The Last Hero, by Terry Pratchett

The Last Hero isn’t particularly substantial – it’s little more than a short story, bulked out with lots of illustrations. It’s also not particularly new, as it revisits a lot of themes and characters from earlier Discworld novels.

It is, however, very good.

For such a short tale, it’s surprisingly clear-cut in its division between comedy and tragedy. The early part of the book is mostly an excuse for jokes… and they’re very good jokes. They suffer a bit from the artificiality of the set-up and a certain disjointedness of scenes, but they don’t feel like Pratchett is just throwing gags at the page, as he sometimes does, or like lazy attempts at broad humour to fill the word count and bring the punters in. No, it really feels as though these jokes – and the plot they set up – have been carefully crafted. This may be the successor to Eric, in the sense of being an illustrated novel, but where that earlier experiment seemed casual, off-the-cuff, this one seems very much planned and intended. Sculpted. Continue reading

Babel-17, by Samuel Delany

Babel-17 was published when the author had just turned 24. It was his seventh published novel. He wrote his first when he was 19, after dropping out of college after one semester, and he got it published thanks to the intervention of his wife at the time, who was an assistant editor. This should tell you three important things: first, that the author was clearly precociously talented and bursting with ideas; second, that as a married novelist at 19 the author was clearly in a great big hurry to be an adult; and, third, that as a 23-year-old who had been writing continuously since childhood, with growing financial and critical success, all through the age when other people might be attending university or starting a ‘real’ career, he still basically writes like a teenage boy.

Collectively, those three things are probably enough to sum up this novel.

Continue reading