In the seventh and penultimate part of Eric, the pair make a visit to Hell. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For talk of torture
This is such a strange book. I can’t believe I’m almost done with it! But lord, this section was SO good, a perfect mixture of dread, disgust, and humor. I think it’s pretty cool that I can feel so unnerved by the idea of Astfgl’s Hell, and yet it’s still really funny to me. Pratchett lambasts the hellish experience of micro-management and corporate culture by creating a version of Hell that tortures the soul, not the body. And how do you do that?
Through utter, complete, and hopeless boredom.
We begin to understand Astfgl’s reign better through Urglefloggah, Spawn of the Pit and Loathly Guardian of the Dread Portal. (How May I Help You?) Turns out that Eric’s reverse magic circle sent them to Hell, where Urglefloggah acts as the demon who welcomes all condemned souls to the place… through euphemisms. And flowery, meaningless language, stuffed full of wasteful words like the best customer service operators on the planet. In Astfgl’s version of Hell, he found a way to make the Sartre’s claim real by creating a system of torture that torments people through listless nothingness. It’s certainly effective, but Pratchett makes it clear that these demons hate the new arrangement. Actually, it’s not just the demons, but I’ll touch in that in a bit. The demons are just as bored as those they are tormenting, maybe even more so.
The details are just TOO EERIE, y’all. From terrible hotels in the middle of nowhere with limited cable choices (I honestly stayed at one of these last summer, and it was mind-numbingly scary) to the man doomed to suffer to listening to his upcoming surgery (which never happens), Hell is transformed into a horrifying place. Look, it’s not like physical torture is pleasant to think about, but there’s an existential dread written into each and every of these scenarios that Astfgl came up with. Plus, I’m sure that each of us could come up with our own little scenes that would represent Hell.
- You stand in line at the DMV with an appointment, eager to get a replacement ID for one you lost, and every time it gets to your number, the system skips it. When you protest, you’re told to just wait until it gets around to your number again.
- You’re handed a new trilogy of books every day, and right as you finish the second one, the third one disappears. (This would ironically improve some series, giving you a sense of hope that would last just until you started a new one.)
- You’re in a cafe. You have to get online to try to buy tickets to Beyoncé’s latest show. Your laptop refuses to connect to the wi-fi. Everyone around you gets tickets.
- You have to read the Terms of Service on every website you’ve ever been on.
- Standardized testing. Every. Fucking. Day.
- You have an important appointment to get to. You are stuck behind people who walk abreast of each other on the sidewalk, won’t move when you ask, and are walking at one mile per hour.
- You have to turn in a cable box.
- You have to talk to Comcast on the phone.
- You have to cancel your cable.
I could keep going. I have a lot of hatred for cable companies, y’all.
The point, though, is that the Demon King has upset tradition in Hell. There’s no physical torture. It’s just:
…this was just boredom on top of more boredom, winding in on itself until it became a great crushing sledgehammer which paralyzed all thought and experience and pounded eternity into something like flannel.
The demons hate it. The people being tortured hate it. No one likes it, even if it technically works better! But what can the demons do? Their power pales in comparison to Astfgl’s, and none of them can deny that the work they do is efficient, in the slowest possible way. And with Astfgl on his way to deal with Rincewind’s humanity, I doubt he’s going to be willing to listen to any sort of reason about how Hell is run. Of course, now I’m a little curious. If Astfgl genuinely didn’t know that Rincewind was a human, then… where did Ricnewind’s powers come from? He was still able to to grant Eric’s wishes as if he really was a demon. Hmmmm. I AM PERPLEXED.
I kind of wanted this review to be 666 words long. Ah, oh well.
The original text contains use of the word “mad.”
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