Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can. Terry Pratchett
I love Terry Pratchett’s books. I read The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic when they were first published and thought they were amazing, to the point that Terry Pratchett came the closest of anyone to knocking Douglas Adams of his plinth as Top Author.
But a terrible thing has happened. I read Raising Steam and I didn’t like it.
Its not that the book was terrible, it isn’t. In fact, if I’d never read a Pratchet book before, I’d probably think it was quite good. But that’s a damming indictment in itself, when has a Pratchett book only been quite good?
The problem is that it doesn’t read like Terry Pratchett. There is an exuberance in his writing that shines through his other books, a bubbling humour that satirises everything in sight and still pokes you where you least expect it before running away with gleeful laugh.
And now it’s gone.
And I’m not the only person who thinks so. If you look at the Amazon reviews for The Nightwatch, rated 4.7 and probably my favourite Discworld novel, there are only 4 one star reviews and none of them are about the actual book, three are about audio book formatting problems and one is about Kindle formatting problems. (I wish Amazon would stop this type of thing, it can really cause some confusion)
In contrast Raising Steam has an overall rating of 4.4 which is still good, but it has 54 one star reviews.
Many of them read like Eulogies. When I read them I almost felt like crying, it was the weirdest sensation. The reviews are a stream of, in many cases, beautifully written pieces that just resonate with grief and loss. They do not read like one star reviews.
Of course, Raising Steam was written when Terry Pratchett was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. The fact that he managed to write the book at all is a magnificent achievement. He had long since lost the ability to type and by this time he could hardly see. And there are some wonderful things in this book. It is typically inventive, and at the same time you have social commentary as well as political intrigue, it just doesn’t feel alive. Having said that, this book felt like it was fulfilling a purpose. In many ways Raising Steam provides a conclusion for one of the main themes of the Discworld books and that is the rise of the Ankh Morpork civilisation.
in the end I’m glad I persevered with this book. Reading it saddened me, but at the same time made me appreciate Terry Pratchett all the more.