I approached this book — the last of the Discworld series Terry was able to write before his untimely death — with some trepidation, in part because I was saving it, like you would a vintage wine.
Terry’s books are lumped into the categories of fantasy and comedy, two genres that don’t always get the plaudits they deserve (excluding some ‘high’ fantasy). His books are so much more than that though, covering satire, social commentary and observation.
This book focuses on the arrival of steam to the Discworld. That simply provides a backdrop to pulling in the great cast that has built up throughout the series, some for little more than cameos. There are new faces, sure, but the old ones lend the book the feeling of a send-off. A last hurrah.
If I’m honest, this didn’t seem to have the toil of the previous books. Things, especially with so many Discworld legends called upon, seemed to go a little too straight and there never seemed to be a doubt how they would turn out. And if the legends couldn’t do it, the goblins seemed to fill the gap instead.
The sped-up timeline and the frequent hops over ‘the boring bits’ both make it feel a rush. There’s enough meat, cunning and clever play to keep you entertained though.
I still have a couple of short-story collections, plus some of the older Discworld novels to savour, so this won’t be my last Pratchett book, but it’s still sad.
Some people don’t just enrich the world, they make it shine brighter. Terry was one of those, and we who remain must do so in a paler reality. At least his words can live on.
Maybe not the best entry, but a good sign-off to a great series.