The Last Hero, by Terry Pratchett

the-last-hero-by-terry-pratchett coverGenre: Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Collins
Published: 2002
Reviewer Rating: three and a half stars
Book Review by David Hart

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This is the 26th in the Discworld series. The first thing to say about it is: if you’re new to Discworld, this is not the place to start (instead begin with Equal Rites or Mort); partly because it’s something of a sequel to Interesting Times, but also because the cast includes just about all the previous Discworld characters bar the witches.

The second thing to say is that it’s short; though the book has 150 pages it’s barely of novella length. Which brings me to the first bit of bad news: this is an Illustrated Book. In fact it’s a very illustrated book: almost every page is illustrated to some degree, but some of them have space for a few words as well. Which means that the book’s a real page-turner, as your arm tries to keep up with your reading speed. Even the pages that have no proper pictures usually have a sort of light-brown watermark illustration under the text; presumably the idea is to… actually I don’t know what the idea could be: anyone buying the book for the pictures will find the watermarking too faint to enjoy, and it also fails adequately to obscure the text for the word-shy.

Enough about the format, what about the story. Let’s get the other bad news out of the way: one of the main characters is Rincewind. In mitigation though, here his presence is diluted sufficiently by all the other characters that he doesn’t spoil the book. Cohen the Barbarian and his ancient Horde, wanting to go out in a blaze of glory, set out to blow up the gods. If they succeed, the ensuing global discal catastrophe will make Discworld uninhabitable, so the Ankh-Morpork characters set out to stop them. But the only way to get there in time is to invent a spacecraft; cue some gentle humor at the expense of NASA.

So there’s a story, with Pratchett’s usual good writing and amusing dialogue (though none of his rarer shafts of incontinence-inducing wit). Despite my earlier irony, the illustrations are quite reasonable, if you like that sort of thing. And that’s it, really. The book is too short for any character development, it doesn’t introduce any new themes or people into the series; it’s just a story. In fact the book is subtitled “A Discworld Fable”, as though it is not really part of the mainstream series. That’s my feeling too: read it if you can borrow it, but save your money for those of his books where the words are in charge.

Rating note: I’ve scored this as a novella. In other words, I’ve disregarded its brevity compared with a standard novel, and also the nuisance value of the illustrations. In a direct comparison with a normal Discworld book of the same quality, I’d give it 1-1/2 stars.

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