Aug 2, 2011

[Books] Interesting Times

Interesting TimesThis book marks the end of my efforts to "catch up" with the Rincewood segment of the Discworld books and pretty much my efforts to read all the Discworld books in my possession. In fact, the only Discworld book missing from my collection is I Shall Wear Midnight, the most recent Tiffany Aching book released (as far as I know at the time of this writing).

I have to admit it's been a mixed experience thus far. While Rincewind definitely isn't my favorite character, he has managed to get a bit of respect for himself over the progress of the books and now I at least manage to appreciate him. And I don't hate him anymore, so that counts for something, right?

Or maybe it just helped that the complexity of the stories has just gotten better and better over the years regardless of Rincewind. After all, he's hardly ever essential to the plot, at least not really. In truth he's more of a decorative piece of China on the top shelf - an interesting curio that is fun to tinker with once and a while but never sustain's ones interests for long. And this book definitely gives the reader a lot more to invest himself in apart from the hijinks of Rincewind. And I know I use the term "hijink" quite liberally there.

Sir Terry Pratchett, British novelist and Alzh...Image via WikipediaInteresting Times is the 17th Discworld novel released and the 5th book to feature Rincewind as a central protagonist. The book was written by Sir Terry Pratchett, who remains the sole source of Discworld brilliance at this point in time.

The gods are playing board games with the world again (since dice are pretty boring when you think about it) and this somehow leads to the wizards at the Unseen University managing to figure out how to bring Rincewind back into the world after the events in Eric. But they only bring him back in order to send him on some strange mission to the Agatean Empire on the Counterweight Continent. Poor thing - he didn't even get to unpack. That is if you'd feel like taking anything out of The Luggage.

So once in the Empire, he runs into the Disc's oldest barbarian hero, Cohen the Barbarian. The old man is joined by his Silver Horde and they're determined to steal...something, from the Empire. Meanwhile, there's a growing revolutionary movement determined to topple the existing regime and somehow the "Great Wizzard" somehow factors into the prophecies that predict their eventual success. But this is still Rincewind after all, a man who calls himself a wizard even if he can't do any actual magic. And how this inept little man is going to help topple a totalitarian government is anyone's guess.

Like the other Discworld novels, the book taps into real life sensibilities in bringing the world to life. Thus we're introduced to the culture of the Agatean Empire, which is very much like how communist China is today, albeit with some artistic exaggeration. Thus we're given a pretty interesting alternative interpretation of what the culture might be like, but always taken to a ridiculous extreme in order to push the parody and satire.

The book largely alternates between Rincewind bumbling around the world and eventually linking up with the revolutionaries here and there and with Cohen and the Silver Horde trying to learn how to be civilized as they go deeper and deeper into the country. I know that makes for a very long sentence that probably could have been written better, but that's the best comparison that I could come up with under the circumstances. And it sort of works, right?

Lord Hong was a pretty interesting character. Clearly designed to be the strategic equivalent to Ankh-Morpork's Patrician, he's quite the cunning individual without making the mistake of becoming Emperor. He's quite the master manipulator with some nicely far-reaching plans, but then it's always hard to plan in the face of the ever-chaotic Rincewind. This just seem to happen that way.

I enjoyed the story for the most part - the class struggle in play and how naive the local revolutionaries are is pretty insane. And the antics of the Silver Horde as they learn proper etiquette and manners is comedy gold. Or maybe I just have a soft spot for those old warriors - including the not-so-old Teach. And they make more of the book enjoyable compared to just following Rincewind around.

Interesting Times is indeed an interesting book and probably better than many other Discworld books in many aspects. It gets 4 fire-breathing canons out of a possible 5.

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