I was feeling like some Terry Pratchett recently, and elected to read The Last Hero. This one is described as “A Discworld Fable,” and is shorter than most of the other books–and it’s beautifully illustrated!
The story centers around Cohen the Barbarian and his friends, the greatest heroes Discworld ever knew…some sixty years ago. They’ve grown old, and are decidedly unhappy about it. They set out on the ultimate final quest, to the mountain-top home of the Discworld gods, with enough explosives to blow the mountain up–creating a chain reaction that will destroy all of Discworld. Meanwhile in Ankh-Morpork, the wizards of Unseen University and Lord Vetinari assemble a team to stop Cohen, relying on the technical genius of Leonard of Quirm, who devises the first ever ship designed for flying outside the Disc.
The plot is a bit convoluted, with a lot of players, but suffice to say we get lots of satire of traditional hero stories, with some space travel satire thrown in. And the real brilliance is that we get it all with Pratchett’s wonderfully hilarious characters and wit.
My favorite part may be all the excellent plays on hero story tropes, especially as we see them through Evil Harry. He’s a Dark Lord Cohen and company know from way back, who joins forces with them here–warning them that of course he’ll have to double-cross them eventually, because that’s how things are done. He’s also very proud that he found the stupidest henchmen possible (because Dark Lords always have stupid henchmen…) and takes comfort from the rule that the Dark Lord always escapes mysteriously at the end.
The best part, perhaps, is that Cohen and his friends all agree that Evil Harry knows the rules, and none of them can fathom the young people these days who don’t understand how things should be handled.
This is a fun one for Discworld fans, because we get a lot of regular characters putting in appearances. Rincewind and Carrot go with Leonard on the journey, lots of wizards feature, and even Death gets a cameo. He’s in the middle of trying to understand Schrodinger’s Cat, and never quite grasps the metaphor–but doesn’t approve of the whole business, as he doesn’t hold with cruelty to cats.
This is also excellent just for the gorgeous illustrations. They’re beautifully-drawn and frequent, throughout the whole book. I do love a beautifully-illustrated book for grown-ups every now and then!
If you’re new to Discworld, the rule is always, “jump into the series wherever you feel inclined.” Considering this one is short, covers a lot of major characters, and has gorgeous illustrations, it wouldn’t be a bad choice…
Author’s Site: http://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/
Buy it here: The Last Hero: A Discworld Fable