Review: Interesting Times

Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my second time reading this book. I didn’t record a prior rating

I remember liking this book the first time I read it. I definitely enjoyed the parodies of the Confucian system and the mistakes at translating from one language to another. But I had forgotten a lot of it, especially the Cohen the Barbarian part.

Upon re-read this is my favorite Rincewind book. I think there’s only one more – the one where he’s on XXXX (Discworld Australia) and I don’t remember liking that one. Of all the Rincewind books this one has the most well-baked plot. It makes me wish Rincewind got more stories like that, although his first stories were also Pratchett getting to know what would eventually become the massive Discworld series. Basically (mild spoiler), Two-Flower has returned to the Agatean Empire (Discworld China with a little Japan thrown in) and written a travelogue. This has led to Rincewind being involved in a plot back in the Empire, so he’s requested. Well, they ask for the Great Wizzard and, eventually, the faculty at Unseen University realize it’s Rincewind. He ends up sent there and eventually gets involved in his main plot (don’t want to spoil it). While there is a bit of Rincewind runs from problem to problem and ends up somewhere, it’s much more focused this time around. We also get to understand the Agatean Empire from his point of view. It’s a nice compromise from the absolute chaos of his first 3 books.

The B-Plot involves Cohen The Barbarian and a bunch of other Octagenarian Barbrians forming a horde along with a well-meaning Teacher who’s both doing a wish-fulfillment thing in being part of a tough crowd and also doing a variation on the plot of My Fair Lady as he tries to civilize The Horde. They’re in the Agatean Empire for their last big barbarian mission. No spoilers here, but the eventual reveal is funny. I also enjoyed the barbarian simplicity (not stupidity, just simplicity – like with Corporal Carrot in The Watch books) clash against the court intrigue of the main families in the Agatean Empire.

Also, I kept giggling my ass off that in the Five Families, four of them have asian-ish surnames and the fifth one is the McSweeneys. Not sure if there’s any British joke that that specific surname, but I liked it. Then again, I like dad jokes.

Strangely, for all that I said, this could probably not be a horrible stand-alone book. You wouldn’t understand that Rincewind is going to be selected to go on the mission. And you wouldn’t know about his previous relationship with Two-Flower. But most of the rest can work on its own pretty well.

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