Terry Pratchett,
Interesting Times
(Victor Gollancz, 1994; HarperPrism, 1997)

Interesting Times treats readers to another encounter with Rincewind, the Discworld's not-terribly-good-at-wizardry wizard, Cohen the Barbarian (Gehnghiz to his friends), and Twoflower, the tourist from the Agatean Empire on the Counterweight Continent -- to say nothing of the Luggage. Readers of the first book will recognize all of these characters, but not too much will be lost to those new to the series

There is revolt afoot in the Agatean Empire, but because everyone is so polite, adhering to strict social rules, revolutionary slogans are reduced to chants such as "Extra Luck to the People's Endeavor!" Consequently, things are a bit stalled. A message arrives in Ankh-Morpork requesting that the "Great Wizzard" [sic] be sent immediately, and not having one to spare, the wizards of the Unseen University send Rincewind instead.

He meets up with Cohen and his Silver Horde, a gaggle of geriatric hellraisers whose collective bite is far worse than their bark. Shortly thereafter, he gets drawn into the heart of the Red Army, an optimistic handful of children and youth who are running the revolution. What these dedicated youths don't know is that they are being used to advance the career of a single person -- the perfectly elegant and merciless Lord Hong.

Naturally, Lord Hong's plan to take over the Empire is perfect except for one tiny detail: he didn't reckon on Rincewind and his remarkable genius for landing on his feet -- well, more or less, and often in the middle of literal or figurative unpleasant substances, but on his feet nonetheless. Rincewind is kept running on a wild and breathless chase from Red Army to Silver Horde to the Imperial Palace -- with a few prison stops in between -- until yet another entirely unintentional discovery turns the tables on Lord Hong.

Interesting Times also features Hex, computer which runs via an ant farm as well as the Luggage in its own subplot. Naturally, since there is a battle, Death puts in an obligatory appearance, and we mustn't forget the water buffalo.

Overall, the humor seems to be more low key, much of it based on how words in Asian languages can change their meaning depending on pronunciation as well as the formal code of early Chinese and Japanese civilization. This is probably not the best book to start your exploration of the Discworld, but readers familiar with the series will find it interesting indeed.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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