|Cover artist||Josh Kirby|
22nd novel – 6th Rincewind story
The Last Continent is a fantasy novel by British writer Terry Pratchett, the twenty-second book in his Discworld series. First published in 1998, it mocks the aspects of time travel such as the grandfather paradox and the Ray Bradbury short story "A Sound of Thunder". It also parodies Australian people and aspects of Australian culture, such as the Crocodile Dundee, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Mad Max movies, the Australian beer XXXX, Vegemite, thongs, cork hats, the Peach Melba, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, the Henley-on-Todd Regatta, and the popular Australian songs "Waltzing Matilda", "Down Under", and "The Man From Snowy River".
The story opens weeks after the events of Interesting Times, in which Rincewind is magically transported to the continent of XXXX due to a miscalculation made by the Unseen University wizards. He meets the magical kangaroo Scrappy, who was sent by the creator of Fourecks. Scrappy explains to Rincewind that he is fated to bring back "The Wet", meaning the rain, and that he is the reason for the eons-long drought. Scrappy says that the continent is unfinished, and time and space will be an eternal anomaly there until it is finished, i.e., the rain is brought back. Rincewind is shown cave paintings of wizards.
Meanwhile, the senior wizards (Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully, The Dean, The Bursar, The Chair of Indefinite Studies, The Lecturer in Recent Runes, The Senior Wrangler, and Ponder Stibbons) are trying to find a cure for the Librarian's magical malady, which causes him to transform into a native object, such as a book when near a library, whenever he sneezes. The wizards soon find out that the books in the Library become hostile and attack when not in the librarian's care. The wizards cannot cure the Librarian without knowing his name. The Librarian, being also the archivist, destroyed any evidence of his true name since he believed the wizards would attempt to turn him human again, as he rather enjoyed his orang-utan body (brought on by a magical accident years before). The Lecturer in Recent Runes suggests they interrogate Rincewind, as he once worked closely with the Librarian and seemed to know more about him than anyone else. To find Rincewind, they have to find the continent of XXXX. They seek out the Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography, and find his office but no sign of the professor himself. They then find a magical window in space leading from the professor's bathroom to a tropical island thousands of years in the past.
Back in the present, Rincewind attempts to run away from his destiny, but in fact runs towards it. With the secret assistance of Scrappy, (a parody of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, a television show from 1969 to 1970, with re-runs into the early 1980s) he eventually ends up wrongfully arrested for sheep theft and taken to Bugarup, where he is hoping to find a ship to escape on. Along the way he subsequently ends up inventing several things that are considered Australian Icons in the real world, as well as becoming the subject of a ballad that is hinted at being a parody of the song "Waltzing Matilda". A gigantic circular storm surrounding Fourecks prevents any ships from leaving, however. The people of Bugarup regard sheep thieves as folk heroes and encourage Rincewind to escape, while not actually allowing him to. He finds a hidden message on the ceiling of his holding cell, left by a previous escapee named Tinhead Ned, a reference to the bushranger Ned Kelly, telling him: "G'day mate, check the hinges." He discovers that he is able to lift the door off its hinges and escape.
The University wizards become trapped when Mrs Whitlow, the head maid, closes the window that leads back into the Professor's study. The wizards soon encounter plants that rapidly evolve to suit their needs but, apart from Ponder, do not question the turn of events until a large dinosaur evolves into a chicken in front of their eyes. After finding a plant-based boat, the wizards start to question their surroundings even more and the god of evolution, who has been causing the events, then turns up and helps explain things. The god doesn't understand the purpose of the seeds and is, it turns out, unaware of the concept of sexual reproduction. After Mrs Whitlow explains it to him, the excited god decides to redesign the creatures on the island in order to incorporate the idea. (The god is also shown to have created a large number of beetle species, in reference to the quotation by J. B. S. Haldane.) The wizards then reach Fourecks, inventing surfing along the way, and meet the Creator of Fourecks (not of the Disc) in the process of creating it by way of impressionistic cave paintings. The wizards bicker over the Creator's technique and inadvertently create the duck-billed platypus. The Librarian meanwhile steals the Creator's bullroarer and spins it, causing the drought Rincewind is in the process of stopping. The wizards are then frozen in time for thousands of years by the stray magic left over from creating the continent.
Rincewind, having escaped from gaol, meets up with a group of female impersonators, Darleen and Letitia, and a female, Neilette. The "ladies" have found his Luggage, which rescues him from the Watch. In the escape, Rincewind and Neilette break into the old brewery (which was never used because all the beer kept going flat). An earthquake (induced by the voice of the creator) causes the brewery to collapse, trapping them inside the Luggage. When they emerge, Rincewind can see the ethereal outlines of the wizards (who were trapped, frozen in time, for 30,000 years in the brewery). Eventually he arrives at the University of Fourecks (which has a tower that is taller on the inside than it is on the outside). Rincewind figures out how to free the wizards. The wizards attempt to find a way to bring back the rain, but are unsuccessful. As they are sitting around, Rincewind idly twirls the bullroarer, which soon begins to fly faster and farther than it should. Rincewind lets go and the bullroarer flies off; immediately, it begins to rain.
Having saved Fourecks, Rincewind and the wizards return to Ankh-Morpork by ship, and the story ends with the old man with the sack (the Creator of the last continent) catching the bullroarer in front of a young boy.
The SF Site described it as "(l)oads of sarcasm, an outrageous plot and tons of sheer fun". Infinity Plus was less positive, recommending that Discworld newcomers start elsewhere, and stating that it "falls below (Pratchett's) normal very high standard on several counts", because although it is "great fun" and "worth buying", it "doesn't hang together as a plot, as an unfolding story".
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