on June 11, 2003
I've only read about seven of the Discworld books, so I'm hardly an expert, but I know enough to feel qualified to write this review. I feel that this is better than any of the other books of his I have read. While his books are all wildly original, this one wins on the points of comparison.
First off, the settings of Ankh-Morpork and the Counterweight Continent are both well done. Pratchett taps into the same vein of humor underrunning the image of Imperial China that Barry Hughart did in "Bridge of Birds". He also introduces a very interesting linguistic idea, playing off the use of tone in spoken Chinese to create a language with few words but many, many different pronunciations. The other plot ideas, such as the Mandelbrot Butterfly etc., are well done, but the language was such a well-thought yet off-the-wall idea that it beat everything else.
The characters are well done also. Old barbarians are a comic image, but Pratchett is able to really use his old barbarians to advance the plot rather than having them hang around solely for laughs. The Gods play off each other well, and Rincewind's cowardice and fleeing make the places he lands in all the more interesting. The ending wraps everything up well without being too perfect, and Death is funnier than ever.
Hitting nary a wrong note, this book is worth getting out of the library, or buying if you are a Discworld fan. I would recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy, and also "Thief of Time", by the same author.
on May 27, 2002
While I've known Terry Pratchett's name for some time now (his collaboration with Neil Gaiman in Good Omens is fantastic) I'd never read one of his books before. I was familiar with the world from an old graphic novel of one of his books (I think Color of Magic) so I didn't feel obligated to start at the beginning.
Interesting Times follows the character of Rincewind on a journey through the Counterweight Continent, the discworld version of the Orient. Rincewind is an interesting character and Pratchett plays him well as a rather powerless wizard who just happens to get by through a sheer amount of luck, and the quickness of his fleeing legs. A pessimistic character, I liked him through the beginning of the book, though by the end his uneagerness to help anyone grew a bit tiresome (though unconciously he tends to help out a great deal.) Rincewind shares the stage, however, with a group of aging barbarians called the Silver Horde who steal the show really. The best bits of the book are the ones involving the Horde. Their lessons on how to be civilized and inability to change their habits.
While I can't rate this in comparison to other Discworld books, I found it highly entertaining, and though, probably not the best place to start the series off. Read some other Pratchett books to aquaint yourself with the world, and work your way up to Interesting Times. It's worth the time.
on October 29, 2001
This was my first Discworld book, read about a year and a half ago. Pratchett binging ever since. I think I've read ten or twelve now. I do know there have only been two non-Pratchett books and a small hiatus to re-read the Hitchhiker's Guide when Mr. Adams passed on.
The only reason Interesting Times doesn't get 5 stars is because "Small Gods" was a rather seminal book to me, and overshadows this one, if only because of the topic it covers. (Using hilarity to outline a church concept which had me smacking my forehead and cracking the back of my head on the headboard.)
Anyway, I read this and had no idea who Twoflower was, or Cohen, or CMOT Dibbler, or any of the other usual suspects, and still enjoyed it immensely. The follow-up effort "Last Continent" left me wanting, but my girlfriend loved it.
I still think the quote on the back of one of his newer books seems to say it best... it says something along the lines of 'you'd expect Mr. Pratchett to recycle material or become formulaic in the Discworld series after XX books, but each time he goes back to the mine he returns with a motherload.'
on October 12, 2001
It is the between time when empires fall and new ones emerges that the faces of human stupidity is shown, and no matter how much thing change, the more they remain the same. This is the "Interesting Times" to wit Terry Pratchett has themed the book.
In this book Pratchett explore the concept of "good intentions sometime causes bad thing to happen" where he dealt with the idea through the Red Army in the book. This book also feature heavily Ghenghis Cohen, one of the interesting character who is mentioned from time to times. Cohen if enigmatic, and anyone who read Interesting Times will surely like him.
The backdrop theme of this book concern a lot about Asian culture and why the fall of the Chinese was inevertable, as illustrated quite well in this book.
Pratchett also detailed a great deal about Asian culture. Given all the details and complexity of this book, in addition to the cowardous character of Rinewind and the enigmatic Ghenghis Cohen, this book is a must have. This is one of my favorite book of all time, it is one of the most well storied book by Pratchett with complex themes and the character of Rinewind and Cohen finally fully developed.
on March 18, 2001
For those of you that aren't familiar with Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, they're broken up into what are, essentially subseries. Different novels focus on different characters throughout the Disc and each follow a certain storytelling style. The Rincewind novels, of which this is one, are a sort-of antiheroical adventure mixed with what are, essentially, various travelogues. "Interesting Times" deals with what happens when the Disc's least impressive wizard - and greatest survivor - meet the Agatean Empire - a rather odd hodge-podge of Imperial China and feudal Japan run through Pratchett's colander of Discworld reality.
"Interesting Times" follows a half-mad, half-Machiavellian plot where Rincewind, the aforementioned 'wizard', gets shipped off to the Agatean Empire following a request by the revolutionary "Red Army" for the "Great Wizzard" that will help them in their time of greatest need. What results from this is a mad rush through Chinese peasant culture, Japanese martial arts, an group of ancient barbarians with a most unbarbarian plot and revolution that can't help but have things go the right way for them.
As with most of Pratchett's books, "Interesting Times" is a joy to read. Pratchett somehow seems to take every 'commonly known' reference about East Asia, mix them together in a large metaphorical bag, and spread them throughout his book, regardless of the history or accuracy involved. As with all of his works, what transpires is less a view of what foreign countries are actually like, but how it is that we as people view foreign cultures.
Having recently reread "Interesting Times", I found myself liking it more in retrospect than I did when I first read it. It's charming, introspective and loony all in one go. A brief word of warning to the odd East Asian scholar who made read it, though: it's not so much about what Japan and China are like as what people think they are like. Nonetheless, it's a book that any Terry Pratchett fan should read. It's even a book that any fan of Japan or China should read. It's also not a bad place to get into the Discworld series if you're looking for a place to start.
on August 19, 2000
This is a verry intertaining book, chalked full of "Interesting Times". After I had read hogfather,another great novel with death posing as the Hogfather (discworld's version of Santa Clause), the same day I began reading "Interesting Times", and couldn't put it down if I wanted to, Naturrally I didn't want to. This book is about Rincewind, the mild-manored average coward, (he prefers the term inept or incompetant wizard) who is pitted against two nations at war with one another by the gods. And who can forget that in the middle there is the "silver horde" (a small band of venerable barbarians) who want all the riches to be made by war all for themselves, and to put Cohen on the throne. Rincwind is beleived to be this great and powerful wizard who is destined to raise the "red army", unfortunatly, he as we all know, cant make a butterfly out of a caterpillar if he had all the time in the world and the power to make it happen. Heaven help the nations at war!!!
on June 3, 2000
This book may have finally goten my husband to read a Pratchett novel. Whilst looking over my sholder in the dentist's office he caught the names Cohen the Barbarian and Ghengiz Cohen. that piqued his interest.
Interesting times seems to be mainly about the characters who have successfully avoided Death in the past. Rincewind is back with the luggage (which promptly gets lost) and takes on the wrestless wrestlers. Cohen has joined forces with 5 other barbarians and a teacher to form the Silver Horde. And Twoflower's memoirs of his trip to Ankh-Morpork have become the manifesto for a revolution.
Yes, I would say Terry Pratchett did a good job on this one. The puns are awful as usual and even when you see the set up for them you wind up groaning or giggling. (This tends to cause people sidle away from you in a crowded room.)
Fate and Lady are at it again. Lady, of course chooses her favorite character and the Unseen university receives a message asking for the Great Eizzard to be sent to the Counterweight Continent. After much arguing about the dangers inherent in such a trip, they decide to locate Rincewind and send him. He finds himself in the middle of a revolution being run by polite revolutionaries. He runs into Cohen and his horde who are out to steal something really big. From there the usual chaos ensues. If you enjoy the dryer humor of Terry Pratchetts discword novels, you'll enjoy this one.
on June 1, 2000
If you look at my other reviews you will see my taste tends to stay away from this genre. However a friend of mine suggested that I pick up a couple of Terry Pratchett books. I finally broke down and this is my first and not the last Pratchett novel for me.
This strange story deals with the loveable character Rincewind (who is a few of Pratchett's novels). Rincewind is selected by the professors at Unseen University, to be sent to a far away waring land to act as the great wizard. Rincewind unwillingly goes and is thrown in the middle of a mini-revelution. There he runs into his friend Cohen the Barbarian and his Silver Horde. A group of senior citizen barbarians. Together they embark on an a great adventure in a strange land. Can't give away the ending but the last few pages will fly by, as the very funny ending nears.
If you are a first time Pratchett reader then you must get into the story about 50 pages till you get use to the language and the unusual names that Pratchett uses. The other references to Disc-World novel are well done, allowing a reader to dive in the middle of the series without being left behind in the storyline. What Pratchett lacks in story telling he makes up with humor and great imagery that is needed for a fantasy writer.
on August 29, 2001
For those of you who don't know, the Discworld series is proken up into little subcycles. This is possibly the best in the ongoing Rincewind cycle. Possibly. What the plot boils down to is, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork has recieved a very strange message from the ancient and very, very rich Agatean Empire, on the Counterweight Continent where gold is as common as dirt, asking for the Great Wizzard. No, I didn't misspell it. Rincewind is sent off to the Empire and ends up in the middle of a revolution which- this being the Agatean Empire- is being done politely. For the established PTerry readers, who recall the first two books, Twoflower's back (Rincewind is not all that happy about this fact) and he's brought daughters!
on October 14, 1999
With "Interesting Times" Terry Pratchett can truly lay claim to be "the best satirist in the field". Rincewind's return, after prolonged absence, is simply hysterical. Everything works in this book, from the villainous Lord Hong, to the Wizards of UU, to the Silver Hoard (one of the funniest twists ever. Who can't see the movie version with Schwartzenegger, Stallone, Kirk Douglas, Charleton Heston, Clint Eastwood...) There is not a single awkward piece in the book, and the sheer mayhem is enough to delight for hours. Probably the most inspired Discworld book, and easily the best Rincewind novel. Pratchett has never been better.