In the seventeenth part of Raising Steam, Moist learns of the coup, and he decides not to worry. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of anxiety
I would totally read an entire book centered around Lady Margolotta, for the record. Even what little we get of her life at the opening of this split feels so rich and detailed. But I want more! What’s her castle like? Does anyone else live with her? We know Nutt spent a long amount of time with her in the events preceding Unseen Academicals, right? What about the people like Arthur, who live near the castle and have gotten used to being in the life of one of the biggest political figures on the entire Disc? Who else has benefited from her philanthropy? I JUST WANT TO KNOW A LOT MORE ABOUT HER. And perhaps I’ve just misremembered this, but we’ve never seen her fly like this, have we?
Anyway, that’s a small scene at the beginning of this; the remainder of this split deals exclusively in Moist’s POV as the events of the preceding split basically take over his life. I’ve been saying for a while that I expected the two major plot lines to intersect, since it looked like that was what Pratchett was setting up. HERE WE ARE. Because now that Ardent has orchestrated a coup, the Low King needs to get back to Schmaltzburg to reclaim the Scone of Stone. And who has been working ardently (COULDN’T RESIST) to complete a line to Bonk?
Hi, Moist von Lipwig. Now you have to save the future of the dwarfs.
But this is the ideal scenario for him, right? He loves high pressure nightmares because of how they get the gears turning in his mind. That being said, Pratchett does an incredible thing here: He doesn’t fill the reader with hope. It would have been easier for Moist to just not have any sort of anxiety about this situation, but instead, Moist feels all the more human for having his big internal monologue. And before we even get to that point, I think Pratchett does a fine job of conveying how chaotic this all feels. There’s the scene in the Oblong Office, which comes after Moist just stood up to the palace guards for being rude. Look how quickly Moist abandons his decision to stand up to Vetinari. My read on that was that Moist recognized very, very quickly that sarcasm or being contrary was not only not welcomed, but unnecessary. This was a problem that needed resolving quickly, quietly, and desperately.
So Iron Girder it is. That thing is probably alive, and I’d choose a semi-conscious locomotive versus anything else. Moist also doesn’t bat an eye at the Watch being a part of all of this, either, though I would personally feel VERY safe in Sergeant Detritus’s presence. (WHOLESALE CAPABILITY) This has to get done! There’s no room for Moist to complain! He just has to do it!
Which is why he does what he does at the chateau. I wrote in an earlier review that it seems like Ardent and his followers comprise a fairly small number, but… what if I was wrong? What if that was just Ardent’s closest advisors? What if there is a spy in Rhys’s party who is funneling information back to Ardent? Thus, as enraging as it is to a lot of the dwarfs present, Moist is smart to not announce any of the plans to get the Low King back to the Scone.
One of those means is using a decoy, but that can’t work for that long, right? Even then, the real worry I have—and so does Moist—is that something will happen on the stretch from Sto Lat to Bonk. Is that something Moist vocalizes to Rhys? No, and I’m sure Rhys is probably thinking of it, too. At the same time, Rhys knows that Moist is a survivor, and a survivor against INCREDIBLE odds. Seriously, everyone knows about Moist’s very public adventures the last few years; they were heavily reported on.
But then Pratchett brilliantly pushes us into Moist’s inner monologue, and as someone who had dealt with anxiety most of their life, LORD THIS WAS VERY, VERY REAL. Look how Moist’s thoughts travel from one possibility to another. He goes from thinking about attacks in the wilderness to knowing how easy it would be to derail the Iron Girder, then to thinking about people possibly not doing their jobs correctly and fucking up something, and YES, ANXIETY IS SO MUCH LIKE THIS. Not for everyone, but I tend to have avalanche-style anxiety attacks. They always start small and then gradually balloon into an entirely irrational conclusion that feels rational because I saw the causal chain in my head that got me there.
Moist doesn’t normally worry like this. So him worrying? THAT IS VERY… WORRYING. Right? And while he lets cold certainty wash over him and just accepts that everything will be fine, that didn’t calm me. Oh, no, I have no assurances that this will be fine. There’s just so much unknown here, particularly in that large trek in the wilderness. Even feeling sure that that is where the grags will strike… oh lord. It’s very stressful.
What is Moist’s plan to deal with the unfinished bridges, by the way???
Mark Links Stuff
– You can now pre-order my second YA novel, Each of Us a Desert, which will be released on September 15, 2020 from Tor Teen!
– If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.