May you live in interesting times! – an Agatean curse
Yesterday was my son’s birthday. He was born eight years ago but this story is not about that. This is about how I naively took a book to the delivery room. Yes, I took a book along. There was this list of things that one should pack in their maternity bag and the list said, take a book and I dutifully did so.
I did not know then, that the last thing you want or could do, is read a book when you are delivering a baby. However uplifting, funny or otherwise the book is, you will not be able to read when a 3 Kilo human is trying to get out of you! This is the story of that book.
When I decided to take a book, I did not have to think twice about which one I wanted along. Usually it is not an easy decision for me, I like to read everything including the small-print on prescription medications (ask me about the side-effects of taking paracetamol 500, go on, ask me) and I have many favourites! But this time, my nesting instinct said take ‘Interesting Times’ by Terry Pratchett! And boy, did that turn out to be true! Interesting times, indeed. But that is for another day.
Sir Terry Pratchett is one of those ‘All things British‘ I adore. He invented the Discworld, a place where weirdness is the norm and any one who is “not-weird” is automatically a suspect, even if there is no case. If you want to know more about Discworld, you can read it up here.
The first novel that I read in the Discworld series was ‘Hogfather’. I fell in love with ‘Death’. The most adorable personification of Death of all time! Every time a new Discworld book came out, I would quickly flip through the book to see if there are dialogues in CAPS, if yes, then I know Death is in the book. Oh, the joy! We end up buying every Pratchett book of course, but I like to read the ones with ‘Death’ especially – a morbid fascination, I know.
Then there is ‘Interesting times’. The story is funny in so many levels, you will have to read it many times to enjoy it thoroughly. I have read it so many times, I know the book by heart. Well, almost by heart. My memory closely resembles Swiss-cheese and things just fall through the holes but how can I ever forget something like the Quantum Weather Butterfly.
The story starts with Gods playing games – in a very literal sense, they play ‘Whodunnit’ and Fate, it seems, always wins. Enter ‘Lady Luck’. If you ever have to read anything Sir Pratchett wrote, read the passage where he introduces her – I wish I could make an entrance like that and say ‘Let the game begin’! And the Quantum Weather Butterfly flutters its wings!
The story has a villain (or villains, as your take might be) and heroes. The villain is, of course, not just any thug but a young warlord of considerable ambition. He is suave, sophisticated and a psychopath. The heroes, arrayed on the other side are, a bunch of geriatric ex-barbarians and a wizard with a suitcase.
Be introduced to the pieces on the board of game the Gods are playing: Rincewind, a university drop-out and a good-for-nothing wizard who is forced to play the hero in a revolution in a country far, far away. Rincewind’s faithful companion ‘Luggage’ is a travelling accessory that can kill, maim and cause general mayhem. The country where Rincewind lands(literally), is ruled by an evil emperor and his even more evil warlord minions and Rincewind is forced to play the revolutionary hero due to some Discworld logic. Add to this mix, a group of barbarians, sorry, ex-barbarians, who are looking for a viable retirement plan and you have the ‘Interesting Times’.
Pratchett’s stories are always a parody of some current/historical state of affairs, in most cases about a ‘State’ or ‘States’. Most of the novels start in the city-state of Ankh-Morpork, an eclectic mix of New York and London but goes off to far-away places in time and distance. ‘Interesting Times’ plays in the Agatean Empire on the Counterweight continent. Agatean Empire is a kind of China but with its historical time line all mixed up.
The characters are a mix of cliches and the story is a whole lot of funny philosophizing. The book is a satisfying read. And I would highly recommend it, perhaps not as reading material for the delivery room, but as a book along for other journeys.