Mark Reads ‘Raising Steam’: Part 13

In the thirteenth part of Raising Steam, life continues to change due to the railway, but is it for better or for worse? If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

I appreciate that this remains a complicated situation, one that continues to have ramifications that no one could have foreseen. Well, not every ramification, of course. It was not surprising that The Low King was furious with what had happened at the railhead, and it was utterly predictable that Ardent and his followers were suddenly nowhere to be found!!! They were so loud and bold and willing to do anything to support and further their beliefs, but be held accountable for them? Never! So the Low King’s fury is understandable. This is all spiraling out of control faster than anyone can keep up with it, and I believe that the grags are not going to stop. More people will die, and they aren’t going to cease their attempts at sabotaging the railway because some dwarfs have died, too. (Like the unnamed saboteur in this split.)

Which brings me to the Low King’s secret. Hi. HELLO. Because I’m pretty sure the wink-wink, nudge-nudge moment from Aeron is the hint that RHYS RHYSSON IS PREGNANT. Yes??? Which would be a first in the world of the dwarfs! They’ve never had a king have a child! THIS IS A HUGE DEAL, and it makes sense why Aeron thinks this is another card to play. Rhysson makes a fantastic point when they’re angry early in this split: 

“Remember, if Tak teaches us anything, he teaches us to be tolerant of all sapient shapes. Let me tell you, the world changes with every generation and if we don’t learn to surf on the tide then we will be smashed on the rocks.”

It’s a scathing indictment of the grags, but I think you can re-contextualize this using the “card” that the Low King can play later. Rhysson knows that he’s going to change the world for dwarfs as soon as he announces this secret.

Will the dwarfs change to accept that child or not?

Some won’t. Some will be dedicated to regression up until the very end, which is why I believe it was intentional that Pratchett followed up the secret and the kiss (THE KISS!!!!) with the scene between the dwarf vandal and the Iron Girder. Here, we get a brief glimpse into the mind of one of the grags, who is dead-set (sorry, couldn’t resist, JUST KIDDING, NOT SORRY) on destroying the Iron Girder. I’ll touch on the whole “Iron Girder is alive” thing in a bit, as what I want to focus on is this vandal’s determination. They were so certain that they would succeed in damaging the Iron Girder, and they didn’t expect to be instantly killed in a blast of steam that tore them apart. Yet even upon realizing that they died, their certainty does not waver. They tell Death:

“Oh… I don’t regret it, you know. I was doing the work of Tak, who will now welcome me into paradise with open arms!”

But will he? Death isn’t so sure, and Pratchett pokes holes in this entire justification for acts of terrorism. How do you know you’ll be rewarding for such a vile, violent, and hateful act? Well, from the perspective of this vandal, he was doing something that he believed Tak would reward. And I’m guessing that the vandal is about to experience an afterlife that is nothing like what he thought it would be. WHOOPS. 

Let’s go back to this notion of the Iron Girder’s soul, though. I spoke about it on video, but to elaborate: This is a fictional universe in which belief grants an enormous power to ideas, concepts, and things. There’s a goddess—Anoia—of things getting stuck in drawers. It’s entirely possible that as this new technology spreads across the Disc and charms other people, people will start to believe in it. Both Dick Simnel and Moist are aware of the almost cult-like admiration that folks have for Iron Girder specifically. So: not a stretch of the imagination at all. The railway has become intoxicating to those who have experienced it. Maybe that engine really does have a soul, and it fought back against someone who would harm them. If that’s the case, I imagine we’ll see something else of this nature later on. 

For now, though, there’s so much more to talk about, and that’s because there’s so much more that’s changing everywhere. Dick’s life is nothing like it was at the start of Raising Steam, and I know that’s an obvious point to make, but I still don’t want to lose sight of that. None of this would have happened at this point in time if he hadn’t pursued his ideas. From there, the possibilities branched out, and this book is doing a fine job of showing the big and small things that have come to rise since the beginning. One of those is how Harry King’s life isn’t the same. His wife seems pretty happy with that; I recall that she desperately wanted him to change the circumstances of his profession. (Or at least the associations with it.) And now look that them! Fancy dinners with aristocrats, which isn’t Harry’s vibe in the slightest. He’s very quick to criticize all of this, but I also kinda think he might learn to like it? At the same time, he makes a great point: This isn’t who he is. He’s not fancy, he’s not a knob, and I think it’s possible he’ll never fit in with that crowd. So will he fight it? Will he try to convince his wife to stop trying to make him fit in there?

It’s a pretty low-grade compared to what follows, though. Harry’s and Effie’s lives have changed for the better. But not everything is going to be positive or uncomplicated. At the end of this, I felt that the Wesley family was more tragic than anything else. Yes, Jed was reckless, and Jed did not listen to sound advice multiple times when Crucible gave it to him, and yes, he should not have messed with that boiler. The text makes it clear that what happens to the Wesley brothers is just… awful. The end. I understand why Moist believes it’s not going to be damaging to the railway, but I got a sense that his take on all this was starting to change as he got on site to the Effing Forest. (That effing name, I’M DYING.) This is more a feeling than textual evidence, since the split ends so soon after Moist is guided to the spot of the accident by the publican. And it’s not like he’s wrong! They had not tried to build an engine, and it wasn’t like they were working on the railway in any capacity. Still, that doesn’t make this less tragic, you know? 

So I’m worried. I think this might be a bigger deal than Moist thinks it will be.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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