Terry Pratchett – The Last Continent

Yes, it’s time for another episode in the Great Terry Pratchett Re-read-athon! After the moderately serious (though, of course, seriously funny) Jingo, The Last Continent is more of a traditional comedy romp, and none the worse for that.

The story follows Rincewind, after his arrival on the little-known, mysterious and distant continent of EcksEcksEcksEcks[1], which as Terry carefully points out in the place where you might normally expect to see a dedication, is not Australia


No, it’s about somewhere entirely different which just happens to be, here and there, a bit… australian.
Still… no worries, right?

It also follows the wizards of Unseen University, who are trying to get Rincewind back, as he’s seemingly the only person who knows the Librarian’s actual name, which they need if they’re going to attempt a magical cure for his odd condition. No, not the condition of being an orang utan, but the condition of changing into odd pieces of furniture when he sneezes. After stepping through a window which leads to a strange island, and quite naturally getting trapped there, they have a lot of fun when they meet the local god, who has some interesting ideas…

While Rincewind is manipulated into a series of adventures by a being who generally manifests as a kangaroo, the wizards lapse into their default behaviour of arguing, which is all good fun.

Eventually, in ways that are far too much fun to read for me to mention here, everyone gets together, and Rincewind’s enforced quest has its Cunning Planned end. Good stuff, and more gags about a place that isn’t Australia than you could shake a didgeridoo at, should you happen to have one handy.

Some of that fun includes Rincewind’s reaction to being in a rather hot desert

They say the heat and the flies here can drive a man insane. But you don’t have to believe that, and nor does that bright mauve elephant that just cycled past.

And you have to have this gag in something that isn’t about Australia, don’t you?

“You call that a knife?” The giant unsheathed one that’d be called a sword if it hand been held in a normal-sized hand. “This is what I call a knife!”
Mad looked at it. Then he reached his hand around behind his back, and it came back holding something.
“Really? No worries. This,” he said, “is what I call a crossbow.”

They have an interesting approach to politics, too

“We put all our politicians in prison as soon as they’re elected. Don’t you?”
“Why?”
“It saves time.”

Eventually, everyone gets together at the EcksEcksEcksEcks version of Unseen University, which as you might have guessed has its motto over the gates:

NULLUS ANXIETAS

Not to mention a slightly rougher notice by the inevitable back way in:

Nulli Sheilae sanguineae

I’ll leave those untranslated, as I’m sure you won’t need any help…

All good fun, as always.

[1] Which is a cultural reference that people might miss these days. Once upon a time, there was a lot of TV advertising for an Australian lager called Castlemaine XXXX, which generally alleged that Australians wouldn’t give a XXXX for anything else. Whether the Xs were intended to indicate potency (or perhaps toxicity) or to suggest that a naughty word might be being suggested was left as an exercise for the viewer.

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