Raising Discworld

Alright, I’ve waited long enough to mention Terry Pratchett, and I don’t feel like waiting much longer. I usually don’t wait so long, when discussing books, before trying to introduce whoever they think they know literature to the Discworld series. This is almost inexcusable really, on my part, because despite author Terry Pratchett having written several Young Adult and even children books that are considered a part of the series, I didn’t start reading it until college. Believe me though, I’m trying to make up for lost time and make sure no one makes the same mistake I did on top of that.

It’s a funny little story, really, what turned me onto Discworld and Terry Pratchett in earnest. I was discussing with friend of mine how we’d both read and loved the book Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, (another great one I promise for later,) and I explained how that made me go out and read every scrap of text ever written by Gaiman, and she countered by saying actually she went out to read all of Terry Pratchett’s books.

At each other’s recommendation, we both switched and started reading the other author. For my part, I was delighted by he new discovery, especially since the series went back all the way to 1986. That’s the sort of moment book lovers live for, isn’t it? It’s sort of like you think your alarm clock is about to go off but then you check and you have hours yet to go back to sleep and dream about Golems helping an ex-convict run a post office. (Note: That’s the actual plot of Discworld’s Going Postal, not a random dream scenario I made up. It’s that sort of series.)

Anyhow, the great thing about discovering Discworld as a series is that there’s no need to read them all in order. While the books take place in the same world, and there is a general chronological order, each book has different protagonists and different flavors to them, so you can pick and choose to your delight, bouncing all over the timelines. Some people have even made up complex flow charts to show which books are associated with which characters or story arcs, although they constantly need updating since Pratchett still hasn’t stopped with this series. Reading the series can get as complex as these maps or as simple as picking the book that mentions your favorite character on the back.

I decided to try harder than I normally do to review a single book from the series, otherwise this entry would just get ridiculously long. Looking back on everything, I decided to focus on the latest Dscworld novel, Raising Steam, because it is the most recently released full novel, and it features Moist Von Lipwig, who was the first protaginist I met in the series, and an intersting indicator of the turn this series’s course has taken.

Lipwig is an outlaw turned industrialist. Considering most of the early to mid Discworld books seemed to exist in a sort of medieval era, with wizards and dragons, the word industrialist might seem out of place. Pratchett, though, in sticking with the series for almost thirty years, let the thing evolve rather ingeniously. The most recent accounts of life in Discworld do show a budding modern industrial society, with the city of Ankh Mor Pork (a primary setting for many of the books,) resembling something like early Victorian London.

Raising Steam pushes Discworld that much further into the modern age by allowing the steam locomotive to be invented. Allowing really is the key word in this situation. As if becoming more and more aware of how quickly their series is evolving, many characters, especially Patrician Lord Vetinari, speak of  letting the locomotive be invented, whether it is finally time to let mad mechanics tear up the Sto Plains with railroads.

Moist Von Lipwig is put in charge of the new railroads and he answers with a firm affirmative to all these questions, putting the advancement and betterment of his new industry, along with the public good, above all else, as has become his custom over three books. Lipwig truly is the best character to guide Ankh Mor Pork and Discworld fans through this brave new revolution. Not only does the familiar face help in such new, though not unprecedented, territory for the series, but readers will know that Lipwig always manages to find a way to make sure his venture makes the lives of people better, not just his company. Perhaps this benevolence, not to mention the happy ending it spawns, don’t paint the most realistic picture of the industrial age, but Pratchett is still entirely capable of exposing uncanny and spot on parodies and critiques of our own society in this silly, happy ending one, so I’m more than willing to let that slide.

Terry Pratchett has a gift for making wonderfully quotable aphorisms that always seem to ring incredibly true no matter what they’re about, and he certainly hasn’t pulled back in Raising Steam. I already have several Pratchett quotes written on my giant Franny and Zooey quote wall, (an idea that wasn’t even mine, but my science major roommate!) but as per usual reading this book made me want to add a few more, but really he’s starting to dominate that wall, so I’ll just deposit them here instead, in hopes of whetting your Pratchett appetite.

“That’s the trouble, you see. When you’ve had hatred on your tongue for such a long time, you don’t know how to spit it out.”
― Terry Pratchett, Raising Steam

“Bandits and governments ‘ave so much in common that they might be interchangeable anywhere in the world…”
― Terry Pratchett, Raising Steam

“Uncertainty is always uncertain, but the difficulty with people who rely on systems is that they begin to believe that nearly everything is in some way a system and therefore, sooner or later, they become bureaucrats.”
― Terry Pratchett, Raising Steam

(And Thanks to goodreads.com for helping me check those exact quotes.)

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2 thoughts on “Raising Discworld

  1. Pingback: Five Comfort Books | my life our books

  2. Pingback: Kick-ass Sci-Fi and Fantasy Heroines | my life our books

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