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The Last Hero
Terry Pratchett
Doubleday Transworld Publishers, 160 pages


Paul Kidby
The Last Hero
Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett lives in Somerset, England, where he spends all his time, and more, writing his rigorously naturalistic, curiously entertaining, shamelessly popular Discworld novels which have earned him extravagant acclaim and puzzled stares from millions of readers around the world.

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SF Site Review: Thief of Time
SF Site Review: Nanny Ogg's Cookbook
SF Site Review: The Truth
SF Site Review: City Watch Trilogy
SF Site Review: The Fifth Elephant
SF Site Review: The Discworld Assassins' Guild Yearbook and Diary 2000
SF Site Review: The Science of Discworld
SF Site Review: The Last Continent
SF Site Review: Hogfather
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A review by Steven H Silver

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In the distant vastness of space, the Discworld sits on the back of four great elephants who ride through the cosmos on the cratered back of the great turtle A'Tuin. Terry Pratchett has documented the strange occurrences on this world through twenty-six novels and an assortment of short stories. The Last Hero adds another colorful chapter to this on-going saga as Pratchett describes how the Disc's greatest hero, Cohen the Barbarian, set about with the help of the Silver Horde to return fire to the gods on Cori Celeste.

The Last Hero differs substantially from earlier books in the series in two importance aspects. First is its length. At only 40,000 words, The Last Hero is the shortest Discworld book, although the fictional text of The Science of Discworld may be shorter. Second is that fact that The Last Hero is lavishly illustrated by veteran Discworld artist Paul Kidby, whose depictions demonstrate a wide range of styles and provide faces for the characters beyond the basic cover art.

While Cohen is trying to return fire to the gods, Lord Vetinari pulls together his own band of heroes to try to stop the Silver Horde. Vetinari is concerned that Cohen's actions will result in the destruction of the Discworld. This response to Cohen's excursion allows Pratchett to aim his satiric darts at multiple targets in a short text.

Vetinari links up with the wizards of Unseen University to send Rincewind, Captain Carrot and Leonardo of Quirm to Cori Celeste. They do so in a ship designed to go over the rim of the Disc in a manner which allows Pratchett to lampoon the space program and films based upon it.

Cohen's saga provides even more grist for the mill. The Silver Horde has made sure to kidnap a bard to document their last great adventure.

Not only is Pratchett able to satirize the sub-genre of the epic quest, but he is also able to look at the way folklore and legend are created and infiltrate our daily lives.

Paul Kidby's illustrations do not add directly to the story Pratchett is telling, as they would in a graphic novel, but they do add another dimension to the work, allowing the reader to see what the Discworld looks like, at least in the eye of an artist who has a great deal of experience depicting the Discworld. By using a wide variety of styles and color schemes, Kidby is also able to further differentiate the different cultures Pratchett has described through the various novels which make up the series.

Although shorter than most of the works set on the Discworld, The Last Hero provides a wonderful introduction to the series (although the price is a bit steep for those unfamiliar with the Discworld). Pratchett uses a wide range of characters and examines many of the themes which run throughout the series. Many times, Pratchett's descriptions elicit laughter as well as amusement. The Last Hero is a beautiful book which should grace the shelves of any Discworld aficionado.

Copyright © 2001 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He sits on concoms for Windycon, Chicon 2000 and Clavius in 2001 and is co-chair of Picnicon 1998. Steven will be serving as the Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. He lives at home with his wife and 3200 books. He is available for convention panels.


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