Interesting Times (Discworld Series #17)

Interesting Times (Discworld Series #17)

4.4 43
by Terry Pratchett
     
 

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"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

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.

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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061807411
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/13/2009
Series:
Discworld Series
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
54,726
File size:
354 KB

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.

Meet the Author

Sir Terry Pratchett, OBE, was the author of more than 70 books, including the internationally bestselling Discworld series of novels. His books have been adapted for stage and screen, and he was the winner of multiple prizes, including the Carnegie Medal. In January 2009, Pratchett was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his services to literature. Sir Terry, who lived in England, died in March 2015 at the age of 66.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
Date of Birth:
April 28, 1948
Place of Birth:
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England
Education:
Four honorary degrees in literature from the universities of Portsmouth, Bristol, Bath and Warwick

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Interesting Times 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 43 reviews.
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Badapple More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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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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