Set, of course, on a disc of a world balancing on the back of four giant elephants who ride on the back of a star turtle, Raising Steam is situated across a vast landscape with an almost equally vast cast of characters.
The invention of the steam engine has caused great intrigue and possibility across the Discworld. Heads of government and merchants alike speak of the possibilities and risk, every sentient species dreams of the chance to ride on the magnificent Iron Girder, and a sub-sect of dwarf culture is out to stop the future at the cost of a fragile peace with the rest of the world.
Raising Steam is the third of the Moist Von Lipwig sub-series. Once again tired of success, this time after completely reforming the banking system in the earlier novel Making Money, Moist is first pressured, and then drawn, into the promise of the steam engine. Lord Vetinari, benevolent tyrant of the largest city on the Disc, insists on pushing the new railway as far as it can go for diplomatic reasons. And Harry King, also known as King of the Golden River (for various reasons), is seeking to be remembered for something more than the person responsible for creating a functional sanitation industry.
What could easily be considered his most complex novel to date, Raising Steam is a tale of rapidly shifting tides. Perspective seldom remains the same for more than a few paragraphs, often encouraging back-tracking to try and discover links that only become obvious later in the story. Dialogue is rarely not funny and is often quite thought provoking; encouraging readers to consider the nature of change and sentient behaviour.
Chaotic to the extreme, but with the undertone of order so characteristic of Pratchett’s work, and with plenty of references to earlier novels throwing in for good measure, Raising Steam is engaging and unstoppable. The greatest challenge is trying to put it down once you start.