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A Discworld anomaly
on December 31, 2002
When last we left the inept wizard Rincewind (way back in Sourcery, the fifth Discworld novel) he was trapped in the Dungeon Dimensions. He returns quite unexpectedly to the real world at the behest of the unique planet's only demon hacker Eric, who also happens to be a twelve-year-old kid. Having conjured a demon to grant him whatever he desired, Eric is rather disappointed to find that the "demon" Rincewind cannot really do anything at all except give lessons in how to run away from danger. All Eric wants is to rule the world, meet the most beautiful woman to have ever lived, and to live forever. Rincewind insists that he can't just snap his fingers and grant wishes, but said finger snapping miraculously takes him, Eric, and (always lagging behind) the Luggage to the land of the Tezumens where Eric is hailed as a god (pity the Tezumens hate their god so much). Later they wind up in ancient Tsort during the climax of the great war with the Ephebians; here Eric meets the world's most beautiful woman and is not impressed, while Rincewind finds an ancient ancestor pursuing the art of war without having to fight or creating a fuss. Next stop is the very creation of the Discworld itself, complete with creator-if you want to live forever, after all, you have to start at the beginning. The journey is far from complete, though, until Rincewind and Eric make their way to Hades, a land suffering (or not suffering, to be precise) under the micro-management of the new King Astfgl. Finally, we find out what has really been going on all along, and Rincewind and Eric try to find a way to get back home.
Eric is a play on the Faust concept; you can tell because the word Faust is crossed out and replaced with Eric right there on the cover of the book. Conjure a demon, demand your heart's desire, that sort of thing. It is really an unusual Discworld novel. It is short for one thing, less than half the length of most in the series, the kid Eric is about the only child one ever finds anywhere in the Discworld and is annoying enough for all the ones we don't see, and, despite his constant troubles, we really don't see very much of Rincewind's back gradually fading away from us as he runs from danger. The book isn't that bad, really-the story is pretty good once you grasp all of it, there's an entertainingly irritable parrot that makes up for his small vocabulary by referring to things as wossname all the time, and we get a very revealing look at the Discworld's realm of eternal punishment. Still, Eric is just not fulfilling and never strikes a strong chord with the reader. I view it as quite the Discworld anomaly. Just because it isn't as good as Pratchett's other novels does not mean it is not funny, witty, and enjoyable, though.