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Book Review – Terry Pratchett’s ‘Unseen Academicals’

October 26, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Book Synopsis:

(Book 32 in the Discworld series) Football has come to the ancient city of Ankh-Morpork – not the old fashioned, grubby pushing and shoving, but the new, fast football with pointy hats for goalposts and balls that go boing when you drop them. And now, the wizards of Unseen University must win a football match, without using magic, so they’re in the mood for trying everything else. The prospect of the Big Match draws in a street urchin with a wonderful talent for kicking a tin can, a maker of jolly good pies, a dim but beautiful young woman, who might just turn out to be the greatest fashion model there has ever been, and the mysterious Mr Nutt (and no one knows anything much about Mr Nutt, not even Mr Nutt, which worries him, too). As the match approaches, four lives are entangled and changed for ever. Because the thing about football – the important thing about football – is that it is not just about football. Here we go! Here we go! Here we go!

I am a huge fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series – meaning I’ve read every book (now all thirty-two!) and loved them all – some more than others. I worry each time he publishes something that it’s his last (since he got diagnosed with Alzheimer’s), so I just cherish each novel as they come. So, this won’t be a completely objective review.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed this tale of how football gets ‘organized’ Lord Vetinari-style, ‘Unseen Academicals’ is unfortunately not going to be one of those Discworld books I will love the most, but only because I am not a fan of football (or soccer) in any way, shape or form, and therefore, I really could not thoroughly appreciate how Terry Pratchett shows it’s development Ankh-Morpork-style. I’m pretty sure a lot of stuff flew over my head, only because I’m not that familiar with football culture. This book is first and foremost about the power of football (and team-work), and secondarily about romance, supermodels, discovering one’s true self and gasp, equality & acceptance! That being said, Terry Pratchett’s touch for irony, the absurd and satire is all there – the humor is his usual dry British wit – and I still found myself laughing out loud occasionally and appreciating how the wacky inhabitants of Discworld come alive under Mr. Pratchett’s very capable hands. This is still comic fantasy at its best.

If this were the first time you’ve ever heard of Terry Pratchett, better not start with this book. Pratchett writes pretty much self-contained books, but I noticed in this one that it’s peopled by a LOT of old familiar characters and newbies may end up confused by how busy it is. Even an old-timer like me was pretty confused the first couple of chapters – what with keeping track of the familiar characters (Archchancellor Ridcully, Lord Vetinari, Ponder Gibbons, etc) and the new ones – Mr Nutt (my favorite), Glenda the cook, Juliet and Trevor Likely. Mr Nutt’s search for self-worth (while trying to discover his true nature) is particularly touching and I look forward to meeting him (with his unexpected lady-love!) again in the future.

I sincerely recommend this book to any fan of fantasy & comedy (and football enthusiasts!) – let’s appreciate Terry Pratchett’s genius while we still can.

Unseen Academicals‘ (Discworld) is currently available on Amazon (Hardcover) for $14.97 (savings of $11.02!). It’s totally worth it.

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