This ought to have been a wonderful read: the fortieth Discworld novel, featuring Moist von Lipwig and Commander Grimes coming to grips with the invention of the steam train and revisionist Dwarf terrorists, challenging the Koom Valley Accord.
Big themes are brought to the table: how subversion whispers in the dark, spreading fear and denying truth; how there is something magical and dangerous about a new technology; how the men who tinker endlessly and obsessively can become a bigger threat to the status quo than any terrorist and how, in the end, love is a greater driving force than steam.
And yet, this wasn’t a great Terry Pratchett book. Something was missing.
Perhaps is was the righteous anger of “Thud” where the only sane way to win the war was to cancel the battle
“What kind of creature defines itself by hatred?”
Or the irrepressible, maniacal optimism of “Going Postal” where a tyrant puts a criminal in charge of the Post Office because of the criminal sees the world differently
“If you kept changing the way people saw the world, you ended up changing the way you saw yourself.”
Or perhaps it was the mysterious absence from the Watch of Captain Carrot, the world’s tallest dwarf.
Or maybe it was just that this is first time I’ve listened to a Discworld book rather than reading it for myself and the flat narration detracted from the experience.
Whatever it was, it left me disappointed.
It also left me determined to go back an re-read the Discworld books that filled me with joy and tears and a practical human politics: “Guards, Guards, Guards,” “Witches Abroad”, “The Night Watch”, “Small Gods”, “Thud”, “Going Postal”, “The Truth”.