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Terry Pratchett, Interesting Times

Book Review

by Nimish Dubey
(nimishdubey@yahoo.com)


Imagine a flat world called the Discworld, resting on the back of four elephants, who in turn are standing on the back of a giant turtle who is slowly travelling through space. Sounds weird? Well, when you open a Terry Pratchett book, be prepared to chuck normalcy out of the window. This is mayhem territory with gods, wizards, warriors, heroes, cops, robbers, politicians and just about everyone you can dream of, getting in each other's way in a manner that is curiously similar to events in our own world.

And Interesting Times sticks to the Pratchett formula of mixing the sublime and the outrageous, and topping off the concoction with some delectable wit to serve up an offering that has the reader doubled up in laughter.

The story begins in the city of Ankh Morpork whose Patrician has received a message from the Counterweight Continent, asking him to send a great wizard to their land. As none of the wizards of the city is too inclined to make trips abroad, they pick one of the most inept members of their community, an accident-prone wizard called Rincewind to undertake the trip. 

A reluctant Rincewind agrees to go after much coaxing and threatening, and after a spectacular journey (involving his being exchanged with an artillery piece) ends up on the Counterweight Continent to find a revolution brewing against the tyrannical rule of Lord Hong. This is however not your blood-and-thunder revolution, but one which is based on a travel book titled What I did on my Holidays. The revolutionaries, called the Red Army,  do not go about assassinating members of the government or lobbing bombs at buildings โ€“ they prefer raising slogans like 'Forward motion of masses', 'Extra success attend our leaders' and 'Much ownership of means of production'. In no time at all, Rincewind finds himself appointed the leader of the revolution, a post he does his utmost to vacate.

Meanwhile, Genghiz Cohen is leading his horde of barbarian heroes in an attempt to seize power. Mind you, that is not as impressive as it sounds as most of the members of Cohen's motley little group are on the wrong side of seventy, are short in the teeth department and are not exactly the fittest in town (one is even in a wheelchair). What they do have is the ability to avoid death โ€“ they have been doing so all their lives โ€“ and that makes them a handful for their rivals. What's more, they are even having a stab a civilising themselves, thanks to the influence of a former  teacher called Mr Saveloy.

As all these characters run into each other, the stage is set for all kinds of comical chaos with hilarious incidents galore. Mr Saveloy attempts to teach the horde that one can converse with women (without taking their clothes off) and makes them try to understand that money can legally belong to other people. Rincewind keeps trying to escape from everything, whether it is the Red Army or Lord Hong. Lord Hong himself tries all his wiles to stop the horde from seizing power. And while all this is happening, the gods are playing a game in heaven, making moves that affect the Discworld.

Purists may scoff at some of Pratchett's characters and call his plots unrealistic, but there cannot be any doubting his ability to entertain. And not all is trivial, there are serious undercurrents for those discerning enough to spot them. Pratchett's ironic wit and wonderful turn of phrase flows right through Interesting Times. This is clearly Terry Pratchett at his very  best.

Interesting Times is a must-read for anyone who likes a laugh. Of course, there is the risk that he or she might not stop laughing for quite a while after having read it.

The book is also available in audio format from Corgi Audio.

Rating: A+

Rating Scale: A+ = Excellent! Must Read; A = Very good; A- = Good B+= Above average; B = Average; B- = Not worth your time

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