Tuesday, 21 March 2000
Terry Pratchett: The Last Continent (1998)
Review number: 457
In a note at the beginning of The Last Continent, Terry Pratchett says that it is not about Australia, just about somewhere "which happens to be, here and there, a bit ... Australian". In fact, the novel is set in a place which is an exaggerated stereotype of Australianness, with references to films such as Mad Max, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Crocodile Dundee as well as lager drinking, hats with corks, dangerous spiders, aboriginal art, Sydney Opera House, backpackers - hundreds of references to the lazy non-Australian's picture of Australia. The possibility that offence could be taken is quite real, and is presumably the reason for the disclaimer. (Mind you, Barry Humphries has built an entire career on what seems to me a far more offensive and grossly unfunny portrayal of Australia.)
The Last Continent is quite amusing, but I never find the Discworld novels which relate so closely to the real world as funny as those which are more complete in themselves. (Examples of the first type include Soul Music and Moving Pictures, while the second is represented by Mort, Reaper Man and Witches Abroad among others.) There is not much of an edge to the satiric side of Pratchett's writing, as opposed to the parodic. His parodies of the fantasy genre can be extremely funny, but satire of the music industry or Hollywood is an excuse to throw in references to popular culture without actually having anything to say about it. He needs something of the sharpness of The Simpsons at its best.