Category Archives: Book Review

REVIEW: Legend by David Lynn Golemon

REVIEW SUMMARY: Golemon can write action sequences with the best of them, and he lands a solid uppercut with this book. The depth of the science fiction lies under the surface for the most of the work, but is surprising and ingenious none the less.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Following in the footsteps of Gonzalo Pizarro, the Event Group finds itself searching for El Dorado in the hopes of saving the lives of innocent college students caught up in a secret plot involving nefarious agents out to capture the surprisingly more modern wealth to be found there.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Enjoyable plot, science elements surprisingly deep, excellent action scenes

CONS: Strains believability at times, characters mostly wooden and static

BOTTOM LINE: Legend is a fun, action-filled romp through the jungle with just the right mix of combat and science. If you’re a fan of the science fiction written by Clive Cussler or Michael Crichton you will have a blast reading Legend.

Continue reading

REVIEW: Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction edited by Jeff Prucher

REVIEW SUMMARY: A fun book for hardcore SF fans, but of marginal interest to others.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A dictionary of science fiction terms that shows definition and etymology.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Tons of information for hardcore SF fans; fun to browse.
CONS: Much of the content overlaps with the website from which it was born.
BOTTOM LINE: This book will consume more of your time than you might think.

Reference works like Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction are not meant to be read cover to cover. Instead, they exist as go-to sources of information. And while this book will certainly serve that purpose, hardcore SF fans (the intended audience) will more often find a casual browse turning into an official time-consuming activity.

Such page-flipping yields some interesting trivia as well. See if you can answer these trivia questions based on some of the book’s entries:

QUESTIONS

  1. What’s the earliest use of the term “prime directive”?
  2. Which author used the pseudonyms Eric Rodman and Calvin M. Knox?
  3. Who is attributed with inventing the term “slidewalk”?
  4. Who coined the term “ansible”?
  5. A.E. van Vogt coined the term “videophone” in which of his novels?

[Answers appear at the end of this review.]

Continue reading

REVIEW: From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain by Minister Faust

REVIEW SUMMARY: What do you get when you combine superheroes, neuroses, and self-help books? Don’t answer yet since you also have to mix in some satire and some fantastic characters. The end result of this combination is this book by Minister Faust which was an enjoyable read with an ending that I still find very interesting.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Dr. Eva Brain-Silverman is an author of several self help books for meta humans, and in this book she tackles a group of dysfunctional heroes who are about to be kicked out of the Fraternal Order of Justice (FOOJ). This book documents that journey in psychology.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: The characters and a unique way of presenting the story. Fantastic dialogue and the right amount of action.

CONS: A few too many acronyms (although I think that was intentional) and some of the psychology devolves into babble (again probably intentional).

BOTTOM LINE: A fantastic book that delivers entertainment and more.

Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: Helix by Eric Brown

REVIEW SUMMARY: This is everything you want in a good Space Opera.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The crew of a colonist ship, which crash lands on a mysterious helix made up of thousands of worlds, sets out to find a suitable home planet and learn the mystery behind the creation of the helix itself.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Huge sense of wonder; interesting alien races; dramatic characterizations; page-turning.
CONS: The crew was sometimes not as careful as they should have been given their situation.
BOTTOM LINE: A perfect blend of ingredients. Equal parts adventure, drama and wonder.

Continue reading

REVIEW: Black Powder War by Naomi Novik

REVIEW SUMMARY: A return to more of what made the start of this series great, Tremeraire again runs into Napoleon and his army as they invade Prussia. The book doesn’t disappoint with some excellent military scenes and stories of personal heroism.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The saga of Tremeraire continues as his return from China is derailed by a sudden detour to Turkey. What follows is more of the political intrigue and mystery that was started in the previous novel, but ends with the group being smack in the middle of the French invasion of Prussia. The ending is strong and feels more like the first book in the series.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: The land battles in the second half of the book are welcome excitement

CONS: The politics of Turkey are somewhat boring

BOTTOM LINE: If you have read the first two novels and enjoyed them, this one is worth a read

Continue reading

REVIEW: Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik

REVIEW SUMMARY: Continues the story begun in His Majesty’s Dragon but doesn’t offer the same sense of adventure as the first book. Only in the growth of the main characters does this book offer something new.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: After discovering the dragon Temeraire is a special Chinese breed reserved only for royalty, Will Laurence is thrust into the depth of political intrigue in imperial China.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Continues in Novik’s easy to read style, the characters grow and improve

CONS: Lacks the high adventure from the first book

BOTTOM LINE: If you loved the first one, you’ll probably enjoy reading more.

Continue reading

REVIEW:Thirteen by Richard K. Morgan

MY RATING:

Thirteen is Richard K. Morgan’s latest novel and, in it, he steps away from his Takeshi Kovacs stories and instead focuses on a near future Earth, where humanity has managed to colonize Mars and genetically created ‘humans’ have been created as a form of shock troops for the West’s police forces and armies. Thirteen shows that Morgan can write a rousing tale of action and violence without the gee-whiz setting of his Kovacs series.

That’s not to say there isn’t cool stuff in Thirteen, there certainly is. The protagonist, Carl Marsalis, is the product of a genetic engineering project to re-introduce to the human race a human sub-species which died out when humanity changed to an agrarian society from being hunter gatherers. Carl and is fellow beings can be described as being prone to action, who view violence as being not just the first resort, but the only one. In Morgan’s future, the men, particularly in the West, have become more ‘feminized’, preferring to try to compromise or capitulate in the face of disagreements. This causes problems when the opposing party uses force to get their way. Hence, the genetic program to create Carl and his fellows (called thirteens, being the thirteenth strain) to try and even the playing field. Basically, Carl can be seen as a genetically engineered version of Cassandra Kresnov from Crossover (don’t mind John’s rating, he just a hater), or the Major from Ghost In The Shell. Morgan then places Marsalis in the position of hunting renegade thirteens, either killing them or capturing them for interment in special reservations. In Thirteen, Carl is hunting a particularly vicious thirteen who killed the entire crew of a ship returning from Mars and is now on the run on Earth. Even though people understand the need for thirteens, they are still treated with disdain or outright prejudice, which is only heightened because Carl is black.

What follows is a big book (over 500 pages), filled with lots of action, but also interspersed with longer, slower sections. It’s these sections where Morgan does a great job of fleshing out his characters, and giving them realistic motivations for their actions. It’s also here where on of the major themes of the books plays out: nature vs. nurture. As a ‘created’ individual, Carl is at the mercy of his genetic heritage. Although he tries to tone down is impulses, he is basically in fight mode almost all the time, and he doesn’t mind going violently over the top to finish a job. Marsalis can be considered as an anti-hero, but since we know his actions are informed by his genes, we also know he has little choice in how he reacts. This makes Carl a very sympathetic character as we see him struggle to live something like a normal life. Very well done.

About the only major gripe I have with the story deals with the political landscape. Morgan has created a fractured United States where one of the splinter nations is called (and is based on the internet meme) Jesusland. This nation consists of religious, Christian fundamentalist who are portrayed as being intolerant and prejudiced against any and everything not white or Christian. The original meme was created, probably in a perjorative sense, to show that all of the ‘Red’ states in the 2004 Presidential election are all contiguous and, thus, share the same values. I understand why Morgan chose to use this construct, its an integral part of his political landscape to have a whipping boy to bounce the themes of intolerance and prejudice off of, I just disagree that Jesusland is the way to do it (in the book, Morgan references the fact he got the idea for Jesusland from the internet meme). Now, living in (or very near) what would be the largest city in Jesusland, I can state that ‘Jesusland’ is not what people think it is. Far from being a monolithic entity, Houston and indeed the rest of the supposed Jesusland area is a mixture of all types. The Wikipedia article even shows that large swaths are actually more purple then anything else. The unfortunate effect for me was, every time the attitudes of Jesuslanders was mention, I became annoyed at the extreme generalization and it pulled me out of the story. And this happens quite a bit.

Despite that, however, Morgan has created a compelling character in Marsalis, and has placed him in a complex and interesting society. Thirteen can stand toe to toe with any of Morgan’s Kovacs novels, and that’s a very good thing.

REVIEW: Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

MY RATING:

(For more Pratchett reviews, see The Great Pratchett Reading Project table.)

This book starts off The Watch series of novels which introduces some of my most favorite characters from Discworld, the Night Watch. In this book, the Night Watch is not a prestigious position, and is commanded by Captain Sam Vimes. He only has Sergant Colon and Corporal Nobbs under his command when Carrot is sent to Anhk-Morpork by his adopted dwarven father. In this book, we see the first steps in the transformation of both the Watch and of Sam Vimes into respectable and important parts of Anhk-Morpork. In between all that transforming, we have shadowy summoners, dragons of all sizes, romance and an almost fairy tale type fashion which I found very entertaining.

This book was laugh out loud funny for me in several locations with some famous scenes from movies and TV being transformed into something appropriate for Discworld. There is a Dirty Harry-esque scene involving a dragon and Sam Vimes in furry slippers that was genious in its own way, and it is just another reason why these novels work. When combined with the banter of the “villians” of this novel, you have a very funny book. The other advantage for readers of this particular series of books is that they are not the first Discworld books and demonstrate Mr. Pratchett’s growth as a writer.

If someone were to ask me where to start when reading Discworld novels, I would suggest here. Admittedly there would be some characters that are not as fleshed out and some questions regaring the world, but that is a minor when compared with the humor and enjoyment found here.

REVIEW: Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

MY RATING:

(For more Pratchett reviews, see The Great Pratchett Reading Project table.)

Way back when, Equal Rites was the third Discworld novel I had ever read. I remember being pretty much non-plussed about it. After rereading the book again, I can say that I still have the same noncommittal feeling for it. It’s hard to say exactly why. Equal Rites, unlike The Color Of Magic, is a single cohesive story so there isn’t any jarring jumps in the story line. It does have the usual Pratchett array of witticisms and parodying of genre conventions, but on the whole, it just doesn’t rise above being mediocre.

In fact, I think I have this same feeling for just about all of the books in the Witches series of books. Maybe its because I’m just not interested in the witches as characters or their stories. In Equal Rites we have Eskarina Smith and her attempts, with Granny Weatherwax, to become the first female wizard. Pratchett takes all the obvious shots at equality between the sexes and the pigheadedness of male dominated organizations. Perhaps that’s why the book never seems to rise higher than it does. While this sort of thing may have been ‘new’ in 1987, the idea of satirizing the battle of the sexes is, by now, well worn and tired. Even Pratchett’s usual humorous tricks don’t raise the level of the story.

Which is too bad, since most of the other Discworld novels are at a higher level than mediocre. I’ll be reading Wyrd Sisters next so I’ll get a chance to put my memories to the test. At least the Witch novels going forward will have Granny’s cantankerous one-eyed cat, Greebo, to help things along. If your looking to get into Discworld, I’d recommend starting elsewhere, like with Guards! Guards! or The Color Of Magic.

REVIEW: Alien Crimes edited by Mike Resnick

REVIEW SUMMARY: A worthy successor to Down These Dark Spaceways.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: An anthology of six original science fiction mystery novellas.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Five novellas good or better; two of them standouts.

CONS: One story was too long and moved too slowly.

BOTTOM LINE: Another enjoyable anthology of detective fiction from Resnick.

In his new anthology, Alien Crimes, Mike Resnick follows up his previous (and slightly better) hard-boiled detective fiction anthology, Down These Dark Spaceways, by challenging authors to write crime fiction that is specifically not hard-boiled. I am continually amazed at how such an objective can yield stories of such varying topics. But perhaps this is more a statement on the science fiction genre itself than on the sub-sub-sub genre of non-hard-boiled detective sf.

All stories presented here are, as advertised, science fiction mystery stories (even though the Williams story starts out as fantasy). However, the mystery element appears in varying degrees. Some stories are constructed as classic mysteries, others are science fiction stories based around a crime. In any case, only one story (“Dark Heaven”) failed to entertain. The standout stories here are “Nothing Personal” by Pat Cadigan and “A Locked-Planet Mystery” by Mike Resnick.

Reviewlettes follow

Continue reading

REVIEW: Lurulu by Jack Vance

REVIEW SUMMARY: Finishes off the story begun with Ports of Call with the perfect ending.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Myron continues his trek about the galaxy meeting interesting people and having sometimes not so exciting adventures along the way.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Vance continues to be unafraid to write however he feels like and I believe the reader is rewarded for the non-traditional approach.

CONS: The back half of a book-split that shouldn’t have been done – the collection of this and the earlier book work best if read together.

BOTTOM LINE: Same as the previous novel: fun set of stories that chronicle the travels of a young man adrift in the big universe.

Continue reading

REVIEW:The Last Hero by Terry Pratchet

MY RATING:

(For more Discworld reviews, see The Great Pratchett Review Table)

Thanks to our own lovely and talented Tim, I was able to get my hands on the coffee-table sized version of The Last Hero, the one with Cohen in all his geriatric glory on the cover. What a treat this book is. The Last Hero is the story of a group of unlikely heroes who attempt to stop an old threat, namely the Silver Horde, from destroying Discworld. It seems that Cohen and his gang want to give the gods what for, which, unfortunately, will also result in bad things for the rest of the Disc.

The Last Hero, clocking in at around 40,000 words, is very short book, more of a novella really. The story itself is rather fun, if short, being a conglomeration of parodies: the moon landing, fantasy evil overlords, and the lone hero against impossible odds are just a few of them. However, The Last Hero really requires some knowledge of the previous Discworld novels, as Pratchett doesn’t wast time with character introductions or backstory re-hashes. Everything is in service to the plot, and the action move along at a brisk and humorous pace. We meet old friends such as Rincewind, Lord Vetinari, Cohen and Corporal Carrot. Of course there is the usual Pratchett word play, which reminds my of Jimmy from Airplane!, frequent use of footnotes, normal seeming situations that rapidly become comically unusual and, of course, Death.

But where this book really shines is in the artwork. Paul Kidby replaces the usual artist, Josh Kirby, and he brings a more ‘realistic’ style to the Discworld. His takes on the appearance of all the characters are refreshingly different yet still manage to capture the feel of each character. That being said, I think the best artwork in the book are the drawings of Leonard of Quirm, the Disc’s version of Leonardo da Vinci. Kidby does an incredible job of mimicing da Vinci’s artwork style while infusing it with typical Discworld insanity. My favorites would be the drawing on the Common Swamp Dragon, the painting of the Rimfall, and the sketches of the space ship, The Great Bird. In fact, The Last Hero is just chock full of great eye candy and I spent as much time just looking at the art as I did in reading the book.

While not the longest story in the Discworld canon, I have to say that the artwork alone in The Last Hero elevates this book near the top of the best Discworld novels. If you’re a Discworld fan and you haven’t read this book, do yourself a favor and get it. You won’t be disappointed. I may have to ‘lose’ this book and, thus, not be able to return it to Tim…

REVIEW: 2007 Hugo Award Short Fiction Nominees

Like last year, I undertook a project to read the short fiction nominees for this year’s Hugo Award. (I undertook a similar Nebula short fiction reading project this year, too.) All the Hugo nominees were available online for free reading. Hooray for the Internets!

Overall, this was a fun project. However, I am still coming to terms with the fact that my tastes do not always mesh with those of the award-nominating populace. I guess I still have the misconception that award-nominated fiction represents the best of the best. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I expect all the stories to be 5-star knockouts. This just isn’t the case.

That said, all but one of the stories were good or better. I was somewhat disappointed by the McDonald story, especially in light of how much I enjoyed River of Gods, but otherwise this is a strong batch of stories; stronger, I believe, than this year’s Nebula nominees. Coincidentally, two of the Hugo-nominated novellas (by Melko and Shunn) are also 2006 Nebula nominees.

While I’m comparing, the 2007 Hugo nominees contain a much larger percentage of science fiction stories than the Nebula nominees, which is fantasy-heavy. Oddly, my usual indifference towards fantasy seems to have been overruled in the Hugo nominees. The few that are here made quite good impressions. The Nebula ballot had some stories that left something to be desired.

In a nutshell, then, here are my impressions of the stories in each category, sorted from most to least enjoyable, except where ties are indicated by rating. Linked story titles point to the online versions. My winning picks are the tops ones listed in each category.

NOVELLAS

Lord Weary’s Empire” by Michael Swanwick

The Walls of the Universe” by Paul Melko

Inclination” by William Shunn

Julian” by Robert Charles Wilson

A Billion Eves” by Robert Reed

NOVELLETTES

All the Things You Are” by Mike Resnick

Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter” by Geoff Ryman

Dawn, and Sunset, and the Colours of the Earth” by Michael F. Flynn

Yellow Card Man” by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Djinn’s Wife” by Ian McDonald

SHORT STORIES

Impossible Dreams” by Tim Pratt

The House Beyond the Sky” by Benjamin Rosenbaum

Kin” by Bruce McAllister

How to Talk to Girls at Parties” by Neil Gaiman

Eight Episodes” by Robert Reed

Reviewlettes of the stories follow….

Continue reading

REVIEW: The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin

REVIEW SUMMARY: My first foray in Martin’s well-regarded fantasy series.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A squire named Dunk carries on the tradition of his dead master and enters a jousting tournament to begin his career as a knight.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Exceptional storytelling; excellent pencil work and coloring.

CONS: Too many characters, houses and relationships to keep track of.

BOTTOM LINE: A fine introduction to A Song of Ice and Fire.

Continue reading

REVIEW: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

REVIEW SUMMARY: Surprisingly engaging read that I honestly couldn’t put down.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Will Laurence is a British navy captain during the time of Lord Nelson and when Napoleon was threatening to engulf all of Europe. But in a bit of alternative history, dragons are real and take (multiple) riders into battle. Laurence ends up a rider through what he considers bad luck, but ends up making the friend of a lifetime in his dragon Temeraire. The two then ride for the King in defense of the islands from the might of the French.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Very fun story, sympathetic characters, a setting that isn’t at all fantasy save for the dragons (strange, but true.)

CONS: Some of this has been done before by Ann McCaffrey

BOTTOM LINE: If you want a quick read, this book will hook you in and end up well worth your time.

Continue reading

REVIEW: Ports of Call by Jack Vance

REVIEW SUMMARY: A non-traditional book that was very fun to read.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Myron has been cast about on a sea of change. He floats from place to place encountering very different points of view and a story in every port.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Vance’s command of the language is subtle and fun. Non-traditional conventions, interesting characters, and good storytelling. Almost reads as a collection of short stories.

CONS: Neither a linear story nor a character study, this book may turn some readers off. Booksplit somewhat by accident (according to the author.) Light on sci-fi elements.

BOTTOM LINE: Fun set of stories that chronicle the travels of a young man adrift in the big universe.

Continue reading

REVIEW: Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder

John and JP experimentally dispense with the usual review format to discuss Karl Schroeder’s latest book, Sun of Suns.

Sun of Suns is set in the world of Virga, an air-filled balloon three thousand kilometers in diameter whose major artificial light source is named Candesce, the sun of suns. There are smaller suns that exist to provide light to the many cylindrical habitats around Virga, which are spun up to create their own artificial gravities. Virga is low tech and the towns, built of wood and rope, are strung together to form nations. The story concerns Hayden Griffen, citizen of Aerie, whose parents were killed when they tried to assert their freedom through the creation of their own sun. Years later, Hayden seeks revenge on the man responsible: Chaison Fanning, head of the fleet of Slipstream, the nation that conquered Aerie.


John’s Rating

JP’s Rating

John: Cool book! This gets big points for sensawunda. The world Schroeder created is amazing…even if its unique physics took some getting used to. Fortunately he frequently works it into the story through things like floating water spheres, ropes and wires to pull yourself along, etc. That reminder was always there just in case you become too wrapped up in the human story of Hayden’s quest for revenge.

JP: Yup, this has sensawunda by the bucketfuls. And while the built world of Candesce is extremely cool, I was reminded of the following: The Integral Trees, Last Exile, and The Amazing Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello, and that is a good thing.

Continue reading

REVIEW: Fast Forward 1 edited by Lou Anders

REVIEW SUMMARY: A good example of why I love reading short fiction.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The first volume of a new original fiction series – this one containing 19 stories and 2 poems.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: 15 stories good or better; good sampling of the literary range sf has to offer.
CONS: 4 stories mediocre or worse. 2 short poems that escape me.
BOTTOM LINE: A promising start to a hopefully long-running series.

Fast Forward 1 marks the beginning of a bold, new, annual science fiction anthology series; bold because it is often said that the number of anthology offerings is already high, yet here it is. Its goal is to provide original, sf-only stories that offer “windows on the future”, as Editor Lou Anders’ insightful, reference-laden introduction puts it. Or, as the book’s subtitle puts it: “Future fiction from the cutting edge.” This first volume does indeed have some great contenders to add to the sf field, blasting the series off with a promising start. Take that, crowded anthology field!

It helps that Anders has assembled some of the field’s brightest stars, mostly veterans, and some newer voices, too. Having a cool John Picacio cover to get passersby to notice that is also a great help. The collection of visions depicted here is indisputable proof that science fiction is the literature of ideas.

Not all the stories worked for me, but it’s rare for any anthology to do otherwise. (Insert YMMV disclaimer here.) Even “Best of…” anthologies are hit and miss. But on the whole, Fast Forward 1 has lots to offer. Standout stories here include “The Something-Dreaming Game” by Elizabeth Bear, “p dolce” by Louise Marley and “Wikiworld” by Paul Di Filippo.

Reviewlettes follow, except for the reviews of Robyn Hitchcock’s two poems, “They Came From the Future” and “I Caught Intelligence”. Look, I’ve been a fan of Robyn Hitchcock ever since “Balloon Man“, but not even he can make me like poetry. On the bright side, anthology-rating-wise, the poems’ short-short length had no impact on the book’s rating.

On with the reviewlettes!

Continue reading

REVIEW: Keeping It Real by Justina Robson

REVIEW SUMMARY: A great book – over before you know it!

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Agent Lila Black is on her first mission for the Otopian NSA. Her mission? To guard and investigate the lead singer of the The No Shows rock band, who happens to be an elf. However, she is far from normal herself, even in a changed world intersecting with elven, faery, and even demon worlds. Her assignment leads to a plot much more involved than she had ever imagined and takes her through her own internal struggle and growth.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: A great blend of science fiction and fantasy! Imaginative characters, while based on previous fantasy archetypes – have their own unique aspects and personalities. Quickly pulls you in, and picks up speed from there.

CONS: The introduction, laying the basis of the book, could have been better.

BOTTOM LINE: Keeping It Real is anything but "keeping it real". It transports the reader to a familiar world with an intriguing fantasy and sci-fi twist.  Some good old fashioned espionage wrapped in futuristic technology and fantasy magic. If you are a fan of sci-fi or fantasy Keeping It Real has something for you!

Continue reading

REVIEW: The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett

MY RATING:

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.)