May you live in interesting times.
"I know about people who talk about suffering for the common good. It's never bloody them! When you hear a man shouting "Forward, brave comrades!" you'll see he's the one behind the bloody big rock and the one wearing the only really arrow-proof helmet!"
-- Rincewind gives a speech on politics.
As has been pointed out time and again, the gods love to play games with mortals. Simple games, brutal games, but I think playing is a great way to show how much you care, right? In Interesting Times, Fate and the goddess known as The Lady decide to start a new game, one of ancient empires and mighty hero's. How the wizard Rincewind fits in is beyond the understanding of mortal men!
We've met Rincewind before (See The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Sourcery and Eric), often running away from the same situations hero's would be running towards. In this case, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork has asked Arch-chancellor Ridcully to locate, and transport, the Great Wizzard. It seems that revolution is brewing in the Counterweight Continent, a strange land where gold is as common as rocks, and still everyone is poor. And someone has decided that Rincewind is just the leader the revolution needs. Don't they know anything?
It seems that some foolish person wrote a book about "What I Did On My Holiday", that has become a revolutionary document. The book tells of the travelers experience in a different world, where the people were free to criticize the leaders, where they could buy anything they desired, and where they didn't have to make soup from pig spit. Of course, as we saw, Twoflower the tourist had a very rosy view of the world, and now he's sharing this view with his countrymen. Well, he was until he ended up in prison. Now his daughters have joined the revolution and are keeping a close eye to make sure Rincewind stays put to do his part.
Fortunately, Rincewind isn't going to go it alone. Little does the Empire know that it is under attack by the mighty Silver Horde! Admittedly, when your barbarian horde consists of six old men, very old men, it may take a while to realize your in danger. But when it's Cohen the Barbarian, you better figure it out quick, before you lose your head.
There is treachery in the Empire, though, and it falls on Rincewind and Cohen, with the Silver Horde of course, to find a way to save a nation.
As I've mentioned before, the character of Rincewind is somewhat limited in his utility. As the counter to the eternal hero, there's only so much you can do with a character that is always running away. But this story is a great one for him. How does a coward fight a war? Only by accident! Rincewind can and will leave the revolutionaries to their war. He feels no need to stay and fight at their side (though Fate and Lady Luck do have other plans for him), but he makes some of the best arguments against revolution and war. He develops the greatest plan ever for revolution: build libraries and leave them open to everyone. Knowledge for everyone is indeed the best way to change the world.
His observations on a society so rich in history that it's mired in it are funny and relevant to some cultures today.The lesson that we should hold onto our traditions, our past, but still stay open to incorporating innovation and change to allow our culture to develop and grow is an important one for everyone to learn. An open society, that takes the best of new ideas and interweaves them, is one that will grow and last for ages.
Have you read Interesting Times? Enjoyed it? I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. Read anything like it? I'm always looking for something new to read, to distract me from studying.