Top critical review
What happened to my demon?
on January 13, 2003
Eric is more of a Discworld novella than it is a novel. At 154 pages, it's not very substantive. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that it isn't a quality book. However, in this case, I'm sorry to say that Terry Pratchett dropped the ball a little bit. It's another Rincewind adventure, and like most of the other Rincewind books that I've read, it fails for the most part to entertain.
I've never been a fan of Rincewind or his luggage, which I know makes me unusual for a Discworld fan. Unfortunately, Eric continues the trend of sub-par Discworld adventures featuring the incompetent wizard. I just didn't find it that interesting or funny, and the main saving grace is that it's short. If it had been longer, I think my rating would have been less. The idea is clever, a parody of Faust with Rincewind unable to fulfill any of the functions that the devil does in the original play. The execution of it isn't even that bad, though it's not up to Pratchett's usual standards.
I guess my main problem with it is that Rincewind seems even a lesser part of things than he usually does. The luggage saves his bacon a couple of times, and the other times things just happen and outside forces end up dealing with things. I think he actually solves a problem himself once in the whole book. The concept of an observer who would rather be sitting home bored than actually taking part in all of these adventures may be a good one, but I don't find it very interesting. Because of that, Pratchett has to make the situation worth my while in order for me to like the book. Eric doesn't do that. There are amusing bits here and there, a wry comment or a funny situation, but as a whole it doesn't work for me.
Once again, Death gets the best part of the book, and he's only in it for two scenes. The part at the beginning of the book where the wizards attempt to call forth Death to tell them what's going on is hilarious, with it not working quite as the wizards planned. He always seems to get the best lines in any Discworld book. There are a few other parts of the book where I actually laughed (like where Rincewind becomes a living part of history by tripping over something and setting the city on fire), but the overall affect, for me anyway, was "ho-hum."
The thing that brings this book up to 3 stars, though, is the rendition of Hell that Pratchett has. Astfgl has made hell a boring place rather than a fiery place, because he's realized that souls can't really feel any pain, so eternal physical torment really isn't that bad when the soul can't feel anything. So he makes it intensely boring instead, with people chained to rocks and forced to listen to stories of hernia operations and vacations on the various circles of Hell. I found this idea very inspired, and had to laugh at quite a few of the bits here. I don't want to ruin any of the jokes here, since they were most of the funny ones in the book, but suffice it to say that Hell was the best part of the book, and the only real saving grace.
The book's ending, though, is as uninspired as the rest of the book. It's a bit anti-climactic and not very well-done. Once again, Rincewind is saved by the actions of outside forces (not even the luggage saves him this time) and things start looking up for him again. Pratchett gives a rundown of what's happened to the various places that Rincewind and Eric have visited, but even that is only mildly amusing and not up to Pratchett's normal standards.
I know there are fans of Rincewind out there. I've read a few reviews, and even they think that this is one of Pratchett's weaker efforts. If you're a fan of his, you may enjoy this book, though I would suggest checking it out from the library rather than buying it. If you're not a fan of his, than you may want to skip this one (unless you're like me, and want to read every Discworld book out there). Thankfully, it's short, so you won't spend too much of your life with this one.