Saturday, August 21, 2010

Unseen Academicals (Book 37) by Terry Pratchett

Rating: 3 out of 5

"He tugged on the big woolly hat with the pink pompom on it. 'They are so very pink, Mister Trev. We must be bursting with machismo!'.

Football has come to Ank-Morpork and its not the old football the people on the street know and love. This is the new football that has rules, is fast paced, and you are not allowed to kill your opponent. The University must win one game to retain their special monetary fund that helps sustain their way of life. Only it wont be easy because they have to play by the rules and not use magic, and wizards don't normally play by the rules.

While the main story revolves around football you do not need to be a fan or knowledgeable on the game. Unseen Academicals looks at the phenomenon of football and satirises it. There are also other stories entwined into the football theme like celebrity, unrequited love, fashion, racism, and even politics. As always Pratchett has done a wonderful job looking at these themes and portraying their essence.

This book introduces a lot of new characters such as Mister Nutt, Glenda, Juliet, Professor Hix and Trev. We also see a swag of the old characters like Ridcully, Vetinari and Rincewind. Professor Hix was a fascinating character being the designated "evil" professor of the Department of Post-Mortem Communications at Unseen University. Nutt is also an interesting character and very endearing. I think Nutt could potentially become a staple of the Discworld series and a fan favorite. Glenda the night cook is a strong and clever character. All of these characters I would love to see in future books.

It pains me to say this but I did not enjoy this book as much as previous Discworld novels. I really like Terry Pratchett's books and have never struggled with one before. This book just didn't draw me in till about halfway through. I found the various threads at the start too distracting and a little long winded. There just didn't seem to be the concise direction usually found in Pratchetts books. When they merged together though my interest in the book grew. There were no real laugh out loud moments, but I did chuckle a few times, and even smiled at some scenes. However I have seen on the interwebs this book getting far more favorable reviews so maybe it was just me and I was not in a head space to truly enjoy this book.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad book, it's an interesting read in terms of story development for Discworld. If you are a fan of the series it is worth the read purely to learn more about Discworld, and your favorite characters. This book seemed to signal a shift in the Discworld universe, changes are on the way. There is something happening in Uberworld politically, and the Koon Valley Accord is progressing between the dwarfs and trolls.

This is a book for Discworld fans. People new to the series do not start here. I dont believe this is the best example of Pratchett's work. As previously mentioned I have read other reviews on the net and this book seems to have divided fans into those who love this book and those who dont. I seem to sit firmly on the fence. I enjoyed some aspects of this book and would recomend it to fans, but at the same time there were some parts I struggled with and can safely say this is not one of my favorites.

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