What with so much going on, this is more of a muddle of a review which seems fair considering this post concerns some of the Discworld’s most notoriously distracted characters; wizards. So, in between training at a new gym, studying Scott Sonnen’s Mastering Sambo* and keeping my little boy entertained, we’ve also been unpacking boxes upon boxes where we found my wife’s collection of Discworld novels (which was great).
The Last Continent is an exemplary Pratchett novel. From the brilliant pastiche of Aussie culture to the underlying satire regarding evolution and religion, and all that fantastic humour Pratchett packs into his books, not to mention the classic cover art that instantly reminds me of many an hour spent reading this series in my youth, The Last Continent is a wonderful novel.
I found it hard, initially, to approach this book without thinking about all that Terry Pratchett’s work means to satire, literature and the fantasy genre, the man himself and the fact that his last Discworld novel has just been published. There’s a lot of nostalgia involved for me as I loved this series when younger. Though I’ve not read a Discworld book for some time, I’ve realised, once again, just how funny, enjoyable and smart these books truly are.
The Last Continent features so many fantastic characters from an atheistic god, a bumbling cacophony of wizards, some cross-dressing blokes, a mad and heavily armed dwarf, a mystic kangaroo and more than it’s fair share of caricature, that the reader is instantly swept up in the action as the loveable Rincewind once again finds himself on a quest of improbable proportions. Borrowing from Australia’s older and new traditions, Pratchett weaves a narrative between dreamtime and drunk time, beer and billabongs effortlessly. On the surface it’s all about rain and the hapless Rincewind as the helpless hero forced into yet another adventure through a comedy of errors. But it’s also a look at how colonies become so removed and unique as the landscape changes the immigrating culture and how those people then identify themselves within and against the place they’ve come to settle within, including the native culture already there. It’s about science and religion, evolution and god, magic and myth.
That’s the wonder of Pratchett. How he manages to skew things in such a way as to make us see them new and thus perceive all of the ridiculousness and awe of the situation. His observational comedy is unparalleled in fantasy satire, in my opinion, because on the one hand his work can be read just for its shear humour and fun but, on the other, for it’s underlying commentary on our own strange world. But, though Terry Pratchett is no longer with us, we mustn’t cry because it’s over, we must smile because of all the wonderful stories that he’s left us to enjoy.
Published by Corgi Books
*If you’re interested, Mastering Sambo by Scott Sonnen is an fascinating look at the Russian martial art of grappling. Whilst there are a number of iterations with the Sambo remit, it is an art which does focus heavily on leg locks and leg based submission. As a student of submission wrestling, I’ve recently (along with a large portion of the Jui-Jitsu and grappling community) become very interested in sequences and submissions concerning the lower body. I was taught, a while back, some great heel hook stuff from a catch wrestler but I’m now exploring ways to transition into leg and foot attacks a lot more. Mastering Sambo offers some great advice on this aspect of training, a number of unique positional attacks as well as a concise history of the art itself. Not exactly sci-fi but it’s an educational read for me concerning my other hobby…