Monday, March 9, 2020

Interesting Times

A classic Kirby cover!
Interesting Times, by Terry Pratchett

It has been so long since I read Interesting Times that I only remembered the curse: May you live in interesting times.  Nothing else.  So I thought it might be good to revisit it, and the title seemed quite apropos to our own interesting times, after all!  It turned out to be a Rincewind story, and it's quite a long time since I read any Rincewind story at all.

Rincewind has been dodging around the Discworld, running away from various imminent deaths, for quite a long time now.  Somehow he has wound up on a desert island (with, of course, his trusty and terrifying Luggage), but he is unexpectedly transported home to Unseen University by the wizards, who want him to go to the Counterweight Continent on the other side of the Disc.  He's been summoned by...somebody.

The Counterweight Continent is an Empire run by five major families, who are constantly at each other's throats in a battle for power.  The Emperor is dying, so they're gathering their forces.  There's also a rebellion of idealistic revolutionaries, who plan to bring freedom to the masses.  AND Cohen the Barbarian, with his geriatric Horde, is in town, planning to loot the Empire -- possibly by means of becoming the Emperor himself.

Rincewind, dumped in the middle of this mess, finds himself trying to help the revolutionaries survive the manipulations of whoever is using them for his own ends, as Genghiz Cohen infiltrates the palace and, back at the University, Hex gets steadily more worryingly mysterious.  In the chaos, we find as always, lots of great wit and sly commentary.

It's been too long since I read this one, so I'm glad I picked it up.
..."we are fighting for the peasants," said Butterfly.  She'd backed away.  Rincewind's anger was coming off him like steam.
"Oh?  Have you ever met them?"
"I -- have seen them."
"Oh, good!  And what is it you want to achieve?"
"A better life for the people," said Butterfly coldly.
"You think you having some uprising and hanging a few people will do it?  Well, I come from Ankh-Morpork and we've had more rebellions and civil wars that you've had...lukewarm ducks' feet, and you know what?  The rulers are still in charge!  They always are!"
“Look,” he said, rubbing his forehead. “All those people out in the fields, the water buffalo people… If you have a revolution it’ll all be better for them, will it?” 
“Of course,” said Butterfly. “They will no longer be subject to the cruel and capricious whims of the Forbidden City.” 
“Oh, that’s good,” said Rincewind. “So they’ll sort of be in charge of themselves, will they?” 
“Indeed,” said Lotus Blossom.
“By means of the People’s Committee,” said Butterfly. 
Rincewind pressed both hands to his head. “My word,” he said. “I don’t know why, but I had this predictive flash!” They looked impressed. “I had this sudden feeling,” he went on, “that there won’t be all that many water buffalo string holders on the People’s Committee. In fact… I get this kind of … voice telling me that a lot of the People’s Committee, correct me if I’m wrong, are standing in front of me right now?”
 “Initially, of course,” said Butterfly. “The peasants can’t even read and write.” 
“I expect they don’t even know how to farm properly,” said Rincewind, gloomily. “Not after doing it for only three or four thousand years.” 
“We certainly believe that there are many improvements that could be made, yes,” said Butterfly. “If we act collectively.” 
“I bet they’ll be really glad when you show them,” said Rincewind.”

1 comment:

Lory said...

Wow, timely. But Discworld always is.