The Last Continent: No worries in Australia, Mate

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Last Continent by Terry PratchettThe Last Continent by Terry Pratchett

In The Last Continent, Terry Pratchett sends Rincewind and the Unseen University wizards to Xxxx (Fourecks), which, the narrator explains, is not Australia.

In Interesting Times, Unseen University wizards inadvertently sent Rincewind to the Counterweight Continent (China), and now they inadvertently travel into the past of Fourecks — the Last Continent being created on the Discworld — while trying to figure out the Librarian’s name. Ponder Stibbins is the first to realize that the wizards have traveled into the past, and he warns the wizards that they must be careful to not change the future. Certainly, they must not kill one of their ancestors. But why would they want to do that? interrupts Ridcully. The Archchancellor argues that they’re already in the past, changing things, so the changes have already happened. And so a continent is created. The wizards meet the god of evolution, who thinks he might be an atheist, and they teach him about sex. Although he finds it ridiculous, he concedes that it might be useful for evolutionary purposes and begins redesigning all the animals.

In the present, Rincewind meets a kangaroo, Scrappy. Scrappy, who does not believe in rain, is the first of many Australian icons that Rincewind encounters. Here are a few other icons that show up:fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

At times, the people of Fourecks seem especially rugged and even unsophisticated. In these moments, they are always quick to point out how cultured Fourecks is. For example, when Rincewind remarks that Fourecks is a strange country, he is told: “we’ve got an opera house. That’s culture.” Another character assures Rincewind that they have wine in addition to beer.

Rincewind may not fit in at Unseen University — he is awful at being a wizard — but he has a knack for living on the Last Continent. He shears sheep quickly, finds food in the desert, and he invents vegemite. Unfortunately, he is taken into custody when he is accused of stealing a sheep. Rincewind is innocent, but no one seems concerned. They only ask that he please, like Tincan Ned, escape from prison, make a famous last stand, be recaptured, and also leave them with some famous last words. They promise to turn his story into a ballad.

I did not expect much from The Last Continent — does the world need another joke about koalas? — which may be why I enjoyed it as much as I did. The Last Continent’s humor is sometimes corny, but I liked it. At one point, we learn of a town called Dijabringabeeralong. Like so many of Pratchett’s books, there are many great one-liners, and my favorite may have been:

Daggy stepped forward, but only comparatively; in fact, his mates had all, without discussion, taken one step backwards in the choreography of caution.

I also enjoyed the bickering between Ridcully and his staff, which played very well on audiobook.

The Last Continent is the 22nd DISCWORLD novel and the sixth to feature Rincewind as its protagonist. Readers can confidently start reading here without feeling as though they have skipped something essential to following the story, and readers can skip this entry with equal confidence. The Last Continent may be a light entry in the DISCWORLD catalogue, but it is a fun story. And while it is not one of the first five DISCWORLD novels I’d recommend to a reader new to Terry Pratchett, it is one of the first five books I’d recommend to someone traveling to Australia.

I listened to ISIS Audio Books’ production of The Last Continent, which was read by Nigel Planer. This was my first experience with Planer, and I found him very easy to listen to. I particularly like the mellow voice he adopts to perform as Rincewind. I’m afraid I can’t speak with any real authority about his Fourecks accent, but it seemed fine to me.

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RYAN SKARDAL, with us since September 2010, is an English teacher who reads widely but always makes time for SFF.

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One comment

  1. I like Nigel Planer, too, for the same reason you do. Somehow his deadpan voice for Rincewind makes it even funnier.

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