BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The continuing adventures of Rincewind, this time in China! Err, the Counterweight Continent.
PROS: The usual Pratchett wit, wordplay and funny characters.
CONS: A bit slow in the middle.
BOTTOM LINE: A worthy entry in the Rincewind series. Anyone who likes Rincewind should read this one.
“May you live in interesting times” is an old, Chinese curse. For Rincewind the Wizzard, this usually involves things variously trying shoot, eat or kill him. Possibly all at once. In this case, Rincewind is sent to the Counterweight Continent and the Aurient Empire. Turns out, he’s a pawn in the scheme of the Grand Vizier to assassinate the current Emperor, pin the murder on the rebel Red Army, then institute martial law and take over. Good plan, except Rincewind, being incompetent, manages to foul things up. Again.
Aside from the slower middle part of the book, I really enjoyed Interesting Times. Pratchett goes to great lengths to spoof and parody ancient China. From the names, One Sun Mirror, to the writing, he ‘explains’ pictograms by giving them descriptive names (for instance the ‘!’ is represented as ‘[Urinating Dog]’), to the political intrigue of the Forbidden City. Twoflower makes an appearance as does the Luggage. Cohen also appears as he, and his Silver Horde of other barbarians, 10 in all, attempt to conquer the Empire via wit and guile instead of straight-forward killing, much to the chagrin of the rest of the Silver Horde. What follows is a very fun romp as Rincewind, the Red Army and Cohen slowly draw together, ending up in a climactic battle between the horde and the 100,000 strong army of the Grand Vizier.
Being Pratchett, there is the ever present word play, insane dialogue, liberal use of footnotes, and just plain crazy situations. There are a few laugh out loud moments, and the whole book is pretty much one funny situation after another. But even so, once the players are set in motion, the book takes its time getting everyone set for the final battle, and remember, Rincewind does not have an army of invisible, blood sucking ghosts ready to attack. The middle portion was a bit slow and I was wanting to get through it to the good stuff at at the end. Still, this doesn’t hamper the book too much as there is some fun stuff there, such as the Silver Horde’s assault on the Forbidden City.
Interesting Times is certainly a worthy addition to the Discworld canon.
(See the Great Pratchett Reading Project for a full list of reviews.)