The 22nd Discworld novel and the sixth in the Rincewind theme. Was written at the same time as The Science of Discworld and there is some obvious relationship, such as the mention of Slood and the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet.At Unseen University, the wizards are concerned as the Librarian has contracted a form of magical flu which interferes with his morphic field, turning him into random beings and objects every time he sneezes. In order to cure him of these transformations, they need to know his real name, but he refuses to tell them as he's afraid someone will use it to turn him back into a human. The wizards realize that beside the Librarian, only Rincewind (who was Assistant Librarian for a time) could potentially remember this name.Unfortunately, the events of Interesting Times have left Rincewind stranded in Xxxx, the Last Continent, and he's still there, somehow surviving on the burning desert. This is because, as a Trickster posing as a kangaroo named Scrappy tells him, he's been kept for a purpose: he has to bring rain back to the arid continent. Rincewind immediately runs away, of course, but these quests have a way of sneaking up on you regardless.Back in Ankh-Morpork, the wizards, looking for the Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography to help them navigate to Xxxx, discover that he's missing and his office conceals a portal to a nice sunny island. They, and housekeeper Mrs Whitlow, all end up trapped there.Meanwhile, Rincewind travels haphazardly across Xxxx, meeting (and running away from) strange people and having (and running away from) adventures.Will Rincewind bring back the rain? Will the wizards find their way back home? Will Ponder Stibbons discover the truth about evolution on the Discworld? And what's up with that weird kangaroo guy?Preceded by Jingo, followed by Carpe Jugulum. Preceded in the Rincewind/Wizards series by Interesting Times, followed by Unseen Academicals.
This book contains examples of:
Aboriginal Burial Ground: Subverted; Rincewind's guess that the beer factory got cursed this way was mistaken, as the natives didn't want the site and were happy to hand it over.
All Beer Is Ale: Lampshaded when it notes that "Ankh-Morpork beer was technically ale, that is to say, gravy made from hops", in the context of explaining why Rincewind doesn't take the light, fizzy stuff they have in Fourecks seriously at first... until he wakes up with little memory of the previous evening.
Ass Shove: Why drop bears shouldn't employ their traditional attack strategy against someone wearing a pointy hat.
Australian Wildlife: Disturbingly accurate in that Everything Really Does Try To Kill You down under. Yes, this includes the spiders, the snakes, the kangaroos, the koalas and the earth itself. Also, a surprisingly accurate analogy of the Melbourne underworld (... and no, sadly enough, this is not a joke).
Author Filibuster: There's a brief one (also referenced in The Science of Discworld) where it talks of a famously stupid race somewhere in the cosmos that watched a world-shattering comet strike a neighbouring planet - and then did nothing about it "because that sort of thing only happens in Outer Space". This is a reference to the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet and the bit about outer space is in fact a real Too Dumb to Live quote from some woman on the news. Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped, evidently.
Battle Boomerang: The XXXX Creator's boomerang is described as one that does not return to whoever threw it, generally because it's lodged in the ribcage of whatever he threw it at.
Bigger on the Inside: The Bugarup University tower is about twenty feet high from the outside, and about twenty feet high when you're climbing it. When you look out from the top, however, you're half a mile above ground.
And, yet, it seems to be every bit as hard to climb up to the top as it looks like it should have once you're there.
Of course, it gets worse (resulting in perhaps the only time when a wizard goes into a serious Heroic BSOD).
Butterfly of Doom: The wizards have a long discussion about the risks of altering the past after realizing that they have been stranded in the past. Ponder tries to use an ant as an example to warn them about temporal paradoxes, without much success as Ridcully himself is a believer in a Stable Time Loop.
Fridge Brilliance: From what we've seen in other Discworld novels, Ridcully may be right. Dios' eventual fate in Pyramids and Susan's inspiring Death to spare her father in Soul Music suggest that Stable Time Loops may be how time travel actually works in Discworld. Night Watch is a sort of example, but that one involved the Meddling Monks.
Canis Latinicus: ''Nullae Sheilae Sanginae" and "Nullus Anxietas", the BU mottoes.
For those whose Latin is a bit rusty, those translate to "No Bloody Sheilas" and "No Worries" respectively.
Continuity Nod: The wizards notice the stars over Mono Island are unfamiliar and at first think they are on another world. Ponder figures out that it's actually the past (the stars on Discworld change as Great A'tuin swims through space) by noting that a much larger nebula in the sky is, in their time, known as the Small Boring Group of Faint Stars. This was mentioned way back in The Light Fantastic as Rincewind's zodiacal sign.
This applies to non-people as well. XXXX has numerous species of snakes... most of which have been eaten by the spiders.
Expy: The god of evolution is pretty good ringer for Darwin.
Fantastic Fruits and Vegetables: Mono Island's plants frantically evolve into forms that the wizards mention a need for — handkerchiefs, tinned cakes, a giant gourd/boat — so their seeds can come along and be spread elsewhere.
Fantasy Counterpart Culture: According to the preface, Xxxx is not Australia, it just happens to be, here and there, "vaguely Australian".
And as usual, there's an iteration of CMOT Dibbler here too, selling meat pie floaters.
"Any wizard on finding a door with a sign on it saying 'Do not open this door. Really. We mean this. Opening this door will cause the end of the universe' would automatically open the door, just to see what all the fuss was about."
Subverted in that they actually manage to resist this time. Their Housekeeper, on the other hand...
Fountain of Youth/Rapid Aging: When the wizards arrive at pre-XXXX, the ambient magic starts playing havoc on their temporal glands. The result is while the senior faculty become toddlers and tweens, and Mrs. Whitlow returning to her prime, Ponder Stibbons turns into an old man.
Funny Animal: Crocodile Crocodile and some of his customers.
Goal-Oriented Evolution: The plants' goal is to evolve into something the wizards will take with them, and away from Mono Island.
Good Old Ways: Ponder's inner monologue claims the faculty have a collective Mad Libs Catch Phrase: "You don't get proper fill-in-nouns these days—remember old "nickname" ancient-wizard-who-died-fifty-years-ago-who-Ponder-wouldn't-possibly-be-able-to-remember? Now there was a wizard who knew his fill-in-nouns."
He starts quoting it himself when the randomised magic field of Xxxx's creation temporarily causes him to rapidly age up to the other wizards' age.
Also, Ridcully disparages Ponder's use of a thaumometer by saying "Licking your finger and holding it up was always good enough in my day". Initially this is a surreal gag because magic measurement systems on Discworld are a parody of temperature measurement systems on Roundworld, and this would work with temperature measurement but not magic. Then it's Double Subverted when Ridcully actually does this on Xxxx and his licked finger glows with an aura of purple and octarine light that lets him judge the strength of the magic field.
Guile Hero: Tinhead Ned's message, read by Rincewind in the jail cell, strongly suggests that Ned is one, at least in part.
Hollywood Evolution: Invoked and deconstructed. At one point, a rampaging theropod dinosaur spontaneously transforms into a chicken.
In Vino Veritas: Rincewind's personality almost inverts when he drinks enough of the local beer, and at one point has to remain sufficiently drunk to figure what he needs to do.
I Was Quite a Looker: Some temporal wonkiness briefly regresses Mrs. Whitlow to a young woman, and the wizards discover that, though she now has a 'face made of chins', once upon a time she was a drop-dead gorgeous redhead.
The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: When XXXX's ancient magic starts changing the wizards' ages, they briefly find themselves acting as if they are that old. Or young. Ridcully says that fighting it is a good way to restore yourself.
Ms. Fanservice: Mrs. Whitlow (according to the Senior Wrangler, at least).
Myopic Architecture: While the door, walls, and bars of Rincewind's prison cell are thick and sturdy, and the lock was also very tough, the hinges on the door were half-pin, meaning the door could simply be lifted off its hinges. Small wonder the previous occupant kept escaping.
OOC Is Serious Business: The word "monkey" is the Librarian's Berserk Button. When the Senior Wrangler accidentally says it near him and he does nothing, the wizards become convinced that the Librarian's not long for this world.
Also, the Dean being nice in the midst of the magic storm.
Physical God: The God of Evolution, who interestingly enough considers himself an atheist and takes a very dim view of religion. He starts out as an incorporeal god, until he needs to take a form that the wizards can interact with.
Public Execution: Rincewind escapes a public execution. There's a lot made of the execution as entertainment, and pieces of the rope are highly prized souvenirs, although Fair Go Dibbler is somehow able to sell them before the hanging. ("It's still rope, right? Genuine rope.") We're also told of the humanitarian tradition that if the gibbet sticks three times... the prisoner will be given breakfast while someone fixes it.
Readings Blew Up The Scale: Ponder's magic-measuring thaumometer melts when the magic field used to create XXXX exceeds its limit of one million thaums.
Recursive Crossdressing: One of the transvestites Rincewind encounters actually is female, and laments "Being a female impersonator is no job for a woman."
Shout-Out: Rincewind encounters a mad dwarf in a heavily armed and armored cart and a trio of travelling transvestites, inspires a folk song similar to "Waltzing Matilda"note Once a moderately jolly wizard camped by a dried-up waterhole under the shade of a tree he was completely unable to identify. And he swore as he hacked and hacked at a can of beer, saying, "What kind of idiots put beer in tins?", and invents a dessert called "Peach Nellie" in honor of an opera singer (much like Peach Melba in the real world).
Rincewind also invents a black, tar-like substance that tastes foul and smells faintly of vegetables (in an attempt to drunkenly make vegetable soup with a tin of beer that he leaves on the fire as he falls asleep), which nobody is able to actually stop eating, very much like Vegemite. (Or, to some readers, Marmite, which is a similar-but-not-identical product.)
"Can you hear that thunder? ... We'd better take cover..." are from the song Down Under by Men at Work.
Another musical reference when Rincewind describes himself as 'Mental as anything', which is the name of a popular Aussie band.
The idea that Xxxx was made after the rest of the Discworld, by a separate Creator, and differently, is a reference to the fact that when Australia was discovered, some European naturalists found its flora and fauna so alien and bizarre that they joked that it had been a separate Creation to the rest of the world.
Likewise, the God of Evolution really does have "an inordinate fondness for beetles", a reference to a J.B.S. Haldane quote.
In our world, the platypus has been jokingly referred to as "a duck designed by committee". In Discworld, it was.
Stable Time Loop: A very complicated one, but a stable time loop all the same. Yes, turns out Mustrum Ridcully was right.
Throw the Dog a Bone: After five books of constant peril, Rincewind finally finishes his adventure without getting immediately sucked into another one. He even has time to say goodbye to everyone he met before heading home.
Timey-Wimey Ball: Xxxx's spacetime is so convoluted that, for example, it's implied that the modern Ecksian wizards may be the descendants of the stranded UU faculty, but the UU wizards being brought to the present does not cause them to cease to exist.
Scrappy: [Those hills] were made thirty thousand years ago.
Rincewind: Oh come on, they look millions of years old!
Scrappy: Yeah. Thirty thousand years ago, they were made a million years ago.
This is a reference to the Aboriginal concept of Dreamtime, which works in a similar way.
Title Drop: "This is the last continent. It was made... later, and... differently."
Too Many Cooks Spoil the Soup: How the wizards end up creating the Platypus. They were trying to draw a duck. (This is a reference to an old saying that a platypus is like a duck designed by a committee.)
The Creator (who was sitting right there) is highly confused by this. However, he allows it, apparently because it amuses him.
The Creator never notices that the image the UU Wizards drew came alive like his did, as he was busy drawing the UU Wizards into the rock. He also didn't notice that one of them had taken the bullroarer.
The Trickster: Scrappy, who is explicitly introduced this way, and the narration notes that the term 'trickster' is rather inappropriately jollier than what such beings generally get up to in mythology.
Vetinari Job Security: With the Librarian ill, the wizards don't even dare open the Library door without protective gear, as nobody else is competent to handle its aggressive books.
Wham Line: Parodied. The narration says Ponder's "There's only one of everything" should be one of these, with the others having horrified looks and saying things like "By George, he's right!" but... well, these are wizards, and their response is to argue about it.
They also immediately take the news that they are in the past in stride. These are men who will argue for hours about how it can't possibly be Thursday, but accept that it's thousands of years ago without question.
What Happened to the Mouse?: When the people Rincewind befriended on his journey all come back to see him off at the end, Mad is noticeably absent. The reason is never explained.
Who Would Be Stupid Enough: Knowing what wizards are like, Ridcully attaches a note to the prop keeping the portal open: "Do not remove this prop. Not even to see what it does." The good news is it wasn't a wizard who moved it in the end.
Also, "What kind of idiots put beer in tins?"
World-Healing Wave: The Wet can be seen this way. There's also a bit of an Inferred Holocaust though, since it's replacing 30,000 years of water all in one go, and some people- certainly, many sheep- must have been unable to get to high ground.
You Keep Using That Word: Rincewind used to call himself a racist, before he learned it didn't mean "someone who runs fast".