The Last Continent - Terry Pratchett

I mentioned, while reviewing Thief of Time, that I've been going through some difficult times, health-wise. I read this maybe a week ago, but very slowly while stuck at the bottom of the health curve. I had minor surgery a couple of days ago, and now feel well enough to be able to write a review (with 2.5 litres of fluid having been taken off my right lung!). Hurrah!

This is the very late end of early Discworld, and the overall subject matter is kind of symptomatic of the rut fallen into with Rincewind, where he goes to a new place and ends up being a hero while trying to run away. Even the book title acknowledges this. Having visited the China-equivalent Agatean Empire in Interesting Times, he's literally visting The Last Continent on the Discworld, the Australia-equivalent Ecks Ecks Ecks Ecks.

You can almost feel the relief of Terry being sure that he's finally mined that seam empty with this book.

It's not quite just a Rincewind book, it is also a Wizards book. They have a minor adventure, almost worthy of a short story. Mostly, though, it follows Rincewind through a tour of "What would the Discworld version of an English person's stereotypical view of Australia in the late 1990s look like?". It ends up being split between "Aussie" stuff and a mystical take on aboriginal art.

There's plenty of room to reduce modern Australia to stereotypes, or treat the aboriginal elements in a culturally painful way. I would say the approach is uninspired, but manages not to feel too clunky twenty-something years later.

Theme-wise, there's a plot, but it doesn't really do more than justify Rincewind running away through the various Australian stereotypes. There is maybe some attempt to muse on the subjective nature of time, as taken with a Discworld slant, but I think this is far better explored in Thief of Time. Maybe this can be be viewed as a warm-up exercise for that?

This is not a great Discworld book. I don't even think I can say it's a good one, but despite all that the strength of Terry's prose carries it from page-to-page. It remains enjoyable. Finishing it, I did have a vague sense of relief that I think I've hit the end of the Rincewind series, and at that point he gets a well-earned semi-retirement into a minor chair at Unseen University (and the occasional side-kick role). He deserves it!

In short, I find it hard to dislike even the most luke-warm of Discworld novels.

Posted 2023-12-14.