Raising Steam, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (4 ratings)


It's all change for Moist von Lipwig, swindler, conman, and (naturally) head of the Royal Bank and Post Office.

A steaming, clanging new invention, driven by Dick Simnel, the man with t'flat cap and t'sliding rule, is drawing astonished crowds - including a few particularly keen young men armed with notepads and very sensible rainwear - and suddenly it's a matter of national importance that the trains run on time.

Moist does not enjoy hard work. His ...vital input at the bank and post office consists mainly of words, which are not that heavy. Or greasy. And it certainly doesn't involve rickety bridges, runaway cheeses or a fat controller with knuckledusters.

What he does enjoy is being alive, which may not be a perk of running the new railway. Because, of course, some people have Objections, and they'll go to extremes to stop locomotion in its tracks.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Fantasy
  • ISBN: 9780552170468

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Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.

Review by

As my Christmas stocking included 'Mrs. Bradshaw’s Guide to travelling on the Ankh-Morpork and Sto Plains Hygienic Railway’, I decided to prepare for that by reading 'Raising Steam' slightly out of sequence within the Discworld novels. (This only involved my skipping two books, 'Unseen Academicals' and 'Snuff'.) I wasn’t unprepared for what I saw, but it nonetheless still came as an unpleasant experience, to be confronted with what looks to me like the effects of Pratchett’s illness. The first half of the book is charmless and the dialogue flat. Even Pratchett’s legendary wit and wordplay lacked sparkle. Then, from about page 175 – Moist’s rescue of the children playing on the railway – the book came alive for me. We were back with the Terry Pratchett of old. (This, too, is symptomatic of his illness.) There was one gratuitous insertion of a reference to 'The Railway Children', but that apart I found the second half of the book much more engaging than the first.As a railway enthusiast, I appreciated a lot of the jokes and the accuracy of the railway terminology, even when mangled by the Discworld mindset. Pratchett took advice from one of the heritage railways in his part of England, so he avoided the worst of all errors when writers take on a subject with its own fandom – getting the facts wrong. Dick Simnel seems to be based, as a character, on the popular television personality of a few years ago, the late Fred Dibnah, and none the worse for that. Slightly more irritating was the continual namechecking of other characters and situations from the Discworld, going all the way back to Rincewind; and saying that this demonstrates how far enthusiasm for the new railway has penetrated Discworld society really doesn’t work for me.The march of industry into the Discworld has been a feature of many of the more recent novels, starting with 'The Truth' and 'Thief of Time' with its steam-powered prayer wheels before the appearance of the clacks and the novels involving Moist von Lipwig; this book continues that theme. But I detected an element of the old magic re-appearing in this book. In 'Small Gods', Pratchett developed the idea that gods grew in stature according to how many people believed in them; and is this not what is happening with the railway? The idea of Iron Girder initially running around on a circular demonstration track echoes an actual event from the dawn of steam power, when Richard Trevithick demonstrated an early steam engine, Catch me who can, on a circular track in London in 1808. And the sketchy description of Iron Girder at this point in the book matches the sort of machine Trevithick and his near contemporaries built in the first quarter of the 19th century, with the motion mounted on top of the boiler and a generally grasshopper-like progress along the track. Later descriptions suggest a rapid line of development, with descriptions of Iron Girder as being sleeker, more powerful and more purposeful, with more in common with the engines of the 1890s than the early 1800s. Although Dick Simnel is forever tinkering with his pride and joy, the changes wrought in the engine to make it faster and more powerful would not have come about through mere tinkering alone; and the suggestions that the engine is itself a living, breathing thing (something of a cliché amongst steam fans, but there you are) also suggests that the magic of the Discworld is having an effect on the engine, that merely by existing within a strong thaumaturgical field and being the centre of interest and attention of so many people, the engine has become in its own way a Small God.There is another theme to the novel, and that is diversity. Just as magical kingdoms in fantasy have a panoply of characters from different races – elves, ogres, vampires and so on – so does our modern world. Of course, in our world it is the modern technological achievements of mass transport that have encouraged the interchange of peoples, whereas on the Discworld that has happened without mass transportation, with the political and economic nexus of Ankh-Morpork acting as the magnet for inward immigration. But what started out on the Discworld as isolated instances of diversity – vampires signing the Pledge, or the emancipation of the golems – has now gathered pace and the mixing and interchange of peoples and acceptance of their differences is shown as a topic with the same sort of inter-relationships and flashpoints as we ourselves are experiencing in the real world. Pratchett has no answer for this, other than to believe in the transformative power of Progress eventually changing hearts and minds. If only it was so easy in real life.

Review by

Sadly still far from his best. Much better than the last offering or two, but it doesn't have anywhere near the subtle satire that marked pTerry at his peak form. The plotting has become pedestrian an linear - which is an improvement over the arbitrary jumps of the last book, - but lacks the cohesive entanglement and clever resolution that he has achieved.We're still in Ankh-Morpock for this one in the coming of the Industrial Age, and our hero is again that irrepressible rogue Moist von Lipwig. In one of pTerry's better bits of continuity, the son of the farmer who was killed by the automatic combine harvester in Reaper Man, has come of age, and developed Steam Power. Specifically a railway engine. pTerry as usual ignores the inconveniences of laying track and has it happen as necessary by gangs on men (at least he's considered it). and istead focuses on the concept of change that technology can bring. This has been seen by the clacks as communication spread,s but the Iron Girder as the first engine is known brings change in a physical way that has never been seen on Discworld before. As can be imagined the antithesis of change are the deep dwarves, and rebellion in again in the offing. And so everyone important (including Blackboard Monitor Vimes - the importance of this title is highlighted once) joins a train ride to resolve all the problems. The continued comparison between the grags - highly religious dwarves fully covered at all times - and muslim fanatics remains; if only a train ride could resolve these differences. There is little of the trademark puns, and even witty one-liners are in short supply. I can't recall laughing at any point, which might be a first for a pTerry book. But I certainly smiled and enjoyed the direction events took. The consistency of the Discworld remains impressive, and even the prevalence of the newly introduced goblins was well worked.

Review by

Slightly disappointing as it lacked the normal Pratchett edge

Review by

Moist von Lipwig is once again set upon by the seemingly omniscient Vetinari to be the lovable face of the new Railway service, devised by a young lad with a flat cap and a sliding rule and funded by the Diamond King of Trolls, with his wife on hand to provide the interiors.<br/>The Goblins are back, as well. Having been set free by Vimes in <i>Snuff</i>, they are now working the Clacks and, suddenly, are also tinkering with steam...<br/><br/>But the dwarfs aren't happy about Goblins being given "citizen status" and the older dwarfs known as Grags, who are clinging on to tradition, are starting fires and have revolution on the mind...<br/><br/><br/>If you're new to Discworld I'd say don't read this one first. Skip the first few, as well, and head for something in the middle like <i>Lords and Ladies</i>. This one started slow and very contrary to the latest previous Discworld novels, the main part of the plot didn't come in until quite late in the book. Whilst the fundamental humour of Pratchett and Discworld was there, it felt a little disjointed and that's only because Pratchett is suffering with an illness. Whilst this is putting many people off, it only makes me feel a stronger link to the man. He's continuing with his work in the face of adversity and that makes him great. Sure, his writing is off slightly, but when it comes down to it, do we really <b>only</b> enjoy the writing of books?<br/><br/>Of course, I love it because it had goblins, too. I enjoy the way he's portrayed them: he hasn't gone for the airy-fairy of Shakespeare and the Victorian Period, and he certainly hasn't gone for the rather dim-witted and blood-lusting goblins of Tolkien. He's taken them and made them his own, and actually, since his folklore has always been very true to the roots as opposed to the popular, they are extremely accurate and better representations of a lower class of species that is inevitably critised and detested because of their strange habits and looks. It's another Discworld that is commenting on real-world societies and issues in a very blunt manner, and everything in this book rings true with anything that you see when you look out your window.<br/><br/>I also really enjoyed the way he poked fun at The Railway Children: a classic tale but Moist von Lipwig added to the equation made it far more delightful.