The Quotable Pratchett: Raising Steam

No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away

With the passing of Sir Terry Pratchett and the publication of The Shepherd’s Crown, I embarked on an epic re-reading of all 41 official Discworld novels, with the goal of finishing by 31 December, 2016.

Famous for its wit and wisdom, the series offers countless quotable quotes on a variety of subjects. The quotes I share should not be considered the whole of Sir Terry’s excellent prose; indeed, they are the tasty appetizers to a succulent, nourishing meal.

About Raising Steam

This is the 40th Discworld novel, the 3rd to feature Moist von Lipwig, and the 6th in the “Industrial Revolution” series.

When I initially read Raising Steam, I wrote this:

I felt this was a lackluster example of the beauty of Discworld. Most of my favorite characters made an appearance, but their personalities were obviously missing. If this was your first introduction to the Disc, do yourself a favor and pick up an earlier effort (like Going Postal).

raising-steam-coverI’m glad I re-read it, for I now think somewhat differently.

I still don’t think this was Pratchett’s best work, but neither is it as bad as I initially thought. The premise of the book is this:

Steam has come to the Disc and goblins have found their place in society. The dwarves continue to fracture, and a certain sect of grags want to reassert their supremacy in the world. (wow, this is sounding familiar).

What initially turned me off about the book is now it’s beauty. As Pratchett writes, time is like a wave, and we must either ride the wave or be crushed on the rocks. I disliked the treatment of the characters because they rode the wave and didn’t act like I’d come to expect. However, Pratchett (at the time) had planned to write a dozen or so more novels (planning ahead for the Alzheimer’s that took him much too soon) and I now realize this was his way of preparing his characters for what was to come. What was to come we will now never know, but I think Raising Steam gives us a glimpse of what Pratchett had in mind.

I still don’t think this would be the best book to start with; I feel one should get to know the characters before seeing them change. However, Raising Steam is a fitting end to the “adult” Discworld books.


4 stars

The Goodreads Blurb:

To the consternation of the patrician, Lord Vetinari, a new invention has arrived in Ankh-Morpork – a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all the elements: earth, air, fire and water. This being Ankh-Morpork, it’s soon drawing astonished crowds, some of whom caught the zeitgeist early and arrive armed with notepads and very sensible rainwear.

Moist von Lipwig is not a man who enjoys hard work – as master of the Post Office, the Mint and the Royal Bank his input is, of course, vital… but largely dependent on words, which are fortunately not very heavy and don’t always need greasing. However, he does enjoy being alive, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse . . .

Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man wi’ t’flat cap and sliding rule who has an interesting arrangement with the sine and cosine. Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs and some very angry dwarfs if he’s going to stop it all going off the rails. . . .

To the Quotes!

Discworld Librarian

The Librarian as he appears in The Discworld Companion, illustrated by Paul Kidby

It’s hard to understand nothing, but the universe is full of it.

But of course, Vetinari reflected, here was a wonderful lady, who had made vampires understand that returning from the grave so often that you got dizzy was rather stupid and who somehow had persuaded them to at least tone down their nocturnal activities. Besides which, she had introduced coffee to Uberwald, apparently exchanging one terrifying craving for another.

It is impossible to accommodate everyone and twice as impossible to please all the dwarfs.

The stars change, people change, and all we can do is assist the future with care and thoughtful determination to see the world at peace, even if it means ushering some of its worst threats to an early grave.

We’ve learned by our mistakes. They can learn by theirs.

Politics. Politics was like those little wooden sliding-picture games for children: you had to move all of the pieces in the hope of finding a place where the whole picture slotted together.

Uncertainty is always uncertain, but the difficulty with people who rely on systems is that they begin to believe that nearly everything is in some way a system and therefore, sooner or later, they become bureaucrats.

A life without danger is not a life worth living.

Let me tell you, the world changes with every generation and if we don’t learn to surf on the tide then we will be smashed on the rocks.

You’ve just got to be yourself. They can’t ever take that away from you.

The world lives between those who say it cannot be done and those who say that it can. And in my experience, those who say that it can be done are usually telling the truth. It’s just a matter of thinking creatively.

When you’ve had hatred on your tongue for such a long time, you don’t know how to spit it out.

Bandits and governments ‘ave so much in common that they might be interchangeable anywhere in the world.

The grags came down heavily on those who did not conform and seemed not to realize that this was like stamping potatoes into the mud to stop them growing.

Here is the new thing and here it is. And yesterday you never thought about it and after today you don’t know what you would do without it. That was what the technology was doing. It was your slave but, in a sense, it might be the other way round.

I have to find the edge of the envelope and put my stamp on it.

Don’t force me to draw my own conclusions. I do have a very big pencil.

Once you have a dream you’ve got somewhere closer to a reality.

There are no pockets in a shroud.

What next? What little thing will change the world because the little tinkers carried on tinkering?

. . .

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