Jul 5, 2011

[Books] Eric

EricIn my continuing adventures in reading the Rincewind-centric Discworld novels, the results have been interesting. While I still don't feel an increased degree of liking towards the character, I do appreciate the evolution of Terry Pratchett's writing style and the increasingly complex issues and concepts he tries to tackle amidst Rincewind's adventures. I guess he does make for a good backdrop for that sort of thing - he's the ultimate straight man from a comedy perspective and he's designed to appear plot neutral (even though he really isn't).

This book was a lot shorter than other Discworld books and it reminds me of the brevity we saw in early titles like Equal Rites and Moving Pictures. Shorter doesn't mean it's necessarily worse - it just means the book involves a much more concise narrative that is generally more focused on what things are going on. It also means juggling less characters around than what we've seen in more recent novels of greater length.

This book did feel a little underdeveloped for once, at least from my perspective. Going back to my earlier examples of other short Discworld novels, those books still felt nicely complete. This one felt like he wasn't quite sure what he wanted to do and so it just fizzles out and ends much earlier than I anticipated, at least in terms of the plot. Then again, you can only do so much with a character like Rincewind.

Faust Eric is the 9th Discworld novel and the 4th to feature Rincewind the "Wizzard". As with other Discworld books, it was written by Sir Terry Pratchett and is actually a parody of another work of fiction. Whereas Wyrd Sisters was a parody of Macbeth, Eric is quite blatantly a parody of Faust.

When we last saw Rincewind, he had been trapped in the Dungeon Dimensions after the near cataclysmic events in Sourcery. Given this, the circumstances are just right for a mystical case of mistaken identity - in this case the attempt of one Eric Thursley to summon a demon to do his bidding. But the young Demonolist gets something else from the Dungeon Dimensions - yes, he gets Rincewind.

Eric makes three demands of the poor excuse for a human being, what more a wizard. First, he wants to become the ruler of the world. Second, he wishes to meet the most beautiful woman in the world. And third, he wants to live forever. And while Rincewind is not known for performing any feats of magic of any kind, he's surprised to discover that the snapping of his fingers takes them across the Disc in order to fulfill Eric's wishes.

Thus Rincewind ends up bringing the young boy all around the Disc to places such as the Tezumen Empire, ancient Tsort while under siege by the Ephebians and even to Hell itself. And all the while the Demon King Astfgl continues to track the two down in order to salvage his original plans of corrupting the boy and using him for his Demonic purposes.

And the Luggage is still about as well.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 25: Author and euth...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeThe book was written in the same dry comedic style that fans have grown to love across various Discworld novels. Pratchett's continued love for wit and wordplay (not to be consumed with merely using puns) continues to be a pleasure to read, regardless of who's speaking. And of course the book continues to use completely fictional locations to represent real-world counterparts that we could never figure out.

Like how the Ephebian Horse is absolutely nothing like the Trojan Horse of myth and legend. No similarities whatsoever, I guarantee.

The sides of Hell in this book are a bit frustrating. While I can respect how determining that the ultimate punished for humanity is near absolute boredom as opposed to traditional tortures involving fire, whips and rocks that one needs to push up a hill over and over again, it did make for a rather drap afterlife. And the demons in Hell weren't that much more entertaining either and thus the scenes that transitioned to their side of the fence felt a bit strained and hard to manage.

The core portion of the book dedicated to Rincewind and his efforts at fulfilling Eric's wishes were okay, but often felt very short. While I'm not one for making a story overly cumbersome, I still think that each of the wish-related stories could have been expanded further. In the end it felt that Pratchett was either in a rush when he wrote this or he was highly distracted to the point of not being 100% sure of what to do with some of these characters. So instead he just ends them with another snapping of Rincewind's fingers as they move on to the next life-threatening wish.

The book still had a few moments of introspective brilliance, and I certainly appreciate that. But as compared to Sourcery, there weren't enough of those bits to keep me going. I'm just glad that I finished the darn book.

Eric is still a decent read on the whole but probably another good example of why I'm not a particularly big fan of Rincewind. It gets 3 meaningless cameos of the Luggage out of a possible 5.

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