The Last Continent is the sixth Rincewind novel, and it seems that Pratchett may have been running out of steam. What more, exactly, can you write about a man whose primary ability is in running away and who is very good at not doing magic? Thus it is with The Last Continent, where we really don’t get much of anything new, and certainly not about Rincewind. The story is basically about how the Wizards of the Unseen University end up on the Last Continent (aka – XXXX), but 3000 years in the past, and Rincewind’s adventures in present day XXXX and how those two settings finally mesh.
Rincewind, as you might expect, spends most of his time running away from everything, especially the supernatural kangaroo, who seems to have something interesting for Rincewind to do. The UU wizards, meanwhile, are trying to figure out how to make it back to Ank-Morpork for lunch, which will occur in a few hours plus three millennia. As such, there is very little interaction between the threads, although there are some inklings that the wizards in the past have caused/are causing problems in the present. I was never really sure, exactly, how this was done, or who was using Rincewind to try and set things right. The climax doesn’t really explain much, although there is a lot of rain involved. In fact, the whole never felt like an extended gag about Australia (which XXXX is similar too). Unfortunately, while the individual gags may be humorous, like the Mad Max-ish dwarf, and the goofy place names (Didjabringabeeralong), it really felt like Pratchett was beating a dead wombat, with just more, “Hey! Let’s make some more fun of how Australians talk and their strange vocabulary!” It got old quickly and I had to force myself to keep reading at some points.
That’s not to say there aren’t good things here. There certainly are. The ensuing discussion between the wizards as Ponder Stibbons attempts to explain time travel and paradoxes is quite funny. As is the scene where the god of evolution shows the wizards how evolution works and Stibbons points out how it can be made more efficient. Also, the explanation for how the platypus was created is quite funny, and, as you can guess, involved a committee. Of wizards. Rincewind is still his same old cowardly self, the Luggage gets a little screen time but in a familial way and Death makes a quick appearance and is always good for a laugh. And there are the little funny bits sprinkled throughout, but they don’t elevate this book above being an average Pratchett book.
Which is to say, while The Last Continent isn’t Pratchett’s best by a long shot, it does have its moments, and its certainly better than your run of the mill fantasy with elves story.
(See the entire Pratchett Reading List here.)