Faust Eric) is the ninth book in the Discworld saga and fourth to feature Rincewind after The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, and Sourcery. It initially came out as The Illustrated Eric, accompanied by a number of splendid illustrations by Josh Kirby, the historic illustrator of the Discworld books’ covers. I read it the first time in its edition without drawings, and the second time as it was originally conceived and created.
As mentioned, this is more of a short story than a full novel, and the purely humorous intent of Pratchett is immediately clear. Death informs the wizards of Unseen University that Rincewind is lost in the Dungeon Dimensions (after the events of Sourcery) and that he has exactly one in a million chance of being able to return to the Discworld. And we know (from Guards! Guards!) that with such low chances, Rincewind can only succeed!
How? He gets summoned by a particularly young demonologist, Eric, who has very clear ideas on what to do in life: to be immortal, to become the lord of the world, and to have the most beautiful woman who has ever lived. Only, you have to be careful what you wish for…1
Each of these desires becomes the vehicle for jokes, one more amusing than the other, on the myth of the fountain of youth, on the ancient pre-Columbian civilizations2, and on the Trojan war. And it all ends with a tour of a recently renovated Hell that resembles a modern company, for the desperation of the various demons who have to work there and the damned who have to spend eternity with them.
There are dozens and dozens of jokes that work great in the book. If I have to be a little critical, I could say that there’s little else, but is it this such a big flaw? Evidently it’s not with Eric that Pratchett wanted to tackle deep themes and make the reader think. With Eric is made to entertain the readers and make them laugh, and it does so in a spectacular manner!
It could be argued that in terms of intent and narrative structure this is a step back from the immediately preceding books (Pyramids and Guards! Guards!), but as mentioned Eric is more of a short story than anything else, so it would be unfair to judge it as if was a standard book in the saga. And then I laughed so much while reading Eric that I really don’t feel like criticizing it? Pratchett must have thought the same thing too: although he was undoubtedly a genius, he didn’t necessarily have to write books that were all profound, brilliant and complicated in the same way, right? Plus, you can find some food for thought in this book too…3
Eric is just brilliant, please read it and I’m sure you’ll love it, and as a bonus you’ll also find a lot of nice illustrations by Josh Kirby.4 The story will probably remind you of The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic , if you’ve read them, but the journey here is through time as well as space. And even through dimensions, since England is mentioned at one point, in one of the rare moments in the Discworld in which Pratchett presents himself as the narrator of our world rather than being totally immersed in what he created. Ciao!
1. The whole point of the wish business was to see to it that what the client got was exactly what he asked for and exactly what he didn’t really want.
2. The Tezuman Empire in the jungle valleys of central Klatch is known for it organic market gardens, its exquisite craftsmanship in obsidian, feathers and jade, and its mass human sacrifices in honor of Quezovercoatl, the Feathered Boa, god of mass human sacrifices.
3. The gods of the Disc have never bothered much about judging the souls of the dead, and so people only go to hell if that’s where they believe, in their deepest heart, that they deserve to go. Which they won’t do if they don’t know about it. This explains why it is so important to shoot missionaries on sight.
4. Here’s one below!