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A pun on, and inspired by Bill Bryson's "The Lost Continent, "The Last Continent" is Terry Pratchett's 22nd Discworld novel and I class it as one of his best. For the unaware among you Pratchett's Discworld is a strange blend of fantasy, humour and satire.
Set on the Discworld; a flat, magical land were anything can happen and often does; this particular novel centres around Rincewind. A failed "Wizzard", he was accidentally transported by his more learned friends to "The Last Continent" or EcksEcksEcksEcks, a land whose location no one is sure off and some say it does not exist.
This is one of my favourite novels for many reasons but the main one is the lack of plot. Perhaps, a bizarre thing to say but this book benefits from its loose plot outline, which covers the creation of a continent, evolution and stereotypes.
Unlike many of Pratchett's other novels this one follows two paths, that of Rincewind and that of his fellow University members. This allows Pratchett to examine evolution, religion and traditional Australian stereotypes to full effect. He is also able to poke fun at the "typical" tourist, who survives on stock phrases such as "No worries" and eats the native delicacies that the natives themselves would never touch.
The book reads more like a parody than a novel and follows the adventures of Rincewind across the barren land. It initially reads like a funny "Robinson Crusoe" with Rincewind taking the lead and an imaginary God-Like Kangaroo (who bears a remarkable resemblance to Skippy) as his Man Friday. Indeed the tale is partially told in the form of diary entries.
As the novel progresses it is clear that Pratchett has written this as a predominantly humorous novel with parodies of "Priscilla the Queen of the Desert", "Skippy" and "Crocodile Dundee" all thrown into the mix. However, although these are amusing, once again it is the one liners and observations from established characters such as the cowardly, reluctant hero Rincewind, Death and Archancellor Ridcully (Head of Unseen University for Wizards).
Lines such as...
PEOPLE'S WHOLE LIVES DO PASS IN FRONT OF THEIR EYES BEFORE THEY DIE. THE PROCESS IS CALLED 'LIVING'
Rincewind had always been happy to think of himself as a racist. The One Hundred Meters, the Mile, the Marathon -- he'd run them all.
- "I think there may be one or two steps in your logic that I have failed to grasp, Mister Stibbons," said the Archchancellor coldly. "I suppose you're not intending to shoot your own grandfather, by any chance?" - "Of course not!" snapped Ponder, "I don't even know what he looked like. He died before I was born." - "Ah-hah!" (Discussing time travel)
Are all what make the novel a personal favourite. Unfortunately, knowledge of Rincewind's exploits in earlier novels is necessary to fully enjoy some of the jokes. As a continuation in the series this novel reads almost like the funny warm up act before the more serious stuff in novels to come.
Told at a frenetic pace, Pratchett presumes the reader knows his characters well and spends little time characterising preferring to fill his pages with jokes and cameo appearances from favoured characters. As a Discworld fan this is my idea of heaven however, those who are yet to be acquainted with Discworld may find this novel difficult to get into.
At 411 pages this novel reads like it is much less and simply flies by. A real page-turner, it is the sort of novel you promise yourself to only read one more chapter and find three hours later you have finished it. For any fan a must buy and for the unacquainted worth the paltry £6.99 it retails for in paperback.
Just finishing this novel. You are quite right the one-liners are great. Also love the "Aussie stereotypes" and it's funny how spot on some of them are! And that's coming from someone with first hand knowledge. Oh and the vegemite reference, well hey, that might really be how it was thought up! It sounds about right! Enjoyed your review!
lannazus 01.11.2004 21:33
Brilliant book, brilliant review, and brilliant choice of quotes! :D Brilliant! :D