Friday, 1 January 2010

CBR 15: "Unseen Academicals" by Terry Pratchett

Publisher: Doubleday
Page count: 400 pages
Date begun: December 24th, 2009
Date finished: December 26th, 2009

Unseen Academicals is the 37th Discworld-novel Terry Pratchett has written, and as with his other Discworld-books, summing up the many intertwining plot strands in a paragraph or two is not an easy feat. The Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, Lord Vetenari, has decided that the popular excuse for rioting, gang rivalry and violence called foot-the-ball needs to be reformed into something more organized and sligthly less violent. He gives the task to the Wizards of the Unseen University, who have just discovered that the University stands to lose a very large bequest of money if they do not submit a football team and play a match (without using any magic at all!) shortly.

Pratchett has an absolutely staggering cast of characters, and the main ones returning in this novel are the eccentric, rather lazy and disorganized wizards, including the overworked Ponder Stibbons, the Archchancellor Ridcully, and the cowardly Rincewind (now a Professor). He also introduces new characters in the book, such as the dilligent and rather brilliant candle dribbler who works in the University cellars, Mr. Nutt. Mr. Nutt seems to possess a remarkable amount of knowledge about nearly everything, and he is extremely concerned with achieving worth. There is also Glenda the Night Kitchen Cook, who secretly reads romance novels and makes amazing pies (she invented the Ploughman's Pie herself). She is fiercely protective of her stunning but dim friend Juliet, who looks set to become the Disc's first supermodel, and less fond of Mr. Nutt's friend, Trevor Likely, who is vastly talented at kicking a tin can, but promised his dear departed Mum that he would never play football, the game that killed his father.

I was not very excited by the prospect of a book about football (or soccer, to the Americans). But like so many other of Pratchett's books, the book is about so much more than just football, and Unseen Academicals is probably one of his best Discworld-novels in a long time. I laughed out loud frequently (much to the annoyance of people around me), and was delighted with the book.

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