Mark Reads ‘Raising Steam’: Part 12

In the twelfth part of Raising Steam, the dwarfs stage their attack, and Moist deals with the terrible ramifications. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of terrorism, police brutality

I kept trying to brace myself for the inevitable horrors of the dwarf attack on the railway, and as it turns out, I could not have prepared myself for the sheer violence of it all. Like, I knew they believed that murder was the only effective means of spreading their message, and yet, I was still shocked when Moist and the goblins came upon those bodies. The dwarfs murdered nine workers while the workers were eating. They literally waited for the most vulnerable moment to attack, and somehow, that just feels so much more cruel to me. And that’s what this was: pure cruelty. They murdered people who had very little to do with their actual quarrel, who most likely didn’t even know anything about delvers or grags, and they did so while these workers were far from their homes and their families.

So, on some level, it’s very easy to understand Moist’s anger. Pratchett draws a parallel here between Vimes and Moist, first by subtly referring to Vimes’s experience with the Summoning Dark, and then later directly referencing it in dialogue. The means by which Moist interacts with and accesses the darkness within him is through a strange, unnamed tea that one of the goblins give him. This tea isn’t the sole reason for his reaction. Yes, there’s his rage. There’s also his fear: Moist was afraid of letting the goblins down. There’s that moment where they all look upon him expectantly as they await orders. Remember, Moist was basically given a taste of his own medicine in Of the Twilight the Darkness, who exaggerated Moist’s standing in order to get the other goblins’ trust. Moist doesn’t want to disappoint them, and so he not only lets them go, he lets himself go. 

I admit that it’s still a very shocking moment, one I don’t think I would have expected from Moist. I don’t think that means that there hasn’t been a darkness in Moist prior to this. Wouldn’t there have to be for him to have had such a cynical view of humanity most of his life? Moist used to be the kind of person who believed that all people basically deserved to be fooled if he could fool them. Killing dwarfs, though? It’s a bit of a stretch, but I’m interested to see how Pratchett will continue to deal with this. It’s not like the act is not given weight within the narrative. Oh, no, Moist is IMMEDIATELY horrified by what he’s done, and he actually appears to have gone unconscious during the violent episode. When he comes to, there’s also an interesting line about Moist’s change: 

“Amazing, what things we learn, that goblins can be people and you, Mister Damp, has a heart and crying because of death of men you don’t know. World is full of miracle. Maybe I will see you singing in choir.” 

Of the Twilight the Darkness hasn’t even known Moist that long, and he’s able to recognize just how much Moist has grown as a person. I love that this forces Moist to take a long look at this goblin and to recognize how little he knows not just about Of the Twilight the Darkness, but goblins in general. Is he developing feelings for them, too? How much is he challenged in his own ideas by the events that transpire around him? Because I bet if you gave other goblins a chance, Of the Twilight the Darkness would stop seeming like the exception to the rule. 

And for what it’s worth, I do admire that we are watching Moist change in real time, much like we saw characters forced to re-examine their prejudices in Unseen Academicals. Moist goes above and beyond that, though. He starts advocating for the goblins. He does so at Fat Marie’s when Marie tries to refuse to serve the goblins, and I love that he wields threats against these people in a way that is effective. It’s meaningful, you know? He sees how goblins are treated, and he does not disappoint them. I know Moist doesn’t see himself as a leader, but I think he sells himself short, mostly because he doesn’t always have the highest opinion of his own self. But when the situation calls for it, Moist rises to the occasion. Maybe Of the Twilight the Darkness was exaggerating a bit, but there has to be a kernel of truth there, right?

HEY SO LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT CONVERSATION WITH VIMES. Long, long ago, I brought up how I am usually really uncomfortable with depictions of law enforcement in fiction, especially in America. Yet I’ve been able to read much of this series without feeling triggered or deeply uncomfortable with how Pratchett portrays the Watch. Part of that is because it’s a fantasy and it’s easier for me to put some distance between myself and the narrative. But there’s a really weird moment here where Vimes is a bit more straightforward than I expected. He says:

“The delvers are a vicious lot, a type of vermin that I’d very much have liked to see dance to Mister Trooper’s tune just to show them how justice should be done. But knowing that at least some of the buggers are out of the way must suffice for now. So, on a personal note, which I’ll certainly deny if you repeat this to anyone: well done.”

So, this came off as a bit too on-the-nose. I know Vimes has had violent thoughts before, and he has certainly struggled with what is ethical in the face of heinous crimes. But to openly admit to Moist that he was glad that Moist killed those dwarfs? I don’t know that Vimes would outright admit that to another person, even if he was trying to offer some sort of respect to Moist. Why share something so deeply personal? Why admit that you’d like to commit police brutality against the dwarfs, but since you couldn’t, you’re glad that Moist did? I’d believe this more if it was just an internal monologue or struggle, you know?

Anyway, it’s possible I’ll change my mind as I continue to read the book. This is still unfolding, and I don’t know if there will be other unseen consequences of Moist’s actions. I do think that the dwarfs don’t know what Moist has done, and he ended up on the grags’ list because he’s the public face of the railway. I’m guessing he’ll be bumped up the queue once they find out? Right??? This is not going to go well. The unnamed dwarf who warns Moist of this list does so VERY boldly, and he’s not afraid of being the messenger. The deep-downers are coming for those who are “opposed to real dwarfinshness,” and that covers practically every named character in Ankh-Morpork. So when do they stop? When the city and it’s leaders and figureheads are all dead? Even then, would that bring an end to this? Or do the grags imagine some sort of supremacist society where the “real” dwarfs run everyhting? I DON’T KNOW.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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