by Terry Pratchett

Cover image

Series: Discworld #9
Publisher: Harper
Copyright: 1990
Printing: July 2008
ISBN: 0-380-82121-4
Format: Mass market
Pages: 197

Buy at Powell's Books

This is the ninth book in the Discworld series, but within the story it's a sequel (of sorts) to Sourcery. It was originally published as an illustrated novel, but I read an unillustrated paperback edition. Depending on the edition, the cover may have the title of Faust crossed out with Eric written next to it. (I believe this counts as a subtle hint.)

Eric is a demonologist. He's thirteen. And while he's tried to summon demons before, this is the first time he's succeeded. Sort of.

Rincewind is trying to get out of the Dungeon Dimensions. As is typical for Rincewind, this involves quite a bit of running away. As Death points out to the senior wizards, when summoned to explain the disturbances in the magic and odd thumping sounds, he would have to be extremely lucky to escape. But, as it turns out, the Dungeon Dimensions are what one taps into when trying to summon a demon. So rather than a demon, Eric gets Rincewind.

As hinted by the titles, Eric is a play on Faust, but it's also a play on every story about summoning a genie and getting magical wishes. Eric wants three things from Rincewind: mastery of the kingdoms of the world, to meet the most beautiful woman who has ever lived, and to live forever. Rincewind, not being a demon, or a particularly powerful wizard, points out that he can't do this. But, strangely enough, he can. It goes about as well as these sorts of wishes ever do, interpreted with the full perversity of the Discworld universe.

This is a very short book, as one might expect from what was originally an illustrated novel. It's only 197 pages in mass market paperback, and that's with a quite generous font size. There isn't much of a plot to speak of: Eric consists mostly of Eric's wishes getting he and Rincewind into various tricky situations while Rincewind tries to figure out the most effective way to run away.

It does have two things going for it, though. One of them is what every Rincewind book has going for it: the Luggage. It's as bloody-minded and angrily determined as ever, no matter how hard it is to follow Rincewind and Eric through everywhere that Rincewind's unexpected powers take them. It's also as thoroughly capable of resolving whatever problem they find themselves in as it always was, and produces most of the really good scenes in this book. (I was particularly fond of the one involving the gates of Hell.) If you're like me and read Rincewind Discworld novels primarily for the Luggage, you won't be disappointed.

The other thing it has going for it is some rather nice characterization of practical and straightforward people who are taking the absurdities of Discworld as seriously as they can while trying to do the right thing. Rincewind is one of those, and he gets some great lines here. I was quite fond of his initial conversation with Eric. The other who stood out for me is Lavaeolus, Pratchett's equivalent of Odysseus. His put-upon practicality and matter-of-fact approach to the Discworld version of the Trojan War is hilarious and one of the better segments in the book.

This is a short and mostly forgettable installment in the Discworld saga, which is probably safely skippable without any harm to the overall story. It explains how Rincewind gets out of the Dungeon Dimensions, but otherwise nothing of major consequence happens. But it has some good Luggage bits and some nice dialogue. It's not going to knock your socks off, but it's worth picking up if you're a Discworld fan.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2010-12-31

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