Before the Discworld had Tiffany Aching, there was Eric Thursley. An ambitious teenage boy, he wants his cake and to eat it, too. Eric (1991), the ninth Discworld novel, sees the teen on a journey that parodies the Faust legend in a manner only Terry Pratchett can. Rincewind bumbling along in tow, Eric achieves a higher plane of understanding in most unlikely fashion—all no thanks to the ill-starred wizard’s mix of luck.
A thirteen year-old amateur demonologist, Eric summons the unwitting Rincewind into a hex circle in his bedroom one evening and demands the cowardly wizard supply his three innermost desires: the most beautiful woman, to rule the world, and to live forever. The boy’s parrot confusing matters, suddenly the three (the dirty-mouthed bird, included) find themselves in the jungles of the Tezumen Empire. Exploring what is a thin disguise for Aztec culture, they learn many things while put in some tricky situations, but not before the Luggage with legs makes its appearance—and not a minute too late. Their Faustian journey only beginning, the pair proceed to embark on a jaunt through time and space that traverses the most disparate of lands, hell just the last stop on the line.
In its earnestness to parody Faust, Eric can sometimes feel like one of Discworld’s more scattered offerings. But this would be to overlook the quality of the parody. Though one of the early books in the series, Pratchett is nevertheless in solid form; the commentary on religion and materialism is as humorous and witty as ever, and as always, a firm but subtle hand guides what is a classic plot to a contemporary conclusion. The demons and the ultimate hell, they are just the icing on the cake (and nicely complementing Terry Gilliam’s Brazil).
In the end, Eric is one of the lesser discussed Discworld novels, but undeservingly so. Eric Thursley the ying to Tiffany Aching’s yang, it is unfortunate that Pratchett hasn’t chosen to develop the character further for boys. The trademark humor just as slick and subtly revelatory as other Discworld novels, while perhaps less slapstick, nevertheless tickles the funny bone. The duo’s time with the creator of the universe and introduction to hell are humor of the cleverly delightful variety. Featuring Rincewind, the Luggage, the demons, and a guest cameo by Death, fans of the series will have difficulty going wrong.