cover image Interesting Times

Interesting Times

Terry Pratchett. HarperPrism, $22 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-06-105252-1

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. (Apr.)