In the third part of The Last Hero, Cohen explains to an old friend why he wants to end the world. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
So, there’s some set-up happening here—with the wizards and with the church—but then there’s a HUGE element of this story that’s finally come to the fore. I’ll save that for last because it’s the got the most to discuss. But I did want to open this up by saying that The Last Hero feels a lot like the first few Discworld books. It’s a lot more explicitly a satire of fantasy, which isn’t a bad thing. It lends itself well to being an illustrated novella, you know? The illustrations are adding a great deal to the experience of reading this, and it’s a pleasant surprise. I’m reminded of some of the illustrated books I read as a kid. My mom had this killer collection of Edgar Allan Poe stories that included one full-page illustration per story, and the illustrations were SO FUCKING GOOD. (I cannot find this version online or I would link it here.) I also loved when books had little illustrations at the start of chapters, too! Like I said before, being a non-visual reader means that anything that’ll help me picture this world in my head is a great plus for me.
As for the story, this is a lot of fun. I was thrilled, though, that the major focus in this section was on Cohen. Even if I didn’t care for their last appearance in this series, I must admit to being into the theme Pratchett is exploring here. So much of the Discworld series is a meta-textual analysis of storytelling. Characters are obsessed with the role they play in traditional narratives, so much so that they’re aware of what trope their life fulfills. Thus, when characters start to stray from those roles, there’s friction. Sometimes, it’s internal, often it’s external, but it happens. Even within the brief scene with Hughnon Ridcully shows us how committed some of these people are to archetypes and beliefs, though I suspect Pratchett is still toying with us. Lord Vetinari is clever as hell, and there’s a reason he wants all the priests and religious leaders to offer up a prayer to Cori Celesti. We just don’t know where it is.
Then we’ve got the Horde. In every sense, they fit this sort of categorization to a T. They all believe that there is a set way in which they are to behave and live their lives because they are heroes. They conquer, they destroy, they get women, and they die heroically.
So what the hell happens when that last thing doesn’t happen?
Well, that’s the impetus for the events in The Last Hero. These men weren’t just successful at their roles; they were too good, and that means that all of them survived. The kidnapping of the minstrel makes more sense given this because these men are convinced that this really is going to be the final battle for all of them. They want someone to be there to take note of this “saga” so that they can be immortalized in song. This isn’t going to go as planned, though, is it? It’s Pratchett, so I’m expecting something in this narrative to be twisted, right?
Perhaps that first twist will be Evil Harry, whose group of Henchmen might actually join Cohen—an actual alliance, oh my god—in returning fire to the gods. With interest, of course. So why not seek out the ending you want instead of waiting for nature to take its course and kill you by choking on a cucumber?
This is gonna be a hot mess, I just know it.
Mark Links Stuff