Book Report: The Last Continent
15 September 2005, 12:14 PM
Now and then I pick up a Terry Pratchett book from the library. I find there are usually about four, maybe six funny bits in the book, and the rest of it goes by pretty quickly, particularly if one is in the bathtub. I recently finished The Last Continent, and if I have not already confused it in my mind with one of the other ones (which happens a lot with his stuff), it suffers from being mostly about the wizards, who aren’t all that funny. They are familiar at this point, but not particularly funny.
I’m not sure whether, as a satirist, Mr. Pratchett is well-served or ill-served by his paper-thin depth of information on just about everything. His satire lands on everything just about evenly, and with about the same bite, because he doesn’t seem to have any particular area of expertise where he just destroys, oh, say, sport, or school, or synagogue. It’s all pretty vague—not his characters, but the way they represent anything in the actual world. On the plus side, this means that when he mocks Australia in this book, he pretty much mocks everything I know about Australia: Crocodile Dundee, Foster’s, Priscilla, and Waltzing Matilda. When he mocks universities, on the other hand, it’s lazy overfed infighting dunderheads or oblivious monomaniacs, which together do make up a portion of the faculty just about anywhere, but anybody remotely connected with an actual university will note all of the missing targets. As a result, if a million people read each of his books, all of them will (likely) find them quite amusing, but nobody will find any of them really devastating. If he really wants to be a satirist, he should be going for devastating, right? But if he just wants to make people laugh (which may well be the nobler goal), he’s on the right track.
chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,