I’m not going to review Raising Steam in any great depth. If you like Pratchett and Discworld then it’s another one. If you don’t then, well, I’m not going to change your mind.
Instead, I’m going to talk about how one of the themes accidentally aligned with how I read the book. For yes, dear reader, I’m an eBook reader.
One of the themes of the book is learning to accept technological progress, and the pace of it. I have been won over by ebooks. In part because it means I can pack some reading and music and writing tools in my overnight bag simply by chucking my iPad in it. I still prefer a paper book, in part because I wear reading glasses now, and it feels far less fuddy-duddy to put them on to read off a page. Vanity…
It seemed appropriate to cover this with a Pratchett book because his books are the ones that have taken me through all the major changes in publishing since the early 1980s.
In the mid-80s I took a punt on a Corgi paperback of The Colour of Magic. The Exmouth WHSmiths had put a end display of comedy SFF on, with Pratchett next to Douglas Adams, Harry Harrison and Robert Rankin. The Colour of Magic had a quote from Adams on the cover. In the pre-internet days, a quote like that was a beacon. It was a mass-market paperback, and I stuck with that format, waiting patiently for a year after the hardback release.
In the 90s, trade paperbacks started to be more common in bookshops rather than just being advance copies of the hardback used in the review trade. I switched to trades for contemporary, translated and classic fiction but stuck to mass market for crime and SF.
Pratchett was the first living SF author I bought trade paperbacks of. (The SF classic series’ reprints of Philip K Dick being the first SFF trades I bought). Suddenly, my bookshelf had a run of mass markets followed by a run of trades in the same series*.
So it’s inevitable that Pratchett is the first author where I happily switch to the ebook format whilst reading a series. In some way, I think it’s a legacy of that early connection in my mind between Adams and Pratchett. It ought to have been a new Adams novel. I’d been hoping for a new Hitchhikers book that day in WHSmiths. I still shelve Pratchett and Adams together, even though they are very different. Pratchett isn’t a substitute, but he is – in some small way – continuing Adams’ legacy.
*Conversely, I’ve stopped buying Rebus novels entirely, due to the publisher’s refusal to release Exit Music in mass market format. Every other book up until “the last Rebus” was in hardback, trade, paperback. I had a whole run in matching mass market format. And they didn’t release the “final” book to match. Yes, it’s no longer the final Rebus but it still rankles enough that these days I borrow the hardbacks from the library instead. Sorry, Ian.