Continuing my occasional series as I work my way through Terry Pratchett’s delightful Discworld series, one book at a time.
Today’s entry is on the 22nd novel, The Last Continent.
First Appearance: The god of evolution.
Introduced to Discworld: the culture of the Last Continent, EcksEcksEcksEcks (XXXX) to the outside world.
Plot: The Librarian is sick with a magical disease. Because the Librarian was changed from man to orangutan, his morphic field is weak and he changes into something else with every sneeze. It’s a magical disease, and needs a magical cure. But, to cure him, the Unseen University Senior Staff need to know his real name. The Librarian has since destroyed all evidence of his real name because he prefers being an ape. None of the Senior Staff have been around long enough to know his actual name.
But Rincewind knows his name!
Too bad he’s lost on the island continent of EcksEcksEcksEcks, the Discworld equivalent of Australia. He doesn’t even have the Luggage with him.
What follows are a pair of plots. The University’s faculty manages to find a portal to a tropical island, thousands of years in the past, but manage to get stuck there with the University’s head housekeeper. Meanwhile, Rincewind has been chosen by the local divine powers to save the Last Continent by somehow bringing back the rain that has apparently never fallen on this land. The water supply, which had to be dug out of the ground, is almost gone, and the land itself is nearly impossible to find or leave due to storms surrounding the place. Can Rincewind save the day one last time?
Commentary: Saving the day one last time is right. This is Rincewind’s last solo novel. He’ll continue to appear here and there, but his travelogue is over. My understanding is he does play a role in The Last Hero, but I’ve never read that one before, so I don’t know how much of a role, and it appears to be a smaller book.
So, let’s take the guy out with a bang, so to speak. Pratchett will, over time, show more interest in the Watch, Tiffany Aching, Death, and various one-offs. Rincewind has perhaps run (no pun intended) his course, so let’s have some fun with the guy as he runs amok with Australian pop culture, meeting a dwarf version of Mad Max, lots of beer drinking natives, visiting the opera house, and a mystical kangaroo that acts as his guide. Yeah, Rincewind will save the day, but he won’t do it on purpose or anything. And the Wizards looking for him, it turns out, are the ones responsible for the whole mess in the first place.
It is a bit odd seeing the Luggage reduced to little more than a cameo. It gets adopted early on by some, shall we say, traveling performers, and doesn’t play much of a role in the book as a whole.
As for the University staff, much of their adventure deals with young Ponder Stibbons learning a lesson about divine powers, and their usual squabbling, almost turning deadly, and their weird posturing and attempts to be romantic (for lack of a better word) with the housekeeper, Mrs. Whitlow. The Librarian spends most of the book changing shapes and offering little help one way or the other. Between Ridcully and Ponder, there is some semblance of a voice of reason, but not enough, because wizards are prone to arguing, and arguing this time around gets them in a lot of trouble.
The novel ends with Rincewind getting ready to sail back to Ankh-Morpork, feeling as if something bad will happen to him soon. No such luck for his fans. Pratchett moved on.
Speaking of moving on…
NEXT BOOK: Someone invited some vampires to the Kingdom of Lancre, vampires who decided to no longer let their traditional supernatural weaknesses affect them. Granny Weatherwax just won’t stand for that. Be back soon for the last of the full Witches novels with Carpe Jugulum.