Sometimes counted as the ninth Discworld
novel, although this is where numbering gets tricky as some prefer to count Eric
as a special. It's shorter than most Discworld novels, was published by a different publisher, and was originally intended to be an illustrated work. The title is officially simply Eric
, but on most covers it is preceded by the struck-through title Faust
, a reference to how the title character is a parody
of Doctor Faustus
Rincewind was trapped in the Dungeon Dimensions at the end of Sourcery
, but is now summoned back to the Disc by Eric, a young demonologist who was trying to summon a demon with a similar name. (For much of the book he's convinced Rincewind is
a demon.) The story follows the two of them as they inadvertently travel through space and time to grant Eric's Three Wishes
Meanwhile, the King of Hell, the demon Astfgl, is trying to find them, but is always one step behind. His subordinates are mutinous thanks to his attempts to instil modern business practices in Hell - prior to his rule, the damned souls had worked out that pain was purely subjective and thus all the whippings and flayings were purely for the look of the thing, but Astfgl instituted project planning, health and safety and so on and now Hell torments both the damned and its own demons.
This was the last Discworld novel to feature Rincewind (a character whom Terry Pratchett somewhat dislikes, though the fans like him) until the retrospective Interesting Times
. It is also the last to feature the early conception of Unseen University, with the staff changing with each book thanks to the wizards' practice of Klingon Promotion
Preceded by Guards! Guards!
, followed by Moving Pictures
. Preceded in the Rincewind series by Sourcery
, followed by Interesting Times
Was adapted by The BBC
as a short radio play in 2013.
Contains examples of:
- Batman Gambit: Vassenego's plan against Astfgl.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Eric's wishes are (1) to rule all the kingdoms of the world, (2) to meet the most beautiful woman ever, and (3) to live forever. He and Rincewind first visit the Tezumen Empire who try to sacrifice him out of revenge for their absolutely abysmal living conditions, then meet Helen of Tsort about 20 years past her prime, and finally get to live forever starting from the Creation of the Discworld, meaning it will be quite a few millenia before any people show up.
- Brick Joke: Rincewind still can't remember how to pronounce 'eon'.
- The Chessmaster: Vassenego. Which is appropriate, as he's a parody of Vassago, generally considered the wisest demon in Hell.
- Continuity Nod: The Creator briefly worries that he's forgotten something immediately after creating the Discworld. As revealed in The Colour of Magic, he's left the Octavo behind in "a characteristic bout of absent-mindedness".
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Astfgl's use of boredom as torture.
- Cool Tank: Not spelled out, but at the end, Lavaeolus' soul in Hell has the idea for using one of the conveyor belt treadmills as the basis for a new war machine.
- Cosmic Egg: It turns out that life was created by Rincewind (who had gone back in time) tossing away the Egg-and-Cress sandwich given to him by The Creator.
- Deal with the Devil: Eric was shooting for one of these, but accidentally summoned Rincewind instead of the demon who was going to make a deal with him.
- Delegation Relay: Happens to a chain of soldiers trying to find someone to look after a lost child during the Tsortean War.
- Door of Doom: Hell has an impressive one, except the new regime adds a badly-installed doorbell and a jaunty sign.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: Old Tom, Unseen University's bell, is stated to be made of bronze, and used to be normal until its clapper fell out, causing it to toll silences instead. Later books retcon it so that the quirk is a result of being made of the magical metal octiron.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Most of the demons are unhappy because Astfgl found the ultimate torture weapon: boredom. (This could just be because it affected them as well.)
- This has hints of a Mythology Gag, considering it echoes Crowley's own attitude to being a demon. Good Omens and Eric were published in the same year, which suggests that they were written at roughly the same time.
- False Reassurance: Lavaeolus, an Odysseus parody, asks Rincewind if he'll get home all right. Rincewind figures that You Can't Fight Fate and tells him yes, and they'll write stories about him getting home.
- Fountain of Youth: What Ponce da Quirm is searching for. In a typically Pratchett subversion, he actually finds it - but his soul in Hell muses that someone should've told him 'boil the water first'.
- Good Old Ways
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: Astfgl recommends learning from humans in order to inflict really horrible torment.
- Identical Grandson: In an extreme example, Rincewind's distant ancestor Lavaeolus bears a passing resemblance. He also shares Rincewind's keen survival instinct as well as, judging by his ten-year journey home, Rincewind's bad luck. Not to mention his name, if you speak Latin... Er, Latatian.
- Kicked Upstairs: Astfgl's final fate. Subverted in that he's quite happy there.
- The Kid with the Remote Control: Played With with Eric himself, whose attempt to summon a fearsome demon that will grant him his every desire lands him with the ineffectual and very human Rincewind instead.
- Mayincatec: The Tezumen.
- Mind Rape
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Astfgl is just the first one.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: and King of Hell.
- One-Dimensional Thinking: Justified due to "sheer idiot terror" with the jaguar that gets eaten by the Luggage.
- Punny Name: Quetzovercoatl, a pun on the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl and 'overcoat'.
- Real Dreams Are Weirder: Discussed in the narration when describing the demon guarding the gates of hell.
- Self-Inflicted Hell
- Shout-Out: Astfgl's summary of Tezumen history paraphrases Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.
- The Starscream: Vassenego.
- The Strategist: Lavaeolus, who uses his cowardice to help him develop plans with a low chance of getting him (or anyone else) killed.
- Too Many Halves: Quezovercoatl is described as "half-man, half-chicken, half-jaguar, half-serpent, half-scorpion and half-mad", making him three homicidal maniacs.
- Too Many Mouths: Urglefloggah, although where they are isn't specified.
- Tranquil Fury: Astfgl provides a page quote.
- Tsortean Horse: Doubly Subverted. The Ephebians build a wooden horse and leave it outside the Tsortean city gates. The Tsorteans bring the horse inside their walls... Except they saw right through the ruse, and when night falls, they're wide awake and waiting outside the horse to ambush whoever comes out... Except the horse was only a distraction so that the Ephebians could sneak in a different way.
- Under New Management: Hell has recently come under new management, so the traditional punishments get scrapped in favor of mind-numbing eternal boredom.
- The Unpronounceable: Most demonic names are this. When Astfgl tries to look up Rincewind's name in the registry of demons, he notes that "Rincewind" has far more than the usual number of vowels in it.
- Verbal Tic: Eric's parrot, who constantly substitutes the catchall metasyntactic variable "wossname" for random words, along with, to a lesser extent, "Polly want a biscuit," described in the narration as being in the same tone that a human would say "Err..."
- We Have Reserves: The usual attitude of the Ephebian and Tsortean generals - Lavaeolus is considered a bit of a cheater because he actually tries to win battles without huge casualties.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: We don't see the pair actually emerge again on the Discworld after their foray into Hell, and only Rincewind appears in later books, so it's left unstated what became of Eric.
- Zerg Rush: "The consensus seemed to be that if really large numbers of men were sent to storm the mountain, then enough might survive the rocks to take the citadel. This is essentially the basis of all military thinking."