Mark Reads ‘Raising Steam’: Part 6

In the sixth part of Raising Steam, Moist comes to an agreement with Harry King and Dick Simnel. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

Y’all, I am loving this book SO MUCH. To use a corny train pun: It is just CHUGGING along. Because of that, it leaves me constantly wondering what twists are coming down the pipeline. If we are barely a fifth of the way through this book and Moist has already brokered an agreement with King and Simnel… WHAT THE FUCK ELSE IS GOING TO HAPPEN. I know I’ve commented on this already, but this has really made reading Raising Steam such a delight, and I’m thrilled that Pratchett was willing to try something different this time around. 

So, let’s jump into this meeting, which was SO much fun to read. And I gotta say this, too, right at the start: I think one of the great parts of doing Mark Reads videos over the years has been finding books that are great read aloud. It’s a completely different context for a narrative work, and I’ve had a blast with these first six splits. Part of that is because this book also feels a bit more dialogue heavy at the start, but I’d like to suggest another reason. As I’ve mentioned, Raising Steam is a book that depends a decent amount on previous Discworld books. In particulary, Thud!, Going Postal, and Making Money all inform this manuscript a great. 

What that means for me, as the reader, is that I can sink into a scene with characters I know fairly well—like Harry King and Moist—and just believe what is happening. We know that King is a shrewd, that he has become as successful as he has because of how astute and brilliant he is. We also know that he once bonded with Moist because he sees the two of them as existing along the same spectrum. They’re both criminals… but not really. At least not anymore. So what happens when the two of them are in the same room, vying for pieces of the same potential money-maker? 

That alone was fascinating, but Pratchett complicates this brilliantly with the presence of Dick Simnel, who is nowhere near as shrewd of a businessman, and Mr. Thunderbolt, the EXTREMELY talented and fair lawyer. Even before these four characters start talking, we’re shown that Harry King is leagues ahead of the game, as he’s started charging people a dollar per ride around his compound. WHICH IS A LOT OF MONEY. Not just for the ride alone, but given how many people are in the queue for it, it’s already going to amass him a small fortune. (As part of his already record-breaking fortune. Seriously, I don’t doubt that he’s the richest man in Ankh-Morpork.) So, Harry King has an advantage here, as does Dick Simnel. The tension Pratchett relies on is the unknown: How is Moist going to get what Vetinari wants?

I loved that Moist opted to be as direct as possible, rather than beat around the bush or passively make reference to his purpose for being there. Because of this, Harry King responds in kind and is very direct about what he wants. Earlier in this book, we got to witness Harry realizing what a huge opportunity the steam engine was. Here, its basically the same process, but for something else: How can Harry King benefit from a partnership with the city? How can the act of determining boundaries and regulation help Harry now? Well, Harry knew that this step was inevitable, and having Mr. Thunderbolt come up with the fine print allows him to focus on… well, literally anything else. His time isn’t sucked away by the process of having to figure out all the complicated details of an arrangement with the city of Ankh-Morpork.

Moist obviously benefits from Thunderbolt’s proposed arrangement, too. The postal industry and the banking industry could both be revitalized by the further use of stem engines. Seriously, improving mail delivery ALONE would be a huge boon to business, and it’s clear that you can see these gears clinking in Moist’s head. However, the most exciting part of what these men come up with is the HILARIOUS decision (not made by Moist, for the record) that Moist will be the party who handles all of the challenging conversations with landowners. I had asked about this potential problem before, and while I’m certain that moist is immensely talented in this context, I still worry about how this is actually going to turn out. Is imminent domain a thing on the Disc? What if there is a landowner who refuses to cede over part of their land to construct the railway? 

I’m sure we’ll get there, but in the meantime: this is a solid foundation for working together. Mr. Thunderbolt came up with a great agreement; Dick Simnel will get the money, supplies, and labor to help him build better trains; and Moist has made sure that the city’s interests are acknowledged. It looks like the Ankh-Morpork to Sto Lat part of the line will be built first… but lemme guess. There will be complications??? I’m still worried about the grags. And I’m sure there are other people or groups who want to get in on this, too. Regardless: I am so, so excited about this, and I wonder if this book is going to bring out the transit infrastructure nerd in me. BECAUSE I HAVE FEELINGS.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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