Interesting Times is the seventeenth book in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. My son, Oscar and I are reading our way through the series. Well, he’s reading them to me, and Interesting Times has taken us through our summer holidays, just in time for him to start Maskerade as he goes back to school.
Interesting Times was mis-remembered by me as the book about starting the newspaper (this is in fact, The Truth), so I was quite surprised as he started reading, to find that it is in fact, the novel about Rincewind, the luggage and them being reunited with Twoflower, the young man from the Agatean Empire that Rincewind acts as a tour guide for in the first two books of the series (The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic).
In this book, Rincewind is sent, by magical means, to the Agatean Empire in order to secure peace between its leaders and Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh Morpork. Rincewind, as is the norm, manages to cause absolute chaos on his travels and nearly dies on a number of occasions, before being sent off to his next adventure which comes a few books down the line in The Last Continent.
The book is a thinly veiled pastiche on the Chinese/Japanese feudal empire and its politics. It is, more specifically, a kind of oriental mash up and satirises everything from Chinese communism and the Red Army, to nightingale floors and beyond.
The book doesn’t quite work for me. I think that by this time, the Rincewind character is getting a bit repetitive. The reunion with Twoflower is quite touching and this time, Twoflower is given more dignity and is less of a bumbling tourist, but you get the sense that Pratchett is going through the motions a bit here. Some of it works well, some less so, and some of it is pretty heavy handed.
Having said that, Pratchett at his worst is always better than a lot of other writers, and there are, as ever, some laugh out loud moments and some absolute gems of lines and ideas.
As ever, the book is really suitable for teenagers who will get more of the jokes.