In the twenty-second part of Raising Steam, Albrecht resists; the world changes; Moist assures, and then makes a guess. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
I love that I can still be surprised after all this time.
Albrecht’s calm and determined resistance is so WONDERFUL, y’all. Part of that comes from the fact that he’s rather sure that Ardent isn’t actually going to be able to outlast Rhys; part of it also comes from Albrecht’s secret visitor. But what I’ve found really rewarding about this dwarf plot is the way in which Pratchett weaves in commentary about extremism and the inherent cowardice that you often find in the people who believe in violent ideologies. We see that here in Ardent’s fear: Ardent is still clearly afraid of the Low King, and he’s also terrified that he doesn’t have the support he thinks he does. And yet, he still performs his role! He acts arrogant and sure of himself. He levels threats constantly. Is he willing to air out his arguments or disagreements in a public forum? Is he willing to go toe-to-toe with Rhys? Does he even believe in the very dwarfish political system he claims to want to preserve? I mean, that last one’s been bugging me this whole time. If Ardent so fervently believes in dwarfish-kind, would he have so utterly disrespect his own culture’s political process? Maybe. Maybe not. Ardent speaks as if he knows all, while disrespecting his elders and anyone else who does know more than him. Part of me thinks that he’s got to be aware of this, given how nervous and frightened he is in Albrecht’s cell. He’s overcompensating, isn’t he? And this is exactly what we see in a lot of leaders of these sort of movements. We are LITERALLY SEEING THIS RIGHT NOW. How many overcompensating motherfuckers are all over the news after saying that COVID-19 was a hoax and are now swinging far in the other direction to brag about how they always knew that this was worse than the flu?
Sorry, I’M REAL MAD AT SOME PEOPLE IN MY COUNTRY. I have no idea if this is happening elsewhere. (Actually… pretty sure it’s happening in the UK.) The point that I’m trying to make outside of current events is that I found this whole exchange to be immensely entertaining. No matter how many times Ardent tries to frighten Albrecht, he ends up being the one who is scared. It’s a brilliant reversal of fortunes, and the whole scene feels like ironic contrasts. Who is the dwarf with the most information? The one locked in a prison cell. Who is the dwarf most terrified? The one orchestrating the coup, not the one who is the victim of it. Who will win in the end? Momentum. Because that’s the truth here that feels undeniable: the change has already begun. Can Ardent not only hold on to the power he has, but change what has already come to pass? He can barely do the former; how the hell does he expect to do the latter?
Even within this subplot, though, Pratchett brings back a motif we’ve seen a number of times in this book and in the latter half of the Discworld series. At this point, how many times have we seen someone change their mind about another species on the Disc? Vimes has done it; so has Vetinari; we’ve had multiple books where that was the WHOLE POINT. (Snuff, Thud!, and Unseen Academicals all come to mind.) Much of these were human-centered, so I liked that this scene with Albrecht and The Rattle of the Wheels (Rat for short!) showed us an interspecies conversation that had no humans in it. I also spoke about this on camera, but that little exchange where Albrecht asks for The Rattle of the Wheels’s name is so good. There’s a mutual respect that’s developed between these two, and I think that The Rattle of the Wheels’s offer of their shortened name felt like a sign of that. We know that goblins prize their full names, and the fact that Rat tells Albrecht the shortened version of it? That’s so meaningful!
This split also contains another of those interstitial scenes where the railway system changes someone’s life. Here, it’s Knut, who is a goatherd in the Slake ranges, a place that I believe we’ve never visited in one of the books before. Even if the scene isn’t that long, I love that we get a sense of how isolated the community is there. Knut has literally no context for what the railway system is, so much that he doesn’t even understand what it was that a bunch of people laid onto the ground before the Iron Girder finally rode by Knut. And like so many people who have witnessed this locomotive, Knut’s heart changed. The world became bigger, but only in the possibility that lay before Knut. The beauty of the train is that the Disc will now become smaller with this line. There are other things in the world besides goats, Knut, and I love that Pratchett leaves us with that sense of hope. Where will Knut go? How will the railway change his world?
Y’all, I know you’re cackling. I know you were laughing at me as I read all the clues Moist dropped in his scene with Dick Simnel. I know it deep in my heart. But I don’t fucking get it. WHAT THE FUCK IS MOIST’S PLAN WITH THE UNFINISHED BRIDGE? It makes no sense to me! It’s literally unfinished, HOW DOES THAT WORK. And this part in particular:
“…but I’m telling you now that if the bridge is still not secure when we get there I propose that Iron Girder will fly across the gorge with you and me on the footplate. You might call it a sleight of hand, even a trick, but we will fly.”
Okay, reading this back again… is that thing Moist does where he comes up with a solution on the fly? You know, where he makes some huge proclamation (like the race in Going Postal) but doesn’t actually know how he’s going to do it? I’d say yes, except… Moist really respects Dick. He’s not trying to swindle him, and we know from earlier in the book that Moist has been planning something. So… what the fuck??? I don’t think he’d use the wizards, so… what?
The Low Queen
Oh, I’m so happy. I’M SO HAPPY THAT RHYS GOT TO TELL THE TRUTH. Even if it isn’t necessarily spelled out in the text, I believe that both Rhys and Aeron are, in some way, relieved. Someone else knows. On video, I likened this to a coming out scene, and it still really feels like that to me, especially that relief. When you get to tell another person who you really are—and they accept you, too—it can feel like the weight of the entire world has been lifted off of your soul.
So, with that said, you can laugh at me at how I KNEW that Rhys was a woman, and yet, I MISSED EVERY FUCKING CLUE IN MISSUS SIMNEL’S HOUSE that she had figured it out. Well, her and Moist. Oh my god, the point SOARED well over my head, looped around the Disc, came back, yelled at me to pay attention to it, then passed over my head a second time. It is incredibly obvious in hindsight. One thing that this got me thinking about, though, is how long Moist has suspected this. When did he finally confront Rhys with this information? Only when he could speak to her in private and during a lull in activity. I got the sense that he truly understood what an honor it was to know the truth and why it was important that he kept it to himself. Well, he figures out another thing—that Aeron and Rhys are together, but I can’t wait for him to realize that something else surprising has been right there in front of him.
So, am I meant to assume that Rhys is truly going to change dwarf culture in the immediate future? She gives this beautiful, impassioned speech to Rhys about how much she hates what dwarfs have done with gender in their community, and she outright states, “I don’t want this state of affairs to continue.” Meaning… shit, y’all. What is she going to do when she returns to Schmaltzburg??? Is she going to reveal the truth to EVERYONE???
Mark Links Stuff
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