As I've made my way through the Discworld reading order, I occasionally stumble across barriers. Sometimes it's a short story in a collection that I can't seem to track down. One of the longest-standing obstacles for me has been a story in the Rincewind saga named "Eric". Or "Faust." It depends on who you ask.
Technically, the book is available for a mere $7.99 as a cheap paperback. Just a little research, though, revealed that this was a bastardized version. The original promised a richly illustrated story, while the mass market paperback cut out all that and reduced it to the bare story. I dislike watering anything down, especially my fantasy, and resolved to seek out the pure version.
This proved more troublesome than I would have thought. For a few months I hit up Ebay, but prices for this (used) book hovered around $300, even higher for signed copies. Yikes! I was about to give up and resign myself to the cheapie, when a whim drove me over to amazon.co.uk, thinking that perhaps Pratchett's home country, home to his most loyal fans, might still be producing the richer version. It was not, but amazon.co.uk does have an active second-hand market, similar to the "buy used" section of amazon.com, and holy cow, was it ever active. Ebay would typically just have about two copies of the real deal available, but there were well over a dozen on display here. The prices ranged widely, to well over 100 pounds for the signed copies, but I could get good-condition used copies for a rather reasonable sum. Feeling elated, I grabbed two from different sellers, reasoning that at least one of them must be presentable.
Fortunately, both arrived smoothly and in great condition. It was yet another excellent shopping experience from the Amazon empire, and I'm glad to see that their UK operation is just as sharp as the US version.
I smiled as I first looked at the cover, which is titled "FAUST" in type, then "FAUST" is struck out and the name "ERIC" scrawled to its side. The cover illustration is gorgeous. The book was illustrated by Josh Kirby, who, I learned, drew the covers for most of the early Discworld books. Sadly, for some reason the American publishers didn't want to use his work, so we didn't get to see any of it over here. It's a good style, proudly fantastical, but slightly more cartoony than, say, the Brothers Hildebrandt. His scenes are extremely busy, filled with an amazing number and variety of creatures; the first impression is one of being overwhelmed, and only later, when you start to focus on individual sections of the drawing, do you realize that each individual portion is well-rendered and interesting. Quite a few of these gorgeous paintings fill the book, and for each one I found myself bouncing back and forth between trying to take in the entire scene and walking through all the detail work.
The story itself is quite good, albeit a little brief. Even with the illustrations the book is just around 100 pages. It's more or less a typical Rincewind story, and after you've read a few you'll know what that means: Rincewind is summoned by powers beyond his control, told do do something, then spends the remainder of the novel trying to run away while inadvertently fulfilling his summoned purpose. All good fun.
After reading it, I'm even less surprised that you can't easily find a copy of the book here in the states. As you may or may not be able to guess from the title, the book has a lot to do with demons and hell, two topics that America may find a little less amusing than England. We've come a long way from book-burnings and such here, but still, I can easily imagine some people having a problem with a cartoony-looking collection of devils romping around a fiery subterranean cavern. In a children's book. Just sayin.'
Faust/Eric is essential for the Discworld completists; for those of you just tasting the series or following a particular thread (Guards, Witches, etc.), you can pass without feeling guilty. If anyone does want a read, just let me know and I'll gladly lend you my copy. I'm glad I found the English connection, but there's no reason why we ALL should pay for trans-Atlantic shipping.