Interesting Times go back to the original roots of Discworld novels to the time when the books were about satirizing fantasy, but this time it’s combined with the Orient and revolution instead of wizard and Octavo. The book is perhaps sillier in tone than those between it and Guards! Guards!, bringing back Rincewind who never seems to change. He continues being cowardice and self-serving without a clear aim in life except surviving (which is in a way jest of the character and us. When you strip all the nonsense we invent and think, it comes to staying alive another day and dignity only come after luxury and freedom to choose.) I think this stagnancy of Rincewind and the lighthearted silliness with beautiful Amazonian warrioresses who want to copulate with our Wizzzard doesn’t cut it the second time around.
Interesting Times wasn’t the book I remembered. The setting, Agatean Empire, is insensitive, and while I don’t think it’s written out of spite or racist intentions, the parallel to China grow old soon, making some scenes with Rincewind difficult to read. I was more at home with the Silver Horde and Cohen’s existential crises of growing old and dying, but this barbaric revelation felt disjointed against this silly martial arts revolution setting (taking a crack at politics and following the ruler and his strict rules despite how silly they might be?), and I wasn’t sure what I was reading.
I’m not sure what to say? The first time around, I loved the book. The action. The slimy backboneless Rincewind who mocks all our noble values about life. The Silver Horde and the contradiction with barbarism and growing old. The Agatean Empire which felt so familiar, yet, caricatured and simplification of why some customs have come to be. But now, I’m not sure. I know fate plays a game with us and we can try to do the best we can from the cards that are dealt us, to some it might be running, to some, it’s grabbing the bull by its horns, and to some, it’s trusting their fate to a good book, who’s to say what is the right or the wrong way. Interesting Times is fun if you don’t think too much about it and if you read it the first time around. At least, that was the case with me.
I leave you with these words:
“There is a curse.
May you live in interesting times.”