Zi71bFS9nQHnivtvUJquhejTHIQ The Story Factory Reading Zone: February 2014

Monday, 3 February 2014

Music Out of the Pages: Studying music

He spent as much time as he could studying the drum records, tapping his fingers on his fur even as he was falling asleep to memorize the times and rhythms of the most complicated measures.
Dragondrums by Anne McCaffrey

What's your most extreme way of studying?

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett (a review)


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...

My review:

Perfect for adults, young adults and older children alike, Terry Pratchett's latest novel takes us into the world of the railway. Moist van Lipwig is faced with the challenge of promoting this new invention whilst simply trying to stay alive. And, is it just him, or is it somehow taking on a life of it's own?

The seasoned Discworld reader will recognise many familiar characters in this tale. But there are also some brand new ones storming their way into the story. My favourite of these is Of a The Twilight The Darkness, a goblin who has a unique outlook on dealing with humans and the world in general. 

In this book Discworld continues to embrace the rise of science, clearly not the same as magic (otherwise the wizards would be involved) but yet somehow different from that we're used to. This story seems to take a more everyday approach to this compared to earlier books where it would be quite usual for mythical creatures to replace cogs and lights. I think that this does, unfortunately, detract slightly from the mystical nature of the telling.

Whilst the writing lacks a certain quality in places at first, it soon takes off and it's easy to become enthralled in the adventures of Mr Lipwig. I think this is because I personally found his exploits much more interesting than those of Mr Simnel the engineer. One of the fantastic things about The Discworld (and particularly Mr Lipwig's life) is that you can never be sure what is going to happen next. When The Patrician threatens to dispatch a key character then it could just happen, and yet the story would still go on.

I really enjoyed experiencing the railway through Moist van Lipwig's eyes, my interested heightening as I got further and further into the story. The last third of the book was particularly exciting. Having said that, this certainly wasn't my favourite of Terry Pratchett's novels. I think Raising Cities will particularly appeal to those who are familiar with the Discworld universe, although those with an interest in both fantasy and railways may also enjoy it.

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