Raising Steam

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Raising Steam
The front cover of the book Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett.jpg
Cover by Paul Kidby
Author Terry Pratchett
Language English
Series Discworld
40th novel – 3rd Moist von Lipwig story

Steam engines

Moist von Lipwig
Genre Fantasy
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date
7 November 2013 (18 Mar 2014, U.S.)
Pages 384
ISBN 978-0-85752-227-6

Raising Steam is the 40th Discworld novel, written by Terry Pratchett. It was also the last one published before his death in 2015. Originally due to be published on 24 October 2013, it was pushed back to 7 November 2013 (and March 18, 2014 in the U.S.).[1][2] It features the introduction of locomotives to the Discworld (a concept mentioned already in Death's Domain),[3] and an entirely new character but it also stars Moist von Lipwig.[4]

The cover of the novel was exclusively revealed on Pratchett's Facebook page on 6 August 2013.[5]

An update to Mr Pratchett's website late October 2013 revealed that characters include Harry King, Moist von Lipwig, Adora Belle Dearheart and Sgt Fred Colon amongst others.[6]

Plot synopsis[edit]

Dick Simnel, a young self-taught engineer from Sto Lat, (and whose father, Ned Simnel, appeared in Reaper Man), has invented a steam locomotive named Iron Girder. He brings his invention to Ankh-Morpork where it catches the interest of Sir Harry King, a millionaire businessman who has made his fortune in the waste and sanitation industry. Harry promises Dick sufficient investment to make the railway a success.

The Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, Lord Vetinari, wishing to ensure that the City has appropriate influence over the new enterprise, appoints the reformed fraudster turned civil servant Moist von Lipwig to represent the government in the management of the railway. His skills soon come in useful in negotiations with landowners along the route of the new line.

Throughout the story, Dwarfish fundamentalists are responsible for a number of terrorist attacks, including the murder of railway workers engaged in building the new line, and arson of towers belonging to the clacks telecommunications network. This campaign culminates in a palace coup at the seat of the Low King of the Dwarfs in Schmaltzberg, Überwald, whilst the King is away at an international summit in Quirm, over twelve hundred miles away. Vetinari declares that it is imperative to return the King to Schmaltzberg as soon as possible in order to restore political stability, and gives Moist the task of getting him there via the new railway. Moist protests impossibility on the grounds that the railway is nowhere near complete, but is told that achieving this target is non-negotiable.

On the journey, Moist and Vimes are faced by various problems, such as numerous attacks by deep-downers, a poor attempt at infiltration, a landslide, and the revelation that the Low King is in fact a pregnant female. Nevertheless, the train eventually reaches the bridge, which has been badly damaged.

Faced with a bridge that is clearly too weak to carry the train, and insufficient time or workers to strengthen it, Moist commandeers the City's ancient golems, which are kept strictly for use only in times of national emergency. This is in spite of his being expressly forbidden to use them by Vetinari (who knows that Moist has the necessary expertise to command the golems). Having tunnelled their way to the site of the bridge, the golems, concealed by mist in the gorge below, somehow contrive to carry the train safely across.

The Dwarf King retakes Schmaltzberg with little resistance, and the leader of the fundamentalists is held for trial. Feeling that the dwarfs are ready for a more progressive future, the King reveals that she is actually a Queen, and changes her name from Rhys to Blodwen, in honor of a dwarf whom had been killed by the fundamentalists at her wedding. Following this announcement, a number of other senior dwarfs also "come out" as female.

Back in Ankh-Morpork, Dick Simnel is knighted, Harry King receives a peerage, and the City Watch officers who helped defend the train receive medals, whereas Moist, upon questioning why he appears to be the only one not receiving a reward, is told that his reward is to remain alive. It is also revealed that Vetinari himself had been on the train, disguised as one of the locomotive's stokers, while his lookalike Charlie impersonated him back in Ankh-Morpork, and had surmised how the train had been carried across the ravine. However, he appears content that there is no evidence to prove this.


Dick Simnel – inventor of Iron Girder, Discworld's first steam train.

Lord Vetinari – Patrician of Ankh-Morpork

Moist von Lipwig

Harry King

Low King Rhys

Adora Belle von Lipwig

Samuel Vimes


  • The Development of the Railroad
  • Steam Engines
  • Engineering
  • Technological Progress
  • Technology Vs. Magic
  • Real Estate Development & Suburban Expansion
  • Eminent Domain
  • Terrorism/Fundamentalism
  • Luddism
  • Coups-d'Etat
  • Gender


Science fiction author Cory Doctorow, in his review[7] on Boing Boing, remarked that Pratchett "never quite balanced whimsy and gravitas as carefully as this, and it works beautifully. This is a spectacular novel, and a gift from a beloved writer to his millions of fans."

Ben Aaronovitch for The Guardian,[8] noted that, while Raising Steam may be "heavy-handed" in its moralising, Pratchett "can be forgiven" because he remains one of the most consistently funny writers in the business.

Sara Sklaroff for the Washington Post,[9] meanwhile, praised Pratchett's innate ability to balance the silly and the serious. Pratchett "blasts fundamentalists who resist all progress." But mostly he seems to be "having fun with words in the very British strain of absurdist humor."

Karin L Kross for Tor.com,[10] meanwhile, praised Raising Steam as "the latest transformation of a remarkable fictional world that has evolved and grown with its creator."

Other reviews were more critical, Far Beyond Reality[11] finding the writing "not as crisp as it used to be" and the characters "starting to blend together", while Vox Popoli[12] regretted the unusual tone of dialogue with a tendency towards "speechifying".


External links[edit]

Reading order guide
Preceded by
40th Discworld Novel Succeeded by
The Shepherd's Crown
Preceded by
Making Money
3rd Moist von Lipwig story
Published in 2013
Succeeded by