Interesting Times

The seventeenth novel in the Discworld Series

UK hbk: Victor Gollancz, 43,000 copies on 2 November 1994 (0-575-05800-5). Repr. three times (twice in November 1994) before reissue on 21 October 1999 (0-575-0688-1)
Book proof: 250 copies
Discworld Collector’s Library: The Unseen University Collection (hbk, cover engraving by Joe McLaren): Gollancz, 15 May 2014 (978-1-473-20022-7)

Pbk: Corgi, 294,000 copies on 2 November 1995 (0-552-14235-2), reprinted 1995 (twice), 1996, 1997 (twice), etc.
New issue, with black/gold photographic design cover, on sale at same time as Kirby edition, 26 September 2005 (0-552-15321-4)
B-format, with modified Kirby design, Corgi, 6 June 2013 (978-0-552-16754-3)

Book club: BCA, 1995 (CN 8469)
BCA’s Unseen Library: c.3,000 copies in December 2007 (CN 154301)

Large print: Isis, 1995 (Hbk 1-85695-254-1, pbk -274-6)

USA hbk: Harper Prism (jacket illus. Michael Sabanosh), 2 April 1997 (0-06-105252-3)
Proofs: number unknown
Pbk: Harper Prism (cover illustration as hbk), April 1998 (0-06-105690-1)

Reprinted in June 2000 under the HarperTorch imprint
The 13th reprint had a new cover: HarperTorch but same ISBN March 2004 (0-06-105690-1)
Premium pbk: Harper, 28 January 2014 (978-0-06-227629-2)
Library hbk of pbk: Turtleback (978-0-613-57225-5)

US book club: Science Fiction Book Club July 1997 Selection (cover as hbk) 4 June 1997 (ref. 16004)

Bulgarian: Интересни Времена, trs. Vladimir Zarkov, Vuzev/Arhont-V, 3,000 copies in June 1999 (954-422-052-6)

Czech: Zajímavé Časy, trs. Jan Kantůrek Talpress, 10,000 copies in June 1998 (80-7197-158-8)
Double volume, with Maskerade, pencil drawings by Paul Kidby, Talpress, 2012 (978-80-7197-464-2)

Dutch: Interessante Tijden, trs. Joke de Vries, Het Spectrum, 5,000 copies in October 1998 (90-274-6146-5)
Reissue: Mynx, 2009 (978-90-8968-107-2)

Estonian: Huvitav Aeg, trs. Avo Reinvald, jacket illus. Hillar Mets, Varrak, 1,000 copies on 20 October 2004 (9985-3-0914-6)

Finnish: Kiintoisia Aikoja, trs. Mika Kivimäki, Karisto, 2006 (951-23-4738-5)

French: Les Tribulations d’un Mage en Aurient, trs. Patrick Couton, L’Atalante, May 2001 (2-84172-180-9)
Reissue, with new introduction by Terry Pratchett (dated September 2014), 14 October 2016 (978-2-84172-784-1)

Mass market: Pocket, February 2005 (2-66-14803-6)
Pbk with Marc Simonetti cover: Pocket, ?/12 (978-2-266-14803-0)

German trade pbk: Echt zauberhaft, trs. Andreas Brandhorst, Goldmann, 30,000 copies on 10 March 1997 (3-442-41599-3)
The lettering on the front cover of the fifth printing was reduced in size.
Mass market pbk: Goldmann, December 2001 (3-442-43050-X)
Double volume: with Soul Music/Rollende Steine, Goldmann, March 2009 (978-3-442-13441-0)

Hungarian: Érdekes idök, trs. Csaba Járdán, Delta Vision, 23 July 2010 (978-963-9890-53-4)

Polish: Ciekawe czasy, trs. Piotr W. Cholewa, Prószyński i S-ka, 2003 (83-7337-292-X)

Russian: Интересные времена, trs. S. Uvbarkh under the editorial guidance of  A.Zhukarentsev, Eksmo, 11 July 2003 (5-699-03625-3)

Serbian/Yugoslav: Zanimljiva Vremena, trs. Aleksander Milaji*, Laguna, 2005 (86-7436-363-6)

Spanish: Tiempos Interesantes, trs. Javier Calvo Perales, Plaza y Janés, July 2005 (84-01-33562-0)
Pocket book: Debols!llo/Plaza y Janés, September 2006 (84-8346-083-1; vol.342/18)
Kiosk edition: Altaya, 2008 (978-84-487-2622-5)

Swedish: Spännande tider, Wahlströms ?October 1999 (91-32-32370-0)
Laminated paper covered boards ‘first edition hardbacks’: 2000 (91-32 32500-2)
pbk: 2001 (91-32-43325-5)

 

Reviews

As Pratchett’s sales trajectory continues to climb off the scale, it’s encouraging to report no sign of the falling off of ambitiousness that often accompanies such great success. But a question does arise: how long can this kind of astonishing verbal dexterity and wit be best showcased in the fantasy universe of the Discworld? Still, for the aficionado, the traditional Pratchett market stall is festooned with much new finery. Ridcully, prompted by an albatross messenger, dragoons Rincewind the wizard to take a perilous trip to the Counterweight Continent. There he finds himself involved in politics and the Art of War with the fearsome Lord Hong. The coruscating and comic ideas show the author’s imagination to be as fecund as ever. To wit the beautifully conceived ‘Magic Age’ computer that involves an ant farm. He is ensured reviews like this one until he tackles his Hampstead/Islington chattering classes novel. Publishing News

Terry Pratchett, the thinking person’s wassname, surely there can’t be anybody out there who doesn’t have a pretty good idea of what the Discworld books are like now? This is the latest paperback…and it follows the adventures of Rincewind the wizzard (sic – on hat) and Cohen the Barbarian and his gang (the Silver Horde) on the fabled Counterweight continent. It seems Twoflower – you remember Twoflower, from The Colour of Magic, the innocent, amiable tourist who turned Ankh-Morpork upside-down at the drop of a rhinu – well Twoflower returned to the Empire Behind the Wall, and wrote – and, worse, published – a book of revolutionary thought, entitled ‘What I did on My Holidays’. This results in, well, in ‘interesting times’; really very interesting indeed for almost everyone concerned. Oh yes, and the Luggage falls in love. Now go away and read the book. You had to have been there, and if you read the book, you will have been.
Not convinced yet? Well, this book is about 50% wisdom, 50% compassion, 50% humour and 50% acute observation of all your little character faults (and everyone else’s, so it’s okay, you’re not being singled out for anything in particular). It is a very good book indeed.
Still not convinced?  I guess there are people who don’t enjoy Pratchett books. They probably take themselves, and Literature, and Life, very seriously indeed. At all time. Permission to lighten up with this book is hereby granted to everyone else. Have a wonderful time!
Sue Thomason in Vector, Christmas 1995

Interesting Times is already packed firmly into the little red woolly stocking I make up for myself annually just in case Father Christmas forgets. Christina Hardyment, Independent Books of the Year

The mad story is largely an excuse for the jokes, which come thick – but sharpened – and fast. Pratchett’s speciality is what might be called lateral thinking humour. Everything makes sense but in a way you don’t quite expect.  Derwent May in The Times

Terry Pratchett isn’t so much an author as an unstoppable phenomenon…. his capacity for wild inventiveness remains undimmed and his army of fans continue to clamour for more.
These books act like a drug, and it’s a joy to become addicted to their unique mixture of word-play, surreal logic and sharp observation….
Part of Pratchett’s technique is to fantasise the familiar, and here he gives us a Discworlded version of pre-Revolutionary China, complete with the terracotta army, the politest political slogans in the world and an oddly recognisable street-trader whose 100-year-old eggs are a mite too fresh. Mr Pratchett’s tried and tested recipe serves up another sizzling new dish.  The Journal, Newcastle-on-Tyne

Students applying to my department at York University often claim on their entrance forms that their favourite authors are Thomas Hardy and Terry Pratchett. One is a set author; the other is someone they really enjoy reading. Pratchett may well last as long as Hardy, or more appositely, as P.G.Wodehouse. For the army is not made up just of teenagers (male and female in roughly equal numbers), but of their parents too. Some of the jokes, ones suspects, are only understood by the well read; others, perhaps, are missed by all but the young…
It is an odd thing about the Discworld books that they contravene the general law of series, and get better as they go on. The early books had some good jokes and memorable characters, as well as the benefit of novelty, but they did not have strong plots; since then the plots have matured, along with the characters. Pratchett’s satire is no longer aimed at the worlds of other writers… but at twentieth century Earth. In Discworld, our institutions, our follies, even our laws of nature all appear – but twisted, distorted, magnified, ridiculed. There is a slight scholarly cast to the humour; as in Gibbon, many of the jokes are in the footnotes and Discworld itself is explained rationally, within a science that operates at least one dimension away from our own. For example, academics have begun to explore fuzzy logic; in Pratchett, the Unseen University has a chair of woolly thinking – which is like fuzzy logic, only more so. Living is not easy on Discworld: “life is like a bird which flies out of the darkness and across a  crowded hall and then through another window into the endless night again. In Rincewind’s case it had managed to do something incontinent in his dinner.”
Pratchett’s humour takes logic past the point of absurdity and round again, but it is his unexpected insights into human morality that make the Discworld series stand out from other fantasies. Pratchett is pro-feminist, pro-pacifist, pro-anarchist, and pro- just being a thoughtful human being without any of that silly heroism which gets people killed, but he is without any patronizing pedantry…. we are left waiting eagerly for the next volume. Edward James in The Times Literary Supplement

funny, delightfully inventive, and refuses to lie down in its genre. David Buckley, Observer

A Martian who scanned the bestseller lists would have no doubt about the identity of Britain’s leading novelist. His last novel squats invincibly at the head of the paperback charts; his new one jostles for the hardback top spot. Yes: Terry Pratchett’s Pythonesque parodies of sword-and-sorcery fantasy have reached their 17th episode, with Interesting Times. Many critics on  the quality papers have cheered his wit and wisdom, while sneering at unhip rivals for overlooking such a craze.
It’s strange, then, that none of these trend-followers has tackled one large theme of a novel that sets the (undersized) brain of Rincewind the Wizard and the (geriatric) brawn of Cohen the Barbarian against the inscrutable might of the Agatean Empire. Yet this aspect will hit the dullest reader in the face with all the pungency of that Agatean delicacy, the ‘Dish of Glistening Brown Stuff’. For Interesting Times translates into Pratchett’s own Discworld a familiar cultural clash between the brash, free west and the tyrannous and decadent orient. It works as a kind of Popperian fable, which aims to prove the superiority of an open society of plain-speaking traders and fighters against a rigid hierarchy whose servile peasantry suffer ‘whips in the soul’….
Pratchett has a vast fan-club of computer nerds. (And he knows it: one joke refers to the very remote prospect of ‘intelligent life evolving from arts graduates’.) What might happen if most of a hi-tech trade mission to Beijing were to read this book on the plane? Interesting times, indeed.
Boyd Tonkin in New Statesman and Society

One of his best – which if you know Pratchett at all, is high praise. Nine to Five, 21/11/94

screamingly funny. Terry Pratchett writes with his usual style and wit.  Kent Today

I hadn’t read one [a Discworld novel] before and I zipped my way through this volume in one sitting.
The book is packed full of puns, literary and historical allusions as well as slapstick and if I have one criticism it is that Pratchett sometimes uses three jokes where only one would have been sufficient.
This minor cavil aside, it’s a real delight to read a book that combines wit and fun with an involving, exciting plot which sometimes touches remarkable depths of understanding about life.
I will certainly be catching up with the other 16 books at the earliest opportunity.  Hull Daily Mail

a vintage selection of running gags that Pratchett sustains beyond all normal limits of satirical endurance.  Venue

It is perhaps the case that one always wants the very best, another Small Gods, or Men at Arms, perhaps; and Interesting Times does not quite rank with either. But the passage-work remains astonishingly deft, and the timing of the humour makes you think you’re reading music, full score. Interzone

As ever, Pratchett’s writing is a delight. A populist in the best way, his work is thought-provoking, philosophical and laugh-out-loud funny. His skill is almost in what he doesn’t write, setting up situations whereby the reader’s mind cannot help but fill in the blanks. He is a master of the awkward silence, the embarrassed pause, suggesting physical mannerisms but never actually needing to commit them to paper. The resulting story is possibly Pratchett’s strongest to date – not necessarily his funniest, but we cannot deny him the right to develop his talent. A stunning book by anyone else’s standards. By Pratchett’s, merely excellent. Gair Rhydd

Background illustration © and by courtesy of Marc Simonetti