There is only one fantasy author working today who is worthy of notice outside of that genre's enormous but insular fan base, and that's Terry Pratchett. Because he writes not just fantasy, but humorous fantasy, the consistent wonderfulness of his books is even more amazing. Instead of just making the same boring inside jokes, Pratchett uses the genre's hoary old archetypes and tired old plot conventions to tell an actual story about real-world issues, a formula which fans of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy will recognize. But Pratchett does it even better than Adams: In the case of Interesting Times, what starts out as a simple story of an incompetent wizard who suddenly finds himself halfway around the world evolves into a surprisingly thoughtful parable about oppressive government, East-West cultural relations, and revolutionary theory. Of course, it's a rather simplistic parable, but it's also wildly entertaining; Pratchett has the twin gift, rare in any genre, of being able to tell both jokes and stories at the same time. That's something no reader in search of smart light reading should pass up.

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