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Terry Pratchett – Unseen Academicals Unseen Academicals is the 32nd book in Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. I do belive that neither the author nor the series need introducing here, no? Here we go:

The Unseen Academicals is the Unseen University's football team. Yes, the setting here is Football. Or Foot-the-Ball, as the Wizards call it, referring to the old Gentleman's game, which has, in classic Ankh-Morpokh manner, deteriorated into something bordering on Anarchy, a back-alley brawl, with a mix of players and spectators (and plenty of violence), known as 'The Shove'. Ever heard of an ancient (and still played) British game called 'The Ba'? Look it up...
In the Royal Art Museum an ancient vase has been found in the cellars, depicting an ancient game of Football, and the rules it was played by. You know the kind of vase – the players are all in the nude, our museums have plenty of those, too (not depicting football, that one has yet to be found). Ankh-Morpokh calls it 'The Tackle' – bad pun alert!
The Wizards, meanwhile, have realized that, every so often (er, rarely), they need to participate in a game of Football, sorry, Foot-the-Ball, to retain a rather large legacy. And, just coincidentally, Vetinary, Tyrant of Ankh-Morpokh, asks Archcancellor Ridcully to modernize the game along the lines of the ancient rules. And so they get started, in their typical manner.

The topic, incidentally, is not football. It's something entirely different. You know Goblins? Filthy, stupid, useless, dirty buggers, always stealing your chickens? Everybody knows this, no?
Mr Nutt, he is a Goblin. He also is the protegee of Lady Margoletta from Uberwald, has read her Library (literally), speaks umpteen languages eloquently, and has heaps of knowledge and loads of practical skills. He wors at Unseen University as Candle Dribbler (you need properly dribbled candles in a magical University, no discussion) and accumulates what he terms 'worth'.

So, the story develops, and circles around concepts of history, as written by the victors. As in 'everybody knows that'. And about changing what everybody thinks they know. I mean, if the leopard can change his shorts, then a leopard consisting of the whole of society can do so, too, no? There is a scene, towards the end of the book, which perfectly (and hilariously) demonstrates the concept – but that would be telling, no?

This is an entertaining book, even for a non-Football fan like me. There are some laughing-out-loud bits, even if Terry held back on the jokes and one-liners this time (not necessarily bad). In parts it's even unputdownable (nu-English, sorry), and it gives us a new concept, a new facet of Discworld History: the Evil Empire, with the Evil Emperor, and the war against it/him (oh so LOTR). I wonder if we'll see more stories, or if that's just background?

But there are not-so-great sides to the book, too. There are simply silly bits which didn't work for me at all (and I'm very silly, frequently), there are lost strands without any real bearing on the story, and things which don't make sense, and are never explained or expanded upon, even if they have an impact. Overall it doesn't feel exceedingly well worked out or edited.
Yes, I know Sir Terry is ill. And I wonder if his publisher meanwhile only goes 'Just put them here, we'll publish them', instead of putting an Editor to work with him, who once in a while will go 'Now, Terry, this bit here needs some more work, that part here does not work at all and might just as well go, and I really would like to know what you were thinking when you wrote that'. I somehow doubt it, telling from the results.

So, whilst the book touches on many a weighty topic (and no, Football isn't one of them) it doesn't really go into any of them, neither by elaboration nor by exhibition/ demonstration, which is a pity. The lack of engagement and the moderate quality of writing make me feel that this just a 'good book' instead of a 'must read'.
Pratchett fans can get their purse out, no worries, you won't regret it. Football fans? How would it know?


Title: Unseen Academicals
Series: Discworld
Author: Terry Pratchett
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL: http://skating.thierstein.net
Publisher:  Doubleday/Transworld
Publisher URL: http://www.rbooks.co.uk
Publication Date: 2009
Review Date: 091110
ISBN: 9780385609340
Author URL: http://www.terrypratchett.co.uk
Pages: 400
Format: Hardback
Topic: Fantasy

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