Mark Reads ‘Raising Steam’: Part 7

In the seventh part of Raising Steam, Moist helps push the railway closer to completion. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

I love that we’re now deep in the third book for Moist von Lipwig, and Pratchett is still willing to give us scenes where Moist just does his thing. Even though he is not a criminal anymore in a literal sense, he is still one at heart. And what better person to deal with aristocrats and the absurdly rich, who are criminals of a different sort? Like the situations with post office and the bank, Lord Vetinari knew that Moist would be ideal for the negotiation of the land rights for the railway. The men who own the land that the railway would need access to would never give up such things from the goodness of their hearts or because they believe in the public good. Seriously, how do you think most of them got to be rich? And while there are usually exceptions to the rule, Vetinari is aware of how lucrative this industry is already proving to be. Thus: people will want to make money off of it. Who else knows how to squeeze as much money as possible out of things?

Moist von Lipwig.

But Vetinari is not ready to claim victory just yet; there are simply too many things that could go wrong. The railway to Sto Lat, the first stop, hasn’t been constructed; there are countless contracts to draw up, negotiate, and finalize; and Stimnel’s prototype needs a working model that can do as he promised. So, I get why Vetinari lights a metaphorical flame under Moist’s arse here. Moist can’t slack or treat this as complete now that he’s worked something out between the Ankh-Morpork government and Harry King. Oh no, they’ve just begun. Moist knows this game, though! That’s why he plays it by offering more than he knows is possible. I mean, I don’t doubt that Simnel can meet the demands Moist will set forth, but still! Moist is gambling, and lord, does he love gambling with possibility. It’s also a possibility that he is watching become reality with every passing day. Seriously, I love the way that Pratchett writes about Harry King’s compound:

Moist looked around the fiery hellhole that was the ironworks. In the satanic air he could just about tell the golems from the human workers in their leather overalls, because the golems were the ones walking around holding pieces of red-hot iron in their bare hands. The furnaces illuminated the grey sky, and always and forever the clanging went on. And the pile of fresh new rails got bigger and bigger. 

Like the Iron Girder, this all feels like it has a life of its own, as if it is a breathing thing that can no longer be controlled. It’s coming to the world, and the best Moist and Vetinari can do is find the reins and ride it out. That’s what I feel Moist is doing! All these little pieces—Harry King’s compound, SImnel’s workers, the surveyors, the landowners, and many other groups—fit into a larger picture. To borrow a term from the text, Moist is the grease that helps this all slide together with as little friction as possible. One way he does this is best demonstrated by his negotiation with Lord Underdale.

I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Again, it’s so pleasing to see Moist in his element. Here, someone thinks they are smarter and more clever than Moist, that they’ve got all the power and leverage, that they deal they’re cutting is a steal. Underdale thinks of Moist as a fool throughout this, but of course, Moist is like twenty steps ahead of Underdale. Not only does he not drink a drop of alcohol, he STEALS it all and negotiates a contract that’ll actually benefit the railway in the long run. (Admittedly, I couldn’t figure out how that is so. Wouldn’t it be frustrating to transmit all that ore AND Underdale for free?)

I’m curious what’s going to come of the competing railway! It was only a matter of time before one cropped up, but this was sooner than I expected. Surely, they don’t have a design. And how could they have received land rights without an actual working locomotive? 

The only other bit I wanted to comment on was the section from the POV of Bedwyr Beddsson. What we’re seeing in many of these scenes is how a community is struggling with extremism. Clearly, Bedwyr was initially sympathetic to the grags, so much so that his wife had to beg him to start rejecting their outreach. (And it is interesting to me that they are doing that sort of recruiting. Are they aware of how small their numbers are? Or are they convinced they’re larger?) Again, there’s an interesting conversation here that touches on the notion of assimilation and change. At heart: Is a dwarf still a dwarf if they don’t practice the same cultural norms as others? What actually quantifies a dwarf? Their appearance? Their traditions? Their heart? 

Bedwyr eventually comes around and not only rejects the dwarfs, but he actually helps when a clacks tower near him is attacked. I love what this represents, too: Bedwyr refuses to be complicit and actively fights against the grags are doing.

It’s an important development, but this also reveals that there are STILL grags willing to hurt others in support of their ideology. The Low King’s declaration didn’t stop them at all.

Mark Links Stuff

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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