Eric by Terry Pratchett (1990) 155 p.
Discworld #9 (Rincewind #4)
I had virtually no memory of what’s possibly the slimmest entry in the Discworld series, and after reading it again I can see why. Eric is the fourth entry in the Rincewind arc, and it doesn’t even manage the more coherent plot of the last one, Sourcery; it certainly comes nowhere near the lofty heights of its immediate predecessor Guards, Guards. Rather, Eric takes us almost all the way back to the scattershot freestyle of The Colour of Magic: a series of disconnected adventures with no overarching theme, story, or really anything other than an excuse to drag Rincewind through a series of comedic setpieces.
When we last left the hapless, cowardly wizard he was trapped in the Dungeon Dimensions after the events of Sourcery; at the beginning of Eric he escapes after being accidentally summoned by Eric, a nerdy teenage demonologist from Pseudopolis. Rincewind and Eric are then dutifully thrust through time and space, visiting a Mayan-inspired jungle society, a riff on the Battle of Troy, the creation of the universe (with the Creator himself being the same shtick about dodgy builders that wore out its welcome back in Pyramids) and then back into Hell itself (where the king of demons is, again, a repeated joke – this time the concept that real hell is bureaucracy, which Pratchett already did with the villain in The Light Fantastic.)
There’s really very little to say here, other than the observation of just how odd it is that Pratchett wrote this directly after Guards, Guards, the best and most mature entry in the series yet. Possibly the problem is inherent in returning to Rincewind as a character; a character Pratchett wasn’t yet willing to abandon. (Rincewind’s books will become fewer and fewer as the series goes on, and the best of them, Interesting Times, is really more about Cohen the Barbarian.) Eric was originally published as a larger, heavily illustrated, sort-of-art book – though this still doesn’t explain why Pratchett wanted to write it in the first place, other than perhaps being unsure of himself as he rode the crest of the increasingly popular series. Or, more charitably, because it was a bit of fun that he could scribble out in a couple of weeks.
Eric is by no means a bad book – it’s breezy, funny, and readable, like everything Pratchett writes – but it’s certainly one of the least worthwhile of the Discworld series. Even The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic have the excuse of being the very first ones. Coming right after Guards, Guards, Eric is a curious anomaly.