Interesting Times: Discworld Novel 17

by Terry Pratchett | Science Fiction & Fantasy |
ISBN: 0552142352 Global Overview for this book
Registered by erinacea of Friedrichshain, Berlin Germany on 5/5/2016
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Journal Entry 1 by erinacea from Friedrichshain, Berlin Germany on Thursday, May 05, 2016
This was yet another book I first read along with Mark Oshiro reading Discworld. When the project was started back in 2014, I hadn't even heard of this book, let alone knew what it was about, but by the time we reached it (or IT, as it's commonly abbreviated) I knew enough to be worried.

The story:
In the Agatean Empire, way over on the Counterweight Continent, a (very polite) revolution is stirring. The "Red Army" expects to be lead by the Great Wizard, and upon request the Unseen University faculty "volunteers" Rincewind to be sent to what is essentially the Discworld's version of ancient China. Once there, Rincewind meets old friends, makes new enemies and spends a lot of time running.

The reason I was worried about this book was two-fold: a) because I had heard that it featured (Spoiler highlight to make visible) Twoflower (great news in itself) who had been tortured and lost his entire family, and b) because it was supposed to contain loads of racist stereotyping and ugly, sexist jokes. The first rumour turned out to be greatly exaggerated. Unfortunately, the second one was plain true and made it really hard to keep reading this book. I actually stopped after about a third and later hastily finished the book when the reading project drew to a close.

Pratchett liked to showcase the barbarians uncivilized behaviour by having them comment on as well as reference rapes in a joking manner. I've seen similar jokes in earlier books, but each new one is more disgusting than the last. A single one would have been one too many but could have been excused as a regretable isolated case. As it is, yuck!

As for the racism, I might have been oblivious to most of it if it hadn't been pointed out by more aware readers. Personally, I was particularly horrified at the depiction of the tsimo (a.k.a. sumo) wrestlers as huge mindless animals only interested in food, but the transliteration of the Chinese glyph for "exclamation mark" as "urinating dog" (a joke that must have been endlessly funny to Pratchett judging by the amount he repeated it) also left me disgusted. Add to that the way he kept making fun of Chinese names, language and entire culture, and yeah, "yuck!" sounds about right.

I'm not entirely sure where I stand on the matter of the nation apparently needing to be saved by western outsiders. I hadn't even realized that was a thing until someone linked a blog post talking about "othering". It'll probably take me a while to really understand this but for now I find myself asking the question, why did it have to be Spoiler Genghiz Cohen to become the new (and improved) emperor instead of someone actually born in the country? Why did they need Rincewind to tell them how to organize a "proper" revolution? Why did they need the "Great Wizard" in the first place?

On top of all that, it's not even like the rest of the book is well-written. Personally, I find the Rincewind books in general to be pretty boring. They usually feature Rincewind getting into one ridiculous situation after the other and running from one danger to the next. It rankles that all the character development he went through in Sourcery appears to have evaporated.

I'm not even going to grace this book with my usual ranking. It simply dropped straight to the bottom like some kind of loadstone, hopefully to stay there forever. At least I sure hope the series doesn't contain another book even worse than this one.

Like Eric, this is not a book I'm going to keep, even if it leaves a gap in my collection.

Next up: Maskerade

Journal Entry 2 by erinacea at Friedrichshain, Berlin Germany on Sunday, July 10, 2016

Released 4 yrs ago (7/10/2016 UTC) at Friedrichshain, Berlin Germany

CONTROLLED RELEASE NOTES:

Like Eric this is not a book I had any intention of keeping (or rereading), so I used the opportunity of the brunch meet-up in the "Turnhalle" to get rid of it. Apparently, it caught someone's interest. I hope the next reader likes it better than I did. Otherwise, sorry! :O

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