Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Review - Terry Pratchett's The Last Continent

The Last Continent (Discworld Book 22) by Terry Pratchett
Published by: Harper Torch
Publication Date: 1998
Format: Paperback, 390 Pages
Challenge: Terry Pratchett, Typically British
Rating: ★★★
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)
Rincewind has gone walkabout and there is trouble brewing at Unseen University. The Librarian is having issues with staying his normal orange hairy self and keeps randomly changing from books to deck chairs. Left unattended the library could become one of the most dangerous places in the whole of Discworld with all that untended magic. The wizards, in a moment of clarity, realize they need to solve this disaster in potentia by getting the Librarian back to his normal orangutan shape. The hitch is they need to know his name, and it's hard for them to remember a time when he actually was human and referred to as something other than "Librarian," let alone remember his name. But they have an inkling that Rincewind knows. So they just need to find Rincewind and all will be well. Only thing is, Rincewind has ended up in EcksEcksEcksEcks, the last continent that gets no rain and no one can get to due to rim fall. Since his arrival things have gone odd, everything is different, but it's been different for thousands of years as of about five minutes previously. There are drawings in the rocks that look vaguely like the faculty of Unseen University... but surely their rescue mission didn't go so awry that they ended up in the right place thousands of years before they meant to? What happens next is what always happens to Rincewind, he has to run, because there's always someone out to get him, this time a magical kangaroo... while the Wizards are relaxing on a tropical beach they found outside a bathroom window in Unseen University. The window shut and now they are trapped... but with cigarette bushes and no apparent predators, life can't be all that bad. That is until they meet the God who is the creative force behind the island. Can all the wizards get together in the same time and place and sort out the Librarian and maybe this whole lost continent? Not even the wizards can be sure of that... they might have destroyed all of causality and stepped on an ant as Ponder says, or as Ridcully says, they've always stepped on the ant so they're on the right track!

I have come to a startling conclusion. I don't really like Rincewind. It's not a hate or a dislike of his character, it's a dislike of his story arcs. He's always running and he's just fixing things by pure chance. Whereas I love the Wizards! Their interaction and social dynamics are fabulous. I also think I'm crushing a little on Ponder Stibbons... ah young wizard geek, you are for me. So therefore this book became very two fold for me. Whenever it was Rincewind in Australia, because that is what "XXXX" is, it was too much "how can I fit in another film reference, cause that's all anyone knows about Australia," oh look, Mad Max and Priscilla references abound! Versus the Wizards and their exploration of their island and how it was evolving to suit their lethargic Hobbit esque ways. In fact I think Wizards might just have Hobbits beat on a meals per day basis... just putting this out there! Plus, with the inadvertent and unexpected company of their female housekeeper, well, the Wizards trying to maintain some sense of proper decorum and respect while still living the island life is hilarious.

The one thing I found very interesting is this book's correlations to Pratchett's later work, Nation. I really didn't like that book, it was slow and ponderous and at times very confusing. I know I'm alone in this, it's won lots of awards, whatever, it just wasn't my cup of tea. As I was reading The Last Continent I kept thinking, this here, THIS is what I expected and wanted Nation to be like. Just turns out Pratchett had written it ten years earlier with wizards!


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