Mark Reads ‘Interesting Times’: Part 12

In the twelfth part of Interesting Times, Rincewind helps Butterfly realize what’s really happening, and the Horde finally steals what they’ve been after the whole time. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of racism.

Well, I didn’t expect THIS.

Rincewind’s Revolution

I’m just so torn by this narrative. I keep trying to look beyond the dynamic of a white man from another country angrily telling revolutionaries how to properly run their own revolution, but I realize that this is the way this has been designed. Rincewind has to be angry because Pratchett built this conflict in a way that would clearly frustrate his main character. And really, I think that’s my problem. Aside from Lord Hong and Pretty Butterfly, Pratchett wrote the Hunghungese as, largely, submissive fools. Rincewind is used to a certain independence from everything, and thus, these people anger him. He even said so in the last section:

He wanted to say: how can you be so nice and yet so dumb?

Do I understand why he’s so irritated? Sure. He comes to this country and discovers that no one is willing to think independently. He discovers that none of these people seem to possess a healthy sense of self-preservation beyond the obvious. He excoriates them for being so polite. What I found was that everything seemed to lack any sense of sympathy or empathy. Rincewind doesn’t ever seem interested in learning why everyone thinks or acts as they do. He makes quick observations, the text supports them immediately, and then he moves on to criticizing everyone. I suppose I’m most disappointed because the one character who didn’t fit into all of this – Pretty Butterfly – is still made out to be a fool in this section. I’m all for characters making mistakes, being flawed, and having to adjust to new information. Certainly, that can make for entertaining fiction! But how is it that every Hunghungese character is flawed? All of them? Not one of them is able to do anything successful without Rincewind?

Of course, Rincewind doesn’t intend to help the revolution at all, but that’s part of how he’s written. He doesn’t intend to help anyone but himself, and yet he still does. So the dynamic is still there in a watered-down form, but I can’t ignore it. What sort of agency do the Hunghungese get in this arrangement if someone else is the one making the decisions for them, even if he doesn’t want that? Well, I think that Pretty Butterfly still has a chance to be the most interesting character in the bunch, and I respect that she still exists as a contradiction to Rincewind’s idea of these people and this culture. Not as entirely as before, mind you, but at least there’s that really awesome scene during the escape when Rincewind is forced to accept that the Red Army leaders aren’t as passive as he thought:

“I’ll head back to the others. You lead the guards away somewhere –”

“Can you all do that?”

“Of course,” said Butterfly, testily. “I told you we fought the guards.”

I’d be more interested by this book if there was a balance in this kind of commentary. If Pratchett is going to satirize “Asian” cultures and governments, then I would like it if Rincewind’s views on everything were skewered just as much, like they are here. For the most part, Pratchett just lets things stand. Sure, many of us might be able to determine what’s meant as satire or criticism, but my issue stems from the fact that the loudest and most obvious satire appears one-sided. When stereotypes or outright racism is used in the text, there’s an expectation that we should know that it is bad, yet Rincewind’s role recently has been to spell things out for us. That lack of Pratchett’s commentary is gone.

And then there’s the tsimo scene. Yikes, y’all. Did Pratchett intend to describe these men in a way to make them seem like animals? Because it’s really over-the-top in a way I did not find funny at all. Why are so many characters in this country so foolish and thoughtless? The whole joke here is that Rincewind uses the promise of food to get the sumo wrestlers to block the other guards. They don’t even speak full words, y’all. What the hell?

The Silver Horde

I don’t see how this can last, but hey! I was somehow EVEN MORE SHOCKED than I was in the last section. Why?

“I’m sorry,” said Six Beneficent Winds. “What’ve you done?

“You know that thing we were here to steal?” said the teacher.

“Yes?”

“It’s the Empire.”

I’ll start with this: Bravo, Terry Pratchett, because I absolutely did not see this coming. While everyone was looking the other way, the Silver Horde snuck into the city, waltzed into the throne room, and made themselves the rulers. I don’t see what their endgame is, though. Won’t they get restless? Are they willing to call it quits after stealing an empire? (This sounds like a Leverage plot, now that I think about it.) I don’t know yet, but there’s still Lord Hong to deal with. I don’t believe he’ll be very happy when he discovers what actually happened after he had the previous Emperor murdered.

But I’m jumping ahead of myself. I’m guessing that’ll be addressed in an upcoming section, and probably the next one, given that scene between Lord Hong and Herb. Truthfully, I really want to know what’s coming next because… how??? How are these men going to deal with stealing an ENTIRE EMPIRE? In the present time, it seems that they’re enjoying the power they have, and hey, they’ll get some breakfast out of it. But then what? Will they really exploit these people and stay in charge? Honestly, I don’t even have a single prediction here. I don’t understand how this can last at all. THUS, I NEED MORE. I need the next part of this story because I genuinely feel like I’m less prepared for the ending as I get closer to it. Did the Horde just throw a giant wrench into everything with this? How is Lord Hong going to enact his plan at all???

I may have issues with a lot of this book, but this middle section is pretty damn exciting.

Mark Links Stuff

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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