REVIEW: Interesting Times
While I like Rincewind the character, I'm not sure that I like as many of his books as I should. Rincewind, as far as his place in the stories is concerned, is an unwitting agent provocateur who makes things happen either by running away or getting cornered. And while he often gets dragged into adventures (and danger, as he never hesitates to point out) against his will, we haven't seen, until now, the consequences of his actions catching up with him...
The Agatean Empire is in turmoil, and someone from there is demanding that Lord Vetinari and Unseen University send them the 'Great Wizzard'. Determining this to be failed wizard Rincewind, Archchancellor Ridcully has him sent to the Counterweight Continent. After all, Rincewind has been calling himself a wizard all this time, and it's either that or suffer an ancient, cruel, and unusual punishment. But even that may pale in comparison to what is happening in the Agatean Empire. Five noble families are feuding. The Emperor is a sadistic child in an aged body. Cohen the Barbarian and his very
experienced (not to mention ancient) group of barbarian heroes are in the Empire to steal something. And there are dissidents who have seized on a very unusual revolutionary text, What I Did On My Holidays
, as their rallying point. What have Cohen and his Silver Horde come to steal? What does the machiavellian Lord Hong intend for the Red Army rebels? And who would even write such a text as What I Did On My Holidays
so innocently? Rincewind is living in interesting times, and he may not keep all of his limbs...
Let's face it: Interesting Times
is a callback to the first two Discworld novels, The Colour of Magic
and The Light Fantastic
. It shares, prominently, three of the main characters from those books, Rincewind, Twoflower, and Cohen the Barbarian. What could be an exercise in ridiculous nostalgia actually serves to create a surprisingly serious, if a little singular (despite the political machinations), storyline.
This is a book about the Orient, and specifically China, and Pratchett goes to town with commentaries on Chinese history. Some of the stereotypes and cliches lampooned are funny (especially the 'poetry qualifications' one), while some don't sit too well. However, the fact that it is a memoirs of holidays that sets off a (rather too polite) revolution in the otherwise strict society of the Agatean Empire is quite a hilarious one, and the fact that it is Twoflower who causes this quite innocently cements Rincewind's assessment of him as a sort of chaos-attractor.
Out of the characters involved, Rincewind, while still singular, is entertaining as always, and Twoflower gets a family, and some intriguing depth to his backstory. Cohen the Barbarian changes from a more one-joke character from The Light Fantastic
into a much more rounded and complex character. His Silver Horde is a delight to read, as is their educated cohort, Ronald 'Teach' Saveloy.
The Agateans are a little more of a mixed bunch. Of the Red Army, only Pretty Butterfly has any real depth, and while her antagonism towards Rincewind is hard to read, it is also justified. I felt a little more could have been done with her, though. Six Beneficent Winds is also interesting, especially once he falls in with the Silver Horde. However, it is Lord Hong who is probably the best Agatean character. While not the best villain the series has seen, and certainly he could have appeared more, he is rather like Vetinari in many respects, albeit with more arrogance and virtually no brakes.
Like Soul Music
, it was hard choosing a rating for Interesting Times
. This time, I will have to go with average than above average, but it is very much a borderline case. This book is easily the best Rincewind book yet, and while not quite there in terms of storyline and some characterisation, it was so damned close.
Special New Utterance Rating Trial: Hmm.
This is where the gods play games with the lives of men, on a board which is at one and the same time
a simple playing area and the whole world.
(Not recorded due to spoilers)
BTW, this may very well be the last review for this blog. I'm starting to get tired of it. I've made a start on Maskerade
, but I'm not sure whether I'm going to make it.
Four minutes? That's ages! What if I get bored? I need a television, a couple of books. Anyone for chess? Bring me knitting.
-The Eighth Doctor, defiant in the face of death, in Doctor Who: The Night of the Doctor