Thought I’d try something new as we come to the end of the year, something special to replace the usual repost of an older Being a Better Writer.Today I want to see if I can get a discussion going in the comments. A discussion circling around one simple question: what is the book you’ve enjoyed the most in 2015?
Now, I don’t mean by this that you need to confine yourself to just books. Short stories count too, as does fanfiction, and well, anything really, as long as it’s a written text, long-form that you received some enjoyment of that you read in the year of 2015 (preferably one that was written with the express purpose of being read by a number of other people, rather than a personal letter).
It’s all subjective here, I just want to see what everyone comes up with. What were we reading this year, and looking back, what did we think of it? Let us know what you loved about it, why it mattered so much, and what you took away from it! Let’s see what we were reading!
For myself, the best book I’ve read this year is easily Terry Pratchett’s Raising Steam.
Why? Well, for me, I have to go back quite a ways to explain this. See, I first discovered Pratchett when I was a freshman in high school, and I spent a school year studiously going through every Discworld book that they had (I rode the bus home, which was an hour-long journey each day too bumpy to do any written homework, so I had plenty of reading time). And I fell in love with both his stunning with and his fluid prose. Pratchett had a gift for writing things out, for staying both comedic and in a character’s voice, creating a sort of zany, satirical, laugh-out-loud sort of comedy that I probably couldn’t come close to matching on my best days. The man had a mind for wit and clever, creative commentary. He gave us Rincewind. He gave us The Silver Horde. He gave us Jingo. Wonderful stories and characters that enlightened, inspired, and—above all—made us laugh.
I’ve kind of slipped out of the first-person there, but that’s because Terry Pratchett passed away earlier this year. But he managed to give us one last Discworld hurrah: Raising Steam.
And it’s my best book I read 2015 because it was one of the most fitting ends to something I’ve ever read. Make no mistake, I’m certain that Pratchett knew when he was writing it that Raising Steam would be his last. I even went into it with some trepidation, because Pratchett’s prior foray into Discworld had been lackluster enough that I’d never finished it. He was struggling with deteriorating health, I understand, so I didn’t hold it against him at all for trying, but I was worried when I picked up Steam that I might find similar concerns.
I didn’t. Instead, I found what was perhaps the most fitting end to the series I ever could have read.
Raising Steam once again catches up with Ankh-Morpork’s most famous reformed con-man, Moist Von Lipwig, as the Discworld faces its newest upheaval: The invention of the Steam Engine Locomotive and the challenges that come with laying the groundwork for a technology that can change the future of an entire world when no one wants to see it. There’s some other stuff concerning a dwarven civil war and the like in the mix, but the core groundwork of the book, well, it’s about this invention, this steam engine, a machine of fantastic whimsy to many and how it brings the world together.
That was the most beautiful part about Raising Steam to me. Pratchett uses this invention to show the broad, vast cast of the Discworld coming together one final time, for the last hurrah, and along the way ties up some character arcs with a neat little bow. Lipwig and Vimes, for example, brought to work alongside one another on the steam engine, close one another’s character arcs out nicely with the realization over the course of the story that maybe, just maybe they aren’t that different when it comes right down to it. That they’re both trying to make the world a better place in their own way, and that it takes both of them to get the job done.
Raising Steam for me wasn’t as much about saying “Well, this is it” and ending as it was about bringing everything about the Discworld so many have enjoyed over the years together to move onward, to show, in a strange sort of roundabout way, what can be done when we come together and look towards the future. Raising Steam was a send off, yes, but a send off that ended on a note that promised that there was so much more to come, because the characters were ready for it. As one, they’d come together to put aside their differences and work towards something in the future. In a way, despite being fantasy, it almost made Raising Steam the most hopeful, optimistic Science-Fiction book I’ve read all year.
And it was beautiful. Was it without flaws? No, of course not. I myself gave the book 4 stars when I left my impressions on the digital sphere. But it didn’t need to be perfect. What it needed to do was be an ending that surpassed expectations, and Raising Steam did so with great aplomb. It brought together characters I’d been reading about since high school, gave them one last hurrah … but then made me realize that it wasn’t the last hurrah, no matter if the book ended or not.
It was just another beginning, carried forward by a group of people who’d set aside the differences to work together at something new, something that they realized would be wonderful, and made it happen.
And that? That’s magic. And I wouldn’t have had Discworld’s last hurrah end any other way.
So, what’d you read this year?