Mark Reads ‘Raising Steam’: Part 15

In the fifteenth part of Raising Steam, the railway continues, and the world changes. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

So, lemme start by explaining a bit of my reaction at the start of the video for this split. As Chief Constable Feeney Upshot headed towards the caves where the strange metallic sound was emanating, I thought that what he was going to find was the goblins working for Harry King. As I had written recently, I believe Vetinari was trying to get Moist to both think outside of the box and acknowledge the obvious: that the dwarfs should be working on the railway. But then I doubted myself and became convinced that I had just publicly goofed, as I often do. 

Instead, Pratchett introduces yet another unexpected but completely believable ramification of an idea being set loose. We know the goblins are obsessed with taking things apart and learning how they work. In working alongside Harry King and watching this railway system come to fruition, some of them have seen an incredible potential: the ability to collectivize.I think about what we saw in the maquis and how the bandits there picked off goblins for their own needs. Would that happen again if the goblins had their own transit system, one that was both underground and built just for them? What if they could help other goblins? Send goblins where work was needed and available?

I don’t think this is the last we’ve seen of this plot. I think it’ll significantly play into the narrative later. AND IT’S SO FASCINATING, Y’ALL. Raising Steam, perhaps more so than a lot of Discworld books, feels sprawling. Immense. the scope of it is larger than I expected, and of course, that’s because it’s literally about the size of the Disc. The line that Vetinari requested will be over twelve hundred miles long, so it stands to reason we’d see more of this fantastical world than usual in this book. But there’s also an undeniable joy in how Pratchett writes of the development of this line, and I wonder if he was ever a train spotter himself. There’s so much glee here, not just in what Pratchett depicts, but how he depicts it. In a way, I see a possibly unintended parallel between himself and Mrs. Bradshaw. Pratchett writes of the workers with a stunning poetry, and it’s clear he admires them, much like Mrs. Bradshaw admires the new places that she’s visiting:

The smelters worked through the night casting rails, and if you were lucky enough to be in the right place and sufficiently protected, you could see them open their guts and spill the glowing liquid steel: dancing and living like a creature from the underworld.

And as I said on video: reading this aloud was a delight, as that’s where I could feel how much fun Pratchett was having. He’s also getting the chance to talk about how a world changes and does so rapidly. Because there are so many more things I wouldn’t have thought of! Like stepladders for dwarfs so they aren’t trampled or lost in stations; or train security; or porters! There are so very many new jobs that can be had, and I’d count Mrs. Bradshaw as part of that, too. Who is going to document this new world? Who will explain what’s beyond those ever-broadening horizons? IT’S SO EXCITING TO READ ALL OF THIS. Because I know I’ve traveled to places specifically because of someone else’s writing. When I was in Hawai’i last fall, I went on a hike that was stunningly beautiful that I would not have discovered on my own. It was a travel blogger who turned me on to it. 

It’s so fitting, then, that Moist von Lipwig, the man whose brain operates best in times of chaos and unpredictability, is the one pushing others to consider changing their perspectives, too. He’s had to do that constantly his whole life; it was a survival tactic and a means of exploiting others. But Moist’s larger character arc now involves him GENUINELY THINKING OF THE WELL-BEING OF OTHERS. For example: when he’s talking to Harry King about the challenges of the Uberwald line, he advocates for the trolls, insisting that they can help as long as they let the trolls “dig out a home nearby.” I love that Moist thinks of it this way: the trolls can provide an invaluable service that they actually love doing. Actually, it’s more than a love; it’s part of their culture, since they’ll use the job to teach their children about rocks. In exchange, it’s only fair that they get have a home out of all of this. 

That’s growth, y’all. Before, Moist would only think of what he could get out of any situation, but not anymore. He is still a selfish person, but that selfishness has shifted, and it’s done so in a way that Moist has barely even noticed it. I do enjoy, though, that Pratchett still has time for wackiness when it comes to Moist. He’s such a deeply chaotic character, and even though he’s now an important figure in the city, even though he’s won the respect of Vetinari, and even though he’s married, he’s still PEAK chaos.

Case in point: Moist drinks that goddamn potion that Of the Twilight the Darkness gave him. WHY. LOOK WHAT THE LAST ONE DID. What did he expect? He is literally the personification of that “Dead bird in the bag” meme from Arrested Development. LITERALLY. But hey… it worked! And he had a great conversation with his knees! Anyway: WHO ELSE LOVES THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MOIST AND ADORA BELLE? I love that they’re openly sexual, that they’re playful and funny, that Pratchett lets them have all these fluffy, loving moments. I actually think that, like Vimes and Sybil, he isn’t ever going to separate them. And I am a huge fan of that.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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