A new Discworld story is always an event. Terry Pratchett's The Last Hero
is unusually short, a 40,000-word "Discworld Fable" rather than a full novel, but is illustrated throughout in sumptuous colour by Paul Kidby.
The 160 pages cover the series' longest and most awesome (but still comic) journey yet, a mission to save all Discworld from a new threat. An old threat, actually. Aged warrior Cohen the Barbarian has decided to go out with a bang and take the gods with him. So, with the remnants of his geriatric Silver Horde, he's climbing to the divine retirement home Dunmanifestin with the Discworld equivalent of a nuke--a 50-pound keg of Agatean Thunder Clay. This will, for excellent magical reasons, destroy the world.
It's up to Leonard of Quirm, Discworld's da Vinci, to invent the technology that might just beat Cohen to his goal. His unlikely vessel is powered by dragons, crewed by himself and two popular regular characters, and secretly harbours a stowaway. Before long we hear the Discworld version of "Houston, we have a problem..."
Kidby rises splendidly to the challenge of painting both funny faces and cosmic vistas. As Pratchett puts it, The Last Hero "has an extra dimension: some parts of it are written in paint!" New characters include Evil Dark Lord Harry Dread, who started out with "just two lads and his Shed of Doom", and a god so tiresome that his worshippers are forbidden chocolate, ginger, mushrooms and garlic.
Pratchett's story alone is strong and effective, with several hair-raising frissons contrasting with high comedy; Kidby's paintings make it something very special. Don't miss this one. --David Langford
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From Publishers Weekly
Cohen the Barbarian, aka the Emperor Ghengiz Cohen, hero of 26 Discworld fables, and his Silver Horde go gentle into any good night? Never. Not even if they're held together by various elasticized supporters and forget where they left their false teeth. The gods unpardonably let Cohen and Co. succumb to old age, and the members of the Horde Boy Willie, Caleb, Truckle and Hamish, who's ("Whut?") stone deaf still want drink, treasure and women, even if they admit they've had to ease back on the last one. Cohen gets a bard to record their one last universe-defying hobble toward immortality, and old age has rarely been so gut-splittingly yet accurately portrayed here, embellished by Paul Kidby's wacky and wicked illustrations. The Horde's last quest is to return the fire Cohen stole long ago from Dunmanifestin, the gods' ultimate Good Address. Unfortunately, that will destroy the magic holding the world together, so Lord Vetinari of Ankh-Morpork "workshops" the situation ("the means by which people who don't know anything get together to pool their ignorance") and sends a dragon-powered vessel crewed by an inventor, a soldier, a wizard and an orangutan librarian to stop Cohen and his tottery Horde. Pratchett lets fly sly volleys at today's civilization and skewers nearly every barbarian-fantasy clich rampant in too many books and films. This far-out farce rollicks along hilariously enough to make the inevitable aging process, if not palatable, at least worth a few good belly laughs. (Nov. 1)Forecast: You don't have to be a fantasy fan to appreciate the marvelous jacket art, depicting a skinny, bald, aged barbarian clutching a sword in one hand and a cane in the other.
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