Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Last Continent - Terry Pratchett

1998; 390 pages.  Genre : Comedic Fantasy.  New Author? : No.  Book #22 in the Discworld series.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Ook.  The librarian at the wizards' Unseen University (who's an orangutan) is sick, and every time he sneezes, he changes into some other animal.  Iggle.  Well, sometimes he changes into things like a piece of furniture, although it's nice to sit in a chair upholstered in red fur.  Eek.  Without him in control, the Books of Magic in the Library are in open revolt, and that threatens all of Discworld.  So we better cure the librarian.

    A spell should do the trick, but you need to know the librarian's name (he once was a human) to direct the incantation.  Alas, he's been an orangutan for so long, no one remembers his name,.  Rincewind would, but he's on the other end of Discworld - on a mysterious island called Xxxx, or The Last Continent.

    So our plucky band of Wizards transport themselves to Xxxx (pronounced 'Fourecks') to find Rincewind.  But there's a small hitch.  They've landed 30,000 years in the past.

What's To Like...
    The two main themes of The Last Continent are Terry Pratchett's salute to Australia and his musings about Evolution.

    The Wizards are here, and that inevitably means mayhem runs rampant.  Rincewind is here, and that means The Luggage is also present.  DEATH makes a couple appearances, and there's a kewl God of Evolution.  There's even a tip of the hat to Quantum Physics.

    You might miss "regulars" like the Night Watch, Lord Vetineri, and the Witches, but there are Mad Dwarves, friendly jailers/executioners, a second Rincewind, and a magical kangaroo to stand in their places.

     The humor is more laid-back than in the early Rincewind novels, but there's plenty to chuckle about.  30,000 years might sound like a huge gap between the two storylines, but Pratchett merges them into a well-crafted ending.

Kewlest New Word...
    There's some Aussie slang phrases, but that's about it.  No words that I didn't already know.

    (T)here are some people who have a legend that the whole universe is carried in a leather bag by an old man.
    They're right, too.
    Other people say: hold on, if he's carrying the entire universe in a sack, right, that means he's carrying himself and the sack inside the sack, because the universe contains everything.  Including him.  And the sack, of course.  Which contains him and the sack already.  As it were.
    To which the reply is: well?
    All tribal myths are true, for a given value of "true".  (pg. 2)

    "Haven't you noticed that by running away you end up in more trouble?"
    "Yes, but, you see, you can run away from that, too," said Rincewind.  "That's the beauty of the system.  Dead is only for once, but running away is for ever."
    "Ah, but it is said that a coward dies a thousand deaths, while a hero dies only one."
    "Yes, but it's the important one."   (pg. 150)

    The ability to ask questions like "Where am I and who is the 'I' that is asking?" is one of the things that distinguishes mankind from, say, cuttlefish.  (pg. 369)

A wizard without a hat (is) just a sad man with a suspicious taste in clothes.  (pg. 65)
    If you've never read a Discworld book before, The Last Continent is probably not the one to start off with.  It helps to already know Rincewind runs away from trouble; it helps to already know why the librarian has a penchant for bananas; it helps to already know DEATH is a likeable chap.

    Discworld fans will find this a solid effort by Terry Pratchett, and an entertaining read.  It may not be the greatest book in the series, but it's still pretty darn good.  Mate.  8 Stars.

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