Review: The Last Hero, by Terry Pratchett
eagle at eyrie.org
Tue Apr 11 19:31:25 PDT 2023
The Last Hero
by Terry Pratchett
Illustrator: Paul Kidby
Series: Discworld #27
Copyright: 2001, 2002
Format: Graphic novel
The Last Hero is the 27th Discworld novel and part of the Rincewind
subseries. This is something of a sequel to Interesting Times and
relies heavily on the cast that was built up in previous books. It's
not a good place to start with the series.
At last, the rare Rincewind novel that I enjoyed. It helps that
Rincewind is mostly along for the ride.
Cohen the Barbarian and his band of elderly heroes have decided they're
tired of enjoying their spoils and are going on a final adventure.
They're going to return fire to the gods, in the form of a giant bomb.
The wizards in Ankh-Morpork get wind of this and realize that an
explosion at the Hub where the gods live could disrupt the magical
field of the entire Disc, effectively destroying it. The only hope
seems to be to reach Cori Celesti before Cohen and head him off, but
Cohen is already almost there. Enter Lord Vetinari, who has Leonard of
Quirm design a machine that will get them there in time by
slingshotting under the Disc itself.
First off, let me say how much I love the idea of returning fire to the
gods with interest. I kind of wish Pratchett had done more with their
motivations, but I was laughing about that through the whole book.
Second, this is the first of the illustrated Discworld books that I've
read in the intended illustrated form (I read the paperback version of
Eric), and this book is gorgeous. I enjoyed Paul Kidby's art far more
than I had expected to. His style what I will call, for lack of better
terminology due to my woeful art education, "highly detailed
caricature." That's not normally a style that clicks with me, but it
works incredibly well for Discworld.
The Last Hero is richly illustrated, with some amount of art, if only
subtle background behind the text, on nearly every page. There are
several two-page spreads, but oddly I thought those (including the
parody of The Scream on the cover) were the worst art of the book. None
of them did much for me. The best art is in the figure studies and
subtle details: Leonard of Quirm's beautiful calligraphy, his numerous
sketches, the labeled illustration of the controls of the flying
machine, and the portraits of Cohen's band and the people they
encounter. The edition I got is printed on lovely, thick glossy paper,
and the subtle art texture behind the writing makes this book a delight
to read. I'm not sure if, like Eric, this book comes in other editions,
but if so, I highly recommend getting or finding the high-quality
illustrated edition for the best reading experience.
The plot, like a lot of the Rincewind books, doesn't amount to much,
but I enjoyed the mission to intercept Cohen. Leonard of Quirm is a
great character, and the slow revelation of his flying machine design
(which I will not spoil) is a delightful combination of Leonardo da
Vinci parody, Discworld craziness, and NASA homage. Also, the Librarian
is involved, which always improves a Discworld book. (The Luggage,
sadly, is not; I would have liked to have seen a richly-illustrated
story about it, but it looks like I'll have to find the illustrated
version of Eric for that.)
There is one of Pratchett's philosophical subtexts here, about heroes
and stories and what it means for your story to live on. To be honest,
it didn't grab me; it's mostly subtext, and this particular set of
characters weren't quite introspective enough to make the philosophy
central to the story. Also, I was perhaps too sympathetic to Cohen's
goals, and thus not very interested in anyone successfully stopping
him. But I had a lot more fun with this one than I usually do with
Rincewind books, helped considerably by the illustrations. If you've
been skipping Rincewind books in your Discworld read-through and have
access to the illustrated edition of The Last Hero, consider making an
exception for this one.
Followed by The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents in publication
order and, thematically, by Unseen Academicals.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Russ Allbery (eagle at eyrie.org) <https://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>
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