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 the outback of 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?
This book contains examples of:
- Airport Novel: Referenced/parodied when it's stated that any novel taken to a beach will spontaneously turn into a Door Stopper conspiracy thriller with at least one Greek letter in the title. The Lecturer in Recent Runes' book turns into The Omega Conspiracy.
- All Beer Is Ale: The book 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.
- 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. Truth in Television: Hunting boomerangs are designed to be thrown accurately at an animal, not to return to the thrower.
- 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.
- Break the Haughty: Ponder Stibbons' penultimate Break the Haughty crossed with Break the Cutie comes in this book, courtesy of A) being stranded on an island which has some very strange ideas about evolutionary process, and B) being stranded on aforementioned island with Ridcully and the UU faculty.Dean: Is there any breakfast?
Senior Wrangler: Stibbons found some soft-boiled eggs.
Dean: What a useful young man he is. Where did he find them?
Senior Wrangler: On a tree.
Dean: A soft-boiled-egg tree? You'll be telling me next he found a spoon tree...
Senior Wrangler: Of course not.
Senior Wrangler: It's a bush.
Dean: A bush that fruits spoons...
Senior Wrangler: Young Stibbons said it makes perfect sense, Dean. After all, he said, we'd picked them because they're useful, and then spoons are always getting lost. Then he burst into tears.
- Of course, it gets worse, resulting in perhaps the only time when a wizard goes into a serious Heroic B.S.O.D., when he learns that the God of Evolution's "ultimate life form" isn't the sapient human being. It's the cockroach.
- Brick Joke: While trying to explain to the faculty why the plants on Mono Island don't make any sense, Ponder gets sidetracked into talking about his uncle who runs an orchard. Later, when they're trying to explain the concept of sexual reproduction to the God of Mono, one of the wizards makes a sarcastic remark about it all being down to Ponder's uncle.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cartoon Physics: Snowy the "horse" seems to operate under this trope, unhesitatingly trotting up and down vertical cliffs and even standing on the underside of an overhanging ledge as if they're level ground.
- 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.
- Conveniently Interrupted Document: The Librarian has caught a magical disease, and in order to cure him, the other wizards need to know his true name. Thing is, no one in Unseen University remembers what the Librarian was like before becoming an orangutan, and the Librarian himself isn't telling, as he's afraid someone will turn him back. Ridcully suggests looking the name up in the yearbook for the year the Librarian graduated, but according to the Dean, all copies suffered the same mishap. That mishap, as the Archchancellor guesses, is that a certain page being torn out, leaving only a bananary aroma in its wake.
- Corrupt Politician: The residents of Fourecks always throw their politicians in prison immediately after they're elected, to save time.
- Covert Pervert: The prim and proper Mrs. Whitlow pulls the God of Evolution aside for a brief explanation of sexual reproduction. With hand gestures.
- Death from Above: Don't make camp under a eucalyptus tree in Fourecks, or the Drop-Bears will attack you. But if you're a wizard, you're probably safe, on account of your pointy hat.
- Death World: where spiders use their web as trampolines to jump on your face and have venom capable of making wood smolder. Also, see Everything Trying to Kill You below.
- Doorstopper: Dangerous Mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians, Birds, Fish, Jellyfish, Insects, Spiders, Crustaceans, Grasses, Trees, Mosses, and Lichens of Terror Incognita, Volume 29c, Part Three.
- Eskimos Aren't Real: There's been a millennia-long drought in FourEcks. Some of the settlers have grandparents who say that in The Old Country water used to fall out of the sky, but everyone who grew up there thinks that's ridiculous.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The wizards can't use magic on the Librarian, because for that, they should know his real name. They don't know each other's names either:Ridcully: One of us must know his name, surely? Good grief, I should hope we at least know our colleagues' names. Isn't that so... Dean?
- Everything's Better with Rainbows: After the Wet, the Australian Creator throws his multicoloured boomerang into the sky, where it sticks.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Non-deadly creatures of Xxxx are... um... some of the sheep. This applies to non-people as well. XXXX has only a few venomous snakes... because most of them have been eaten by the spiders.
- Exact Words: Well, of course there isn't a spoon tree... it's a spoon bush.
- Expy: The god of evolution is pretty good ringer for Darwin.
- Fake Ultimate Hero: Rincewind the Cosmic Plaything is built up into a legendary figure by his supernatural 'helper.'
- 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".
- Flat-Earth Atheist: The God of Evolution is an atheist. But also a god.
- Forbidden Fruit: Wizards are invariably attracted to it."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, at least for a while. Their housekeeper, on the other hand...
- Foreshadowing: A footnote mentions the role of the "temporal gland" early in the novel. Fast-forward a bunch of pages, and...
- 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.
- Furry Confusion: In the bar in Dijabringabeeralong.
- Girls with Moustaches: Rincewind (who grew up in Ankh-Morpork and HATES being anywhere else) certainly believes this is common in some rural districts. This led to him thinking that certain mustachioed people wearing dresses in a city on XXXX were women who happened to have mustaches, instead of cross-dressed men.
- 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.
- Higher Understanding Through Drugs: Around the end of the book, Rincewind drinks a lot of beer so that he can think better and guess what he has to do.
- Hollywood Evolution: Invoked and deconstructed. At one point, a rampaging theropod dinosaur spontaneously transforms into a chicken.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: The Dean keeps making these. And then explaining them.
- Indian 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.
- Inexplicably Identical Individuals: The series-wide Running Gag about foreign versions of CMOT Dibbler continues with Rincewind encountering one in Bugarup, selling meat pie floaters.
- 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.
- Involuntary Shapeshifter: The Librarian's illness causes him to transform into whatever shape seems appropriate to his surroundings whenever he sneezes. He does retain his red fur.
- 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.
- Land Downunder: Although the author claims it is not. It isn't from the Literal-Minded point of view: on the Disc there is no "under" (at least, not for walking-about-on-the-ground-type species). It is more the Land Over Rimward. (One of Scrappy's comments implies the explanation that Australia and Xxxx are different places but were designed and constructed by the same Creator.)
- The Last Title: The title.
- Level Ate: Mono Island features not only soft-boiled egg trees, chocolate-filled coconuts, and nuts full of runny cheese, but also cigar and spoon bushes.
- Lightning Can Do Anything: It cures the Librarian's flu.
- Lost Colony: XXXX is believed to be one for the former Morporkian Empire (a combination of Rome and Britannia), thus allowing an almost-modern Australia to coexist with the the nigh- Medieval Stasis of Discworld.
- 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.
- Mistaken for Racist: Rincewind mistakes himself for a racist, because he erroneously believes the word means someone who is good at running. Once he finds out what it actually means, he is surprised but realizes he isn't one after all — he only categorizes the world into "people who are trying to kill him" and "people who are not."
- No Antagonist: One of the few Discworld novels that does not feature a villain. The cause of the conflict is well-intentioned stupidity on the part of the Unseen University staff, and even mysterious beings causing Rincewind so much grief are doing their best to ensure his relative safety and survival.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
- The word "monkey" is the Librarian's Berserk Button. When the Senior Wrangler accidentally says it near the ill Librarian 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.
- Perpetual Storm: The continent is surrounded by a perpetual cyclone that not only prevents people from sailing away (new arrivals are mostly shipwrecked people), but also rainfall (the natives get confused and angry when people tell obvious lies about 'water coming from the sky').
- Petting Zoo People: Many of the bar patrons in Didjabringabeeralong appear to be this trope. Rincewind never quite works up the nerve to confirm this with the bartender, as it seemed too awkward to ask a crocodile why there are sheep, kangaroos, and a wombat among his customers.
- 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.
- Pun-Based Title: On The Lost Continent.
- 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."
- Regional Speciality: Rincewind is offered a "Meat Pie Floater", a meat pie suspended in thick pea soup with tomato ketchup according to taste (no honestly, it's real! ) as an Ecksian regional delicacy. Rincewind ponders that all of the "Regional Delicacies" that he's been offered in his travels seem to be the kind of disgusting and inexplicable dishes that someone would only concoct while drunk which are then foisted upon unsuspecting tourists. It's a regional delicacy because no-one else in the world would be crazy enough to eat it.
- 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 , 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.)
- Two in the fight scene between Mad and a random Ecksian bar-goer. "You call that a knife? This is what I call's a knife." "No worries. This is what I call a crossbow."
- And another with Scrappy the Bush Kangaroo.
- The drunken Rincewind drawing a picture of the Faculty: "Can you tell what it is yet?"
- He also apparently drunkenly sings "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" while at the bar in Didjabringabeeralong.
- The very name of the continent itself refers to Castlemaine XXXX beer, a brand that is genuinely popular in Australia, but was the subject of a long and famous series of TV advertisements in Britain playing on all manner of Australian stereotypes echoed in the novel, with the tagline "Australians wouldn't give a... Castlemaine four-X for anything else".
- Rincewind's chase after the mob of wild horses, astride a nondescript mount named Snowy. "The Man from Snowy River" should be playing in your head about now.
- Tinhead Ned is an Expy of famed Australian outlaw Ned Kelly.
- "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 had obviously had a Creation separate from that of 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.
- Ridcully mentions the spell "Maxwell's Impressive Separator", which uses tiny demons to separate a mixture of two substances. This is a reference to the Maxwell's demon thought experiment.
- The Librarian's book-form is referred to as The Story of Ook by one of the wizards.
- A playful jab is made at Michael Moorcock and his Eternal Champion, and Joseph Campbell's theory of The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Death muses that Rincewind is the opposite, 'the Eternal Coward... with a thousand retreating backs.'
- Mono Island itself is a comedic take on Stanley G. Weinbaun's 1936 Astounding Stories tale, "Proteus Island".
- When the Bursar is talking about the figurehead on the boat that the God of Evolution made, he describes it as a bare naked lady.
- The late Egregious Professor's rank as UU's chief geographer may be a reference to Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, in which Dirk refers to Prof. Chronotis - another eccentric whose college apartment let him pop back to the past for a holiday - as "the egregious Professor" rather than "Regius Professor".
- Stable Time Loop: A very complicated one, but a stable time loop all the same. Yes, turns out Mustrum Ridcully was right.
- Talk About the Weather: Rincewind's default topic of conversation with the natives of Fourecks. And he doesn't understand why people keep getting angry and chasing him with weapons when he makes inconsequential comments like, "Bit dry, eh? When was the last time it rained around here?"
- Talking Animal: Rincewind's Trickster Mentor, Scrappy the Bush Kangaroo.
- 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 the Dreaming, 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) never notices that the image the UU Wizards drew came alive. He also didn't notice that one of them had taken the bullroarer.
- Tree Vessel: Done with a tree that's been made into a boat by the local god of evolution. The leaf is a sail, the hull is a floating seed, etc.
- 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.
- When It Rains, It Pours: But it was a lot of pent-up rain. (And that is how rain works in monsoons.)
- 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.
- Worrying for the Wrong Reason: There are very few poisonous snakes in XXXX... because most of them have been eaten by the spiders.
- You Keep Using That Word: Rincewind used to call himself a racist, before he learned it didn't mean "someone who will run in any race".
- Yowies and Bunyips and Drop Bears, Oh My: On Roundworld, a Drop Bear is a malicious koala variant made up by Australians to frighten tourists. On Discworld, a Drop Bear is a malicious koala variant that actually exists. Although if you tell the locals about it they'll laugh at you, because they know it was made up to frighten tourists.