This review was originally posted at Goodreads and imported here later with next to no spell/grammar checking.
“The trouble with madness was that the mad didn’t know they were mad.”
This is the final book in the Industrial Revolution / Moist von Lipwig and also the last Discworld book that Terry Pratchett finished completely.
An engineer by the name of Dick Simnel, conquers the power of steam and builds a locomotive. He goes to Ankh-Morpork to seek funding and the support needed to revolutionise the transportation system. Moist von Lipwig is of course at the scene, making sure the city’s needs are represented and that the project moves forward.
The first half of the book focuses on the building of the railway system, describing the change from the rides around the compound that delight children and adults alike to building the railway network through uncharted territories.
In the meantime, trouble is stirring in the Dwarf kingdom as the fundamental traditionalists enact sabotages, terrorist acts and plan a coup while the king of the Dwarfs is far away.
So the second half describes a long and eventful train ride back, bringing the king to deal with the trouble home.
And it is all just so wonderful. Things keep developing, there’s not a single boring moment in the book as it follows the finest traditions of journey storytelling. The stakes are high, the surprises are numerous and everything keeps chugging along at speed, if you pardon the pun.
In addition to the fantastic characters, the less-frequent but great jokes and the Arcanum-like "magic meets technology" atmosphere this book is incredibly well-paced and has an excellent ending.
I was delighted throughout, in tears towards the end and completely satisfied. Pratchett knows how to end a story.
One last thing to point out, since I’ve read this in Autumn 2020 when everything seems to be on fire figuratively and literally. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book to escape reality rather than just enjoy a story, setting and characters. This one managed to transport me to another world in ways I hadn’t realised I needed, but was incredibly grateful for.