Interesting Times (Discworld Series #17)

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Overview

"May you live in interesting times" is the worst thing one can wish on a citizen of Discworld — especially on the distinctly unmagical sorcerer Rincewind, who has had far too much perilous excitement in his life. But when a request for a "Great Wizzard" arrives in Ankh-Morpork via carrier albatross from the faraway Counterweight Continent, it's he who's sent as emissary. Chaos threatens to follow the impending demise of the Agatean Empire's current ruler. And, for some incomprehensible reason, someone believes Rincewind will have a mythic role in ...

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Interesting Times (Discworld Series #17)

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Overview

"May you live in interesting times" is the worst thing one can wish on a citizen of Discworld — especially on the distinctly unmagical sorcerer Rincewind, who has had far too much perilous excitement in his life. But when a request for a "Great Wizzard" arrives in Ankh-Morpork via carrier albatross from the faraway Counterweight Continent, it's he who's sent as emissary. Chaos threatens to follow the impending demise of the Agatean Empire's current ruler. And, for some incomprehensible reason, someone believes Rincewind will have a mythic role in the war and wholesale bloodletting that will surely ensue. (Carnage is pretty much a given, since Cohen the Barbarian and his extremely elderly Silver Horde are busily formulating their own plan for looting, pillaging, and, er, looking wistfully at girls.) However, Rincewind firmly believes there are too many heroes already in the world, yet only one Rincewind. And he owes it to the world to keep that one alive for as long as possible.

Murder and mayhem in Discworld! The funniest writer in fantasy strikes again with a witty and rollicking tale of golems, invisible killers and hapless security officers. 288 pp. National ads & publicity.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Discworld continues to spin merrily along in this new addition to Pratchett's successful series (begun with The Colour of Magic, 1983) about a magical world carried through space on the back of a giant turtle. Here, Rincewind the wizard is drafted to visit the Agatean Empire, which in Pratchett's hands is either a satire of Imperial China or a satire on how that China is handled by other fantasy writers, or possibly both (in Discworld there are few certainties). Arriving complete with the Luggage, Rincewind is dropped into the middle of a succession crisis that's complicated by the presence of Cohen the Barbarian, with his Silver Horde of superannuated barbarians, and a band of youthful revolutionaries, the Red Army. The plot that slowly emerges sees Cohen become Emperor and will hold Discworld fans' attention despite some of the satirical effects arising from a working knowledge of British popular culture. Pratchett is an acquired taste, but the acquisition seems easy, judging from the robust popularity of Discworld. Certainly there is more verbal elegance in this novel than in most humorous fantasy. Pratchett does try to satirize so many subjects at once here that he resembles the man who jumped on his horse and rode off in all directions, and so the book benefits from being read in small, bracing doses.
Kirkus Reviews
More comic fantasy from Pratchett's Discworld (Men at Arms, 1996, etc.) featuring another aspect of the unending strife between humans, fates, and the god that "generally looked after thunder and lightning, so from his point of view the only purpose of humanity was to get wet or, in occasional cases, charred." This time, the incompetent "wizard" Rincewind, hero of several of the earliest Discworld wingdings, makes a reappearance, along with other favorite characters such as the demented tourist, Twoflower, the unpredictable, multilegged Luggage—apparently it's found a mate—and Cohen the Barbarian.

Fun, especially for those susceptible to Pratchett-inspired nostalgia.

From the Publisher
 • "This spinner of crazy science-fiction tales is a very sophisticated jester." —The Times

 • "Cracking dialogue, compelling illogic and unchained whimsy... Pratchett has a subject and a style that is very much his own." —The Sunday Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061056901
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/28/1998
  • Series: Discworld Series , #17
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 460,323
  • Lexile: 710L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett is one of the world's most popular authors. His acclaimed novels are bestsellers in the United States and the United Kingdom, and have sold more than 85 million copies worldwide. In January 2009, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Pratchett a Knight Bachelor in recognition of his services to literature. Sir Terry lives in England.

Biography

Welcome to a magical world populated by the usual fantasy fare: elves and ogres, wizards and witches, dwarves and trolls. But wait—is that witch wielding a frying pan rather than a broomstick? Has that wizard just clumsily tumbled off the edge of the world? And what is with the dwarf they call Carrot, who just so happens to stand six-foot six-inches tall? Why, this is not the usual fantasy fare at all—this is Terry Pratchett's delightfully twisted Discworld!

Beloved British writer Pratchett first jump-started his career while working as a journalist for Bucks Free Press during the '60s. As luck would have it, one of his assignments was an interview with Peter Bander van Duren, a representative of a small press called Colin Smythe Limited. Pratchett took advantage of his meeting with Bander van Duren to pitch a weird story about a battle set in the pile of a frayed carpet. Bander van Duren bit, and in 1971 Pratchett's very first novel, The Carpet People, was published, setting the tone for a career characterized by wacky flights of fancy and sly humor.

Pratchett's take on fantasy fiction is quite unlike that of anyone else working in the genre. The kinds of sword-and-dragon tales popularized by fellow Brits like J.R.R. Tolkein and C. S. Lewis have traditionally been characterized by their extreme self-seriousness. However, Pratchett has retooled Middle Earth and Narnia with gleeful goofiness, using his Discworld as a means to poke fun at fantasy. As Pratchett explained to Locus Magazine, "Discworld started as an antidote to bad fantasy, because there was a big explosion of fantasy in the late '70s, an awful lot of it was highly derivative, and people weren't bringing new things to it."

In 1983, Pratchett unveiled Discworld with The Color of Magic. Since then, he has added installments to the absurdly hilarious saga at the average rate of one book per year. Influenced by moderately current affairs, he has often used the series to subtly satirize aspects of the real world; the results have inspired critics to rapturous praise. ("The most breathtaking display of comic invention since PG Wodehouse," raved The Times of London.) He occasionally ventures outside the series with standalone novels like the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, a sci fi adventure sequence for young readers, or Good Omens, his bestselling collaboration with graphic novelist Neil Gaiman.

Sadly, in 2008 fans received the devastating news that Pratchett had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. He has described his own reaction as "fairly philosophical" and says he plans to continue writing so long as he is able.

Good To Know

Pratchett's bestselling young adult novel Only You Can Save Mankind was adapted for the British stage as a critically acclaimed musical in 2004.

Discworld is not just the subject of a bestselling series of novels. It has also inspired a series of computer games in which players play the role of the hapless wizard Rincewind.

A few fun outtakes from our interview with Pratchett:

"I became a journalist at 17. A few hours later I saw my first dead body, which was somewhat…colourful. That's when I learned you can go on throwing up after you run out of things to throw up."

"The only superstition I have is that I must start a new book on the same day that I finish the last one, even if it's just a few notes in a file. I dread not having work in progress.

"I grow as many of our vegetables as I can, because my granddad was a professional gardener and it's in the blood. Grew really good chilies this year.

"I'm not really good at fun-to-know, human interest stuff. We're not ‘celebrities', whose life itself is a performance. Good or bad or ugly, we are our words. They're what people meet.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Terence David John Pratchett
    2. Hometown:
      Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 28, 1948
    2. Place of Birth:
      Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England
    1. Education:
      Four honorary degrees in literature from the universities of Portsmouth, Bristol, Bath and Warwick

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


There is where the gods play games with the lives of men, on a board which is at one and the same time a simple playing area and the whole world.

And Fate always wins.

Fate always wins. Most of the gods throw dice but Fate plays chess, and you don't find out until too late that he's been using two queens all along.

Fate wins. At least, so it is claimed. Whatever happens, they say afterwards, it must have been Fate.*

Gods can take any form, but the one aspect of themselves they cannot change is their eyes, which show their nature. The eyes of Fate are hardly eyes at all — just dark holes into an infinity speckled with what may be stars or, there again, may be other things.

He blinked them, smiled at his fellow players in the smug way winners do just before they become winners, and said:

"I accuse the High Priest of the Green Robe in the library with the double-handed axe."

And he won.

He beamed at them.

"No one likeh a poor winner," grumbled Offler the Crocodile God, through his fangs.

"It seems that I am favoring myself today," said Fate. "Anyone fancy something else?"

The gods shrugged.

"Mad Kings?" said Fate pleasantly. "Star-Crossed Lovers?"

"I think we've lost the rules for that one," said Blind Io, chief of the gods.

"Or Tempest-Wrecked Mariners?"

"You always win," said Io.

"Floods and Droughts?" said Fate. "That's an easy one."

A shadow fell across the gaming table. The gods looked up.

"Ah," said Fate.

"Let a game begin," said the Lady.

There was always an argument about whether the newcomer was agoddess at all. Certainly no one ever got anywhere by worshipping her, and she tended to turn up only where she was least expected, such as now. And people who trusted in her seldom survived. Any temples built to her would surely be struck by lightning. Better to juggle axes on a tightrope than say her name. just call her the waitress in the Last Chance saloon.

She was generally referred to as the Lady, and her eyes were green; not as the eyes of humans are green, but emerald green from edge to edge. It was said to be her favorite color.

"Ah," said Fate again. "And what game will it be?"

She sat down opposite him. The watching gods looked sidelong at one another. This looked interesting. These two were ancient enemies.

"How about..." she paused, "...Mighty Empires?"

"Oh, I hate that one," said Offler, breaking the sudden silence. "Everyone dief at the end."

"Yes," said Fate, "I believe they do." He nodded at the Lady, and in much the same voice as professional gamblers say "Aces high?" said, "The Fall of Great Houses? Destinies of Nations Hanging by a Thread?"

"Certainly," she said.

"Oh, good." Fate waved a hand across the board. The Discworld appeared.

"And where shall we play?" he said.

"The Counterweight Continent," said the Lady. "Where five noble families have fought one another for centuries."

"Really? Which families are these?" said Io. He had little involvement with individual humans. He generally looked after thunder and lightning, so from his point of view the only purpose of humanity was to get wet or, in occasional cases, charred.

The Hongs, the Sungs, the Tangs, the McSweeneys and the Fangs."

"Them? I didn't know they were noble," said lo.

"They're all very rich and have had millions of people butchered or tortured to death merely for reasons of expediency and pride," said the Lady.

The watching gods nodded solemnly. That was certainly noble behavior. That was exactly what they would have done.

"McFweeneyf?" said Offler.

"Very old established family," said Fate.

"Oh."

"And they wrestle one another for the Empire," said Fate. "Very good. Which will you be?"

The Lady looked at the history stretched out in front of them.

"The Hongs are the most powerful. Even as we speak, they have taken yet more cities," she said. "I see they are fated to win"

"So, no doubt, you'll pick a weaker family."

Fate waved his hand again. The playing pieces appeared, and started to move around the board as if they had a fife of their own, which was of course the case.

"But," he said, "we shall play without dice. I don't trust you with dice. You throw them where I can't see them. We will play with steel, and tactics, and politics, and war."

The Lady nodded.

Fate looked across at his opponent.

"And your move?" he said.

She smiled. "I've already made it."

He looked down. "But I don't see your pieces on the board."

"They're not on the board yet," she said.

She opened her hand.

There was something black and yellow on her palm. She blew on it, and it unfolded its wings.

It was a butterfly.

Fate always wins ...

At least, when people stick to the rules.

According to the philosopher Ly Tin Wheedle, chaos is found in, greatest abundance wherever order is being sought. It always defeats order, because it is better organized.

This is the butterfly of the storms.

See the wings, slightly more ragged than those of the common fritillary In reality, thanks to the fractal nature of the universe, this means that those ragged edges are infinite — in the same way that the edge of any rugged coastline, when measured to the ultimate microscopic level, is infinitely long — or, if not infinite, then at least so close to it that Infinity can be seen on a clear day.

*People are always a little confused about this, as they are in the case of miracles. When someone is saved from certain death by a strange concatenation of circumstances, they say that's a miracle. But of course if someone is killed by a freak chain of events — the oil spilled just there, the safety fence broken just there —t hat must also be a miracle. Just because it's not nice doesn't mean it's not miraculous.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 41 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 41 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 24, 2013

    Classic!

    When I have consumed an overly large amount of non-fiction or historical fiction, I inevitably turn to another Pratchett volume. I intersperse these to allow me to savor a series that I know will eventually end, and my world will be less because of it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2013

    Funniest book ever

    I read when I go to bed and I have to keep an extra pillow to muflle my laughter so I don't wake my husband every time I read a Pratchett.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2012

    Pratchett is amazing...as always

    I love Rincewind! He's one of my favorite characters on the disk! I love to read about all of his adventures, and the evil on millions of tiny feet that follow him wherever he goes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2008

    A reviewer

    This was my first Pratchett novel to read and I was pleasantly surprised. I found myself laughing out loud while reading this book. I think that this book is both smart and funny. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read.

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