The twenty-second novel in the Discworld Series
UK hbk: Doubleday, 93,500 copies on 1 May 1998 (0-385-40989-3)
Book proof: 100 copies
There were two issues of the first printing: an initial quantity for Australia (to ensure exclusivity in that market) – about 10,000 copies – with deep blue end-papers and plain spine blocking, and those for the home market in which the spine blocking used the same lettering as on the dustjacket, and had red end-papers. The first reprint combined the deep blue end-papers and the second style of spine blocking.
Streamer (home ref): 066321 (called ISBN but not)
Discworld: The Unseen University Collection (hbk, cover engraving by Joe McLaren): Doubleday, 20 October 2016 (978-0-857-52414-0)
Pbk: Corgi, early edition 77,500 copies, main edition 272,000 copies 30 April 1999 (0-552-14614-5), reprinted 1999 and numerous times thereafter
B-format, with black/gold photographic design cover, February 2006 (0-552-15418-0)
B-format, with modified Kirby design, Corgi, 10 October 2013 (978-0-552-16760-4)
Book club: BCA, 1998 (CN 1952)
Large print hbk: Charnwood [Thorpe/Ulverscroft], 2005 (1-84395-642-X)
USA hbk: HarperPrism (jacket illus. Douglas Paul Designs ), March 1999 (0-06-105048-2)
Book proof: number uncertain
Pbk: HarperPrism (cover design as for hbk), February 2000 (0-06-105907-2)
Issued under HarperTorch imprint, 10/00 (same ISBN as above)
Reissued with new cover, HarperTorch, 26 October 2004 (same ISBN as above)
Premium pbk: Harper, 29 April 2014 (978-0-06-228019-0)
US book club: Science Fiction Book Club Selection, March 1999 (cover as for hbk) 5 February 1999 (ref. 05512)
Bulgarian: Последният Континент, trs. Vladimir Zarkov, Vuzev/Arhont-V, ?March 2000 (954-422-056-9)
Czech: Poslední Kontinent, trs. Jan Kantůrek Talpress, 10,000 copies September 1999 (80-7197-151-0)
Dutch: Het Jongste Werelddeel, trs.Venugopalan Ittekot (pseud. of Ruurd Groot), Het Spectrum, August 2001 (90-274-7366-8)
Estonian: Viimane Manner, trs. Allan Eichenbaum, jacket illus. Hillar Mets, Varrak, March 2006 (9985-3-1205-8)
Finnish: Viimeinen manner, trs. Mika Kivimäki, Karisto, April 2008 (978-951-23-4966-1)
French: Le Dernier Continent, trs. Patrick Couton, L’Atalante, September 2003 (2-84172-250-3)
Reissue, with new introduction by Terry Pratchett (dated September 2014), 23 March 2017 (978-2-84172-802-2)
Mass-market pbk: Pocket, November 2007 (978-2-266-17415-2)
Pbk with Marc Simonetti cover: Pocket, August 2011 (978-2-266-21202-1)
German trade pbk: Heiße Hüpfer, trs. Andreas Brandhorst, Goldmann, October 1999 (3-442-21646-9)
Mass-market pbk: Goldmann, May 2004 (3-442-44232-X)
Hungarian: Kallódó kontinens, trs. Csaba Járdán, Delta Vision, 8 December 2011 (978-963-9679-96-2)
Polish: Ostatni kontynent, trs. Piotr W.Cholewa, Prószyński i S-ka, c.4,000 copies, 2006 (83-7469-178-6)
Russian: Последний континент, trs. S. Uvbarkh & A. Zhikarentsev, Eksmo, c. 8,000 copies in 2005 (5-699-12841-7)
new edition: Eksmo, 2014 (978-5-699-19242-7)
Serbian: Poslednji kontinent, trs. Nevena Andrić, Laguna, c.December 2010 (978-86-521-0562-5)
Spanish: El País del Fin del Mundo, trs. Albert Solé, Plaza y Janés, January 2000 (84-01-32792-X)
Pbk: Debols!llo/Plaza y Janés, January 2001 (84-8450-429-8, vol.342/9)
Reissue in new format (8th printing): 4/03 (84-9759-681-1)
2nd edition [printing] in this format, April 2004 (same ISBN as above)
Massmarket: Bestseller/Bols!llo, February 2010 (978-84-9908-594-4)
Revised cover: Debols!llo, March 2016 (same ISBN as above)
Kiosk edition: Altaya, 2009 (978-84-487-2628-7)
Swedish: Den Sista Kontinenten, trs. Mats Blomqvist, Wahlströms, 2008 (978-91-7351-376-0)
WIZARD IN OZ
SO, YOU’VE never actually read a Terry Pratchett novel? You’ve heard they’re hysterically funny and that puts you off, since you know yourself to have a sense of humour superior to all other mortals; or you consider the literary novel and the political biography to be the only noble pursuits of the serious intellectual; or perhaps you have just returned from a parallel universe in which Terry Pratchett has not yet been invented?
Either way, you’ve missed something rather wonderful. If you have ever wondered about Things – like which came first, the chicken or the egg – and found that wondering led you into impossible interior monologues, then Pratchett is your man. In the Discworld series he has created an integrated reality in which to juggle with the concepts of logic, time, myth, philosophy and morality, and in so doing proved himself a master of pointed satire.
Twenty-one novels on in his travails, he has finally arrived at The Last Continent – not a book about Australia, just “vaguely Australian” – in which Rincewind, an inept wizard, has gone walkabout in the very very dry land of EcksEcksEcksEcks. He encounters sheep, a croc called Drongo, a maniac called Mad who bears no little resemblance to Mel Gibson and, hopping along behind offering encouragement, Scrappy the mystic bush kangaroo.
Elsewhere in Oz, a calamity of wizards from the Unseen University find themselves up to their hats in theology, stranded on a desert island at the beginning of time. Like any self-respecting bunch of academics they think about building a boat, but are hampered by the lack of a decent library. The Librarian himself is ill, with the result that a sneeze can turn him from an orang-utan into a mahogany table or a fluffy red deck-chair.
As a humorist, Pratchett floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee. His love of language is particularly ardent in the area of similes, such as: “Ridcully was to management what King Herod was to the Bethlehem Playgroup Association”.
Underlying the hilarity is astute philosophical and historical observation: “the entirety of human history can be regarded as a sort of blooper reel. All those wars, all those famines caused by malign stupidity, all that determined, mindless repetition of the same old errors, are in the great cosmic scheme of things only equivalent to Mr Spock’s ears falling off.”
Pratchett follows the George Bemard Shaw dictum “if you’re going to tell them the truth, make them laugh, or they’ll kill you.” Like Shaw and Swift, Pratchett uses comedy as a medium for expressing great ideas, a skill which is often under-rated until the author has expired, frequently from depression and penury. Not so in the case of Pratchett, whose books are instant bestsellers, shoplifted more frequently than any other author’s, and read by the inquisitive from teens to OAPs. Susie Maguire in Scotland on Sunday
Terry Ptratchett is probably the world’s most popular author… With their humour, terrors and strange and unnerving philosophical reflections on space and time, Pratchett’s novels are that paradoxical phenomenon – cult writings that are relished by millions. They deserve their success. Given sufficient talent – or genius – anyone could write John Grisham’s or even Tolstoy’s novels. Only Pratchett could write Pratchett’s. Gerald Kaufman in The Express
WIZARDS IN OZ
Charles Spencer is won over by Terry Pratchett’s latest Discworld saga
Everyone knows that science fiction is for nerds in anoraks, though oddly enough, Kingsley Amis was a great fan of the genre, a man one cannot even imagine in an anorak.
Nevertheless, I’ve always fought shy of sci-fi, apart from a brief and unhealthy flirtation, in adolescence, with J.G.Ballard’s deeply sinister novels. After belatedly discovering Terry Pratchett, however, I fear a humiliating trip to the Millet’s anorak department is now inevitable…. Pratchett proves immensely welcoming to the first-time visitor, and astonishingly addictive.
Pratchett comes over like a cross between Tolkien and a gentler, more benign Tom Sharpe. This is sword ‘n’ sorcery fantasy with jokes, and at his considerable best Pratchett puts one in mind of one of the greatest comic writers of them all, P. G. Wodehouse. There is the same love of language (bizarre similes a speciality) and the same reassuring sense of an essential kindliness of temperament….
Pratchett’s portrayal of testy, squabbling academics is delightful, and so too is his gleeful, at times downright mischievous exploitation of almost every Aussie stereotype you can think of.
The one thing the book lacks (and this also applies to the Discworld I started as soon as finishing this one) is that his narrative lacks drive. When the pleasures on the page as so quirkily seductive, however, a gentle stroll can seem preferable to a vigorous canter. And what’s wrong with anoraks anyway? Charles Spencer in The Sunday Telegraph
As any regular Discworld visitor will have realised, Terry Pratchett’s world has grown no less bizarre or multi-layered since he started writing the novels in 1983 or since the last time you dared to pay a visit.
If you liked the experience before, you’ll love this. If you’ve never heard of the Discworld – what was it like spending the past 15 years sealed in a cave 200 miles south of Ulan Batur? Michael Cooban in Yorkshire Post
A Rincewind novel is basically a grand chase scene. By now, as Pratchett says, Rincewind would be completely qualified to write an inspirational manual entitled The From of Running. Francis Spufford in Evening Standard
As usual, the jokes reflect the breadth of Pratchett’s appeal, ranging from truly dreadful puns to elegant allusions to synaesthesia (magic, we’re informed, tastes like tin) and Schrödinger’s wave equation (Unseen University’s smug Lecturer in Creative Uncertainty maintains that he is in a state of both in-ness and out-ness until such time as anyone knocks on his door and collapses the field). Anyone anticipating a decline in quality in the most successful comic fantasy series of all time should heed this volume’s oft-repeated cheery greeting ‘No worries’. Robin Askew in Venue
Background illustration © and by courtesy of Marc Simonetti