What’s good about Interesting Times, given that I don’t like its protagonist, Rincewind the hapless wizard?
Cohen the Barbarian is back, ancient and sprightly and deadly as ever. Several other aged barbarian heroes join him for one last great caper. With this Silver Horde (of seven) is the Teacher, who has given up on the barbarities of school and thrown in his lot with real barbarianing, although he does try to show the Horde a thing or two about civilization, or about the virtues of not attacking armies of a hundred thousand when your marauding host is all of seven people. There’s a lovely pun about samizdat on page 183. The Emperor’s name is also a good riff on British tabloids. There are some good bits of Pratchett farce along the way; the book was fun to read and kept me going on a couple of days when I was not feeling well at all. But it’s a bit thin otherwise, especially compared to immediately previous Discworld books (and, I suspect, compared to the next one, Maskerade, which I have already started), and that’s without going into the problematic aspects of the faux-China/Japan where the novel is set. I think if I weren’t being a Discworld completist (at least for the novels, I have no idea if I will read the ancillary books), I would have skipped this one.
And what is it about Rincewind anyway? At the end of The Light Fantastic, I thought that Pratchett had freed him up for development by getting the Great Spell out of him and by separating him from Twoflower, the amiable tourist for whom everything goes right at considerable cost to everyone else nearby. It turns out that development was not what Pratchett had in mind. In three more books (Sourcery, Eric, and now Interesting Times) Rincewind is a nominal wizard unable to do magic. He runs away from everything. Events move around him, and it looks to other characters like he is having great effects, while he tells himself that he was just trying to get away from things. This kind of plotting, especially the fifth book featuring it, suspends my suspension of disbelief; the authorial hand is just too obvious. I’m rather at a loss to think of why Pratchett has him in another starring role.