Terry Pratchett’s 40th Discworld novel reminds me of the final episode of the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation. Different genre, different medium, but very similar. If you’re not a Next Gen fan, then its final scene of crew sitting down to play cards is not that special. If you have followed those characters over the years, however, it’s a very fitting send-off for them, low-key but moving.
Likewise, Raising Steam is not Pratchett as his best. But a wide range of the old favourite characters appear, reminding loyal readers of his brilliant past, providing decent entertainment along the way and with occasional flashes of the old Pratchett brilliance.
Adding a poignant twist, of course, is his own illness, which makes the fact that he can still write a book vastly better than any I could write massively impressively. He’s so talented that even off his best, he’s still darn good.
So if you’re new to Pratchett, pick an older novel to enjoy. If you’re a long-term fan, don’t get your hopes up too much and instead enjoy an amiable rounding up of many of your favourite characters, where your memories of their past will provide much enjoyment as a gentle book plots the increasing dominance of incipient industrialisation and modernity over magic in Discworld.
One tip for buying the book: if you can, get the “Waterstones exclusive” version. Despite its name, it is also available via Amazon and comes with a fun free bookmark that is a mock-up of a Discworld train ticket.
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