“Multiple exclamation marks,’ he went on, shaking his head, ‘are a sure sign of a diseased mind.” – Rincewind
Book number nine on the Discworld series is a book I haven’t yet read, so naturally I was excited setting out on what, for me, was a brand new adventure. So I opened up Eric and set off. And I am sorry to report, it left me with a slight amount of disappointment. Now, this is not the first Discworld book not to get me excited, laughing from cover to cover, so don’t go thinking I hate this book. I just didn’t love it.
Eric parodies the classic German legend of Faust, a brilliant but dissatisfied scholar who agrees to trade his soul to the devil in return for knowledge and worldly pleasures. To that end, Eric is a 14 year old boy who attempts to summon a demon with the hope of attaining all the worldly pleasures his adolescent mind can conjure up. What he ends up summoning is Rincewind, who has been trapped in the Dungeon Dimensions since the end of Sourcery.
What follows is a bit of a haphazard story flitting throughout time and space. Thanks to the magical ineptitude of Rincewind, the duo travel back to famous civilisations and events in the Disc’s history, including the creation of the universe. They even end up taking a trip through Hell before returning to the Disc. And for me, this is where the biggest issue with the book lies. It feels a little disjointed to me. It’s brilliant to have Rincewind back, but I didn’t feel anything for Eric himself.
I felt the somewhat frequent hopping between locations and time periods unsettled the story. Again, I thought it was okay as a story goes, just not up to the general standard of all of the other books I have read in the Discworld series. I did enjoy the parody links with the real world, however. I like the tribes of Klatch with their ritualistic sacrifices atop Mesoamerican-style pyramids, and the Discworld version of Helen of Troy and the Trojan horse (see the Tsortean war and Elenor of Tsort). But where does it all sit within the narrative?
It felt rather than a logical or necessary part of the development of the series, that this book was first and foremost a vehicle to bring back Rincewind ready for future adventures. It’s a good story, but I didn’t feel this one lived up to the same high standards that I have come to expect from Pratchett’s work. Granted, this is still within the first ten books of the series. That being said I felt the work was becoming more refined a book or two back. This is my first read of Eric, so maybe I am just not getting the subtle touches that make the series so great on this run, but I would say this book sits slightly lower in my mental ranking than Wyrd Sisters.
All-in-all, an okay book which works in bringing back the entertaining Rincewind to the series, but just not as good as others, especially immediately following Guards! Guards!