with the names of characters we've seen do more interesting things in other stories. In Snuff, this was acceptable, as Vimes only has to go do Lawful Good things in the direction of tyranny to be a good character. Moist von Lipwig's strength was being a liar and a conman with an adrenaline addiction working as a civil servant. Here he was just a civil servant doing boring government work; all the stuff Moist raged against becoming in Making Money and Going Postal.

I remember finishing Mostly Harmless many years ago and wishing that Mr. Adams hadn't ended the story on such a note. I suppose, now that Discworld is in a similar situation, I'm getting what I want. I'm just not sure if that's a good thing at all. If Sir Pterry has another story in him, I hope its more adventurous.
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The Future Is On Track
The Discworld has always been going places. One of the best things about following this series is that it has a subtle lasting continuity throughout. Each book is set roughly a year after the last and people change and the culture and environments they're in change with them. We've slowly seen the trolls and the dwarves come out and become integrated and the society develop and grow. A bunch of drunks become a professional world-leading police force, and it's leader with it. Types of people, like Moist von Lipwig, who never could have existed before bring with them institutions and ideas. And all the while more and more people fight for their to be accepted and to be the people they want to be. Inequality and racism have been issues that the residents of the Disc have had to struggle with step by step book by book.

But the industrial revolution is where everything changes. Everything is ready and suddenly the time is now, the steam has built up and nothing is going to stop this ride. You can get aboard or be left behind, it's too late to stop the world changing, it's already changed. All that's left is to find yourself a seat. And trains embody that for everyone.

This is a special book. It's where the Discworld wins. Will racism go away? No, but it will never be in a position of power again, the people spouting its tenets mark themselves as irrelevant with the words that come out of their mouths. No-one has time for them, there are too many things happening.

It's not just racism that's stopping people from being who they are either. A hundred years ago a farmers son would know his field and nothing. What use is a cellist a hundred miles from anything resembling a cello? What use is an engineer a hundred years before the engine? The industrial revolution is where all that end, people can be who they are meant to be. The horizon is no longer a restriction, it's a destination and the train stops at timetabled intervals.

And it's capped off through a harrowing journey through treacherous territory practically building the tracks as they go and a deliciously deliberate anti-climax.

Terry Pratchett has done what he does best, capturing the spirit of an idea, and this idea reflects on his books as a whole. If this were to be the final destination, it felt like all the characters we love got their ticket.
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On and Off the Rails
After the agonizing moralization of Snuff, it is refreshing to see the series make a return to a more free-spirited setting, with the return of Moist von Lipwig as the leading character. There are a lot of callbacks to older Discworld novels such as Reaper Man and The Fifth Elephant, but the setting and presentation are very much like the contemporary novels.

Moist von Lipwig is very much wasted for the purposes of the story. There are no enemies to confound, nor there are many obstacles that truly require daring or sleight-of-hand. There may be a jolt here and there, but for most part things go smoothly. There is never really a sense of urgency from the threats that our heroes face, with the story's only antagonists coming across as laughable caricatures of conservative extremism.

It is therefore unsurprising that the climax is not particularly climactic. There are a surprisingly large number of altercations and struggles throughout the story, but the "good guys" always come out unharmed and completely intact. For a story that centres on progress, it is downright baffling to see that the plot or characters undergo almost no development at all.

Moreover, the story tends to rush through a lot of places without really describing them with the same level of detail as most other Discworld novels. Oft-mentioned but unexplored locations like Quirm are mentioned, but only touched upon for no more than a few pages. For a story that is so heavily centred on how we get from point A to point B, lack of attention in this area is somewhat disappointing.

Overall, Raising Steam is possibly the only Discworld novel that I would actually avoid putting on my shelf. For all the complaints leveled at recent Discworld novels, they deal with serious issues while convincingly exposing them as evil as they are farcical. In this case, the issue happens to be conservative idealism, but the story does not effectively link this to the main engine of the plot, nor does it address the matter with credibility.
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The End of An Era
Ser Pratchett has been dealing with failing health for some time, and no where is it more apparent than this book. He has written a story that is not, in any sense, bad. This book is amusing, and it has a fantastic sense of pace that will entrance you until the end.

But it is still a sad thing.

The cast has changed.

The story is no longer as engaging.

It is with this book that we, the fans, are forced to admit that Sir Terry Pratchett is not going to get better.

But back to the book. In this story, Moist Von Lipvig, as master of the mint and post master (along with bank manager) has created a smooth operation. Which is perfect timing; in a far corner of the Sto Lat plains, an engineer called Mister Simnel has built the first train. Adn this invention changes everything. But far underground, the Grags refuse to accept the changing times, and hav3e resorted to terrorism in an attempt to stop what they think of as the end of true dwarves.

The story is quite well written, with many aspects that will grasp your attention and not let go. You will find yourself amused by this, reading it and loving the ride. Old hands, however, will realise that the sings of the author's health shine through. Vimes and vetinari, most notably, no longer act like themselves, leaving old fans dissapointed and confused as to what is going on. Sometimes, the story gets a bit lost and wanders for a while before getting back on track and becoming enjoyable again. The villans are not so much villans, as rather some nebulous force, an ideal that threatens to destroy everything in some vauge way until the very end with a climax with faceless goons.

The jokes are not clever at all, but they can still get a chuckle. Gone is the insight that populated older books, but it does not make the book unreadable with it's absence.

To put it plain, this book signals the end of an age, and is more bittersweet with what it signifies to old readers. New readers will like it, but it is not worth rereading. Read the older books of you can.
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Better then Snuff
I don't know if I would say this was the best Discworld novel. However after Snuff it is defiantly a good sign.
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