The works of the late Sir Terry Pratchett were a major influence on me as a young nerd. I went into it as a heartfelt rundown of my favourites in the Top 10 Discworld books, from which you may recall I could barely begin to describe my love for Interesting Times. It is the seventeenth novel in the series, and the fifth to chronicle Rincewind’s unwitting ambles through space, time, life, death, and a series of holes in the ground.
As such, this book skips ahead a little in the saga begun in The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, but you need not have read the intervening Sourcery and short novel
Faust Eric to know enough of the key characters, and understand that Rincewind is doomed to a lifestyle of reluctant tourism. You may wish to read Reaper Man to fully appreciate the now cemented Unseen University faculty members (as opposed to the nebulous band of assembled cut-throats in pointy hats that were characteristic thus far) headed by Mustrum Ridcully, but if not you’ll soon come to appreciate them.
The story begins with our hapless Wizzard being plucked from an island paradise of scantily clad natives somewhere near the rim, along with the Luggage who had been in a shark-killing paradise of his own not too far away. From there he’s flung headlong into prophecy, war, and a heist so epic it’s practically historical.
At this point in the series Pratchett had had the opportunity to establish far more solid facts about his masterpiece, his tone is set solidly throughout, and by this point he has begun to stretch further into the unexplored corners. The Counterweight Continent is explored in such rich detail as the region around the Circle Sea and toward the Ramtops receives in the rest of the collected works, rapidly building in complexity into a place as alive as the rest of the Disc. It’s also a rare and precious thing to see a parody of a country, or at least one that is both intelligent and inoffensive.
Then we come to the characters themselves. Cohen the Barbarian returns with a new horde in tow, consisting of a half dozen elderly and decrepit barbarians and one school teacher who took to barbarism as a retirement project. Minor spoilers – between them the silver horde take on five armies simultaneously, and while the nature of their victory is somewhat questionable, there’s no doubt that their fighting style is brutally effective, despite its’ heavy reliance on orthopaedic support.
When the narrative is brought to a polite and amenable conclusion, Rincewind is naturally flung once again into a whirlwind adventure that he wants no part of, is the chosen hero of yet another mysterious continent that he’d really rather not have been to, and the whole palaver begins from scratch.
There is no single reason why this book exceeded the crowd favourite Reaper Man to my all time favourites list, it has everything in it that I love about the Discworld and just a little bit more besides. If you’ve already been sold by Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic, there’s no good reason not to jump straight into Interesting Times (you may skip a bit of Rincewind’s narrative, but it’s entirely worth it).
Read it? Love it? Prefer Reaper Man? Ahh, I’ll let you off, but be prepared to defend your position in the comments down below, or debate me on Facebook.