Terry Pratchett‘s latest Discworld novel, Raising Steam, feels like the 40th book in the series. By now the pattern is set. Pratchett picks something to satirize and away we go to Discworld to watch it play out. In this case, it’s technology, specifically trains. And, that’s fine. It’s expected. It’s like eating breakfast at your favorite cafe, because you know the pancakes will be just fluffy enough, the bacon will be crisp, and the coffee cup is never empty. But, after writing forty novels in this series it seems like Pratchett is afraid to take any risks.
The first Discworld novel I read was Thief of Time. In that novel it felt like there was a real threat. There were consequences. In Raising Steam, the plot feels like a manufactured crisis. The reader knows nothing bad will happen to Moist von Lipwig. The crisis with the dwarves is both a play at extremists and luddites, but it’s also flimsy. Is it the writing? Is it’s Pratchett’s love for his world? Part of it stems from the depictions of Moist von Lipwig as always coming out on top. If that’s been established, then we know nothing is at risk.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel for letting me visit Discworld again; however, the magic wasn’t there. It was predictable and the humor came across as a loud noise in an empty room. Have we heard the jokes before? Or is a satire with nothing to risk just not that funny?