Book Reviews

Book Review – Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals

Sometimes you just get lucky.

Lucky is what I am. Terry Pratchett’s latest novel Unseen Academicals gets released today (Oct. 6th) in the United States but if you are in Australia, it’s already out in hardcover in the stores for $49.95 AUD. Amazon has it here
for $14.03 USD.

The reason we are absolutely lucky is because Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimers recently and many of us thought this meant an end to the Discworld series. Apparently not. Pratchett is still going strong.

Unseen Academicals, as you may well guess, is one of the books about the Unseen University wizards. Ridcully, Rincewind, Stibbons and the Librarian are all here though some may be upset at the absence of two other wizards, one endearing and one annoying. Apparently, they play football on Discworld – not quite the football we know. Here, the objective of the game seems to be that of killing someone, anyone.

It’s a University, and universities have games do they not? Well, the wizards now have to risk not being able to have their nine meals a day if they do not form a team and play a football match since it is a stipulation in one of the bequests to the university, that funds it. This is abject horror for wizards – the alternative of three meals a day is too horrible to consider.

So,  a team must be formed. Meanwhile, one has to convince Vetenari to lift the ban on the sport and find someone, anyone, who lives and breathes the game to whip the team of wizards into shape. Aren’t they lucky that they have a few such people working under the stairs in the University. Except that one of them is supposed to be in Discworld’s version of the Witness Protection program – hiding in the University from everyone who wants to kill him, another is the most beautiful girl imaginable wreaking havoc on the libidos of every male who comes near, the third is football mad, descended from an all time great who had a personal record of killing four people thereby winning four matches and the fourth is – apart from the Librarian, Rincewind and Vetenari, the only sane person in Ankh-Morpork … for a given value of sane.

But it is the University. How can anyone even think for a minute that Archchancellor Ridcully would be satisfied with merely playing against a team? The wizards are trying to win … without magic.

This book is a satire. It’s a satire on all the stories and movies about underdog teams, miraculously coming together despite the differences with the coach or star player going through life changing experiences before somehow managing to beat the much hated other team (usually condescending) and winning some sort of trophy and championship with a well placed goal at the last minute. But this is a satire – things don’t quite work that way.

This is also Discworld where the million to one chance of something happening, usually means that it happens because of narrativium. You don’t have to be interested in football to like this book. The main point is that it is about Discworld, parodying something on Roundworld (Earth) and Discworld, for the unintiated, is full of characters you will grow to love or hate. Either way, whenever Pratchett puts out the next offering in the series, you will be waiting.

Buy the book. Doesn’t your mind boggle at the idea of the Librarian playing football? Or Vetenari being the referree/umpire? Pratchett’s writing style or quality has not been diminished at all by his illness. In fact, the only change seems to be in his method of writing – someone else types for him while presumably he dictates.

Buy the book. It’s almost Christmas and this is your present to yourself. Or make another fan, the luckiest person on the planet.

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is usually based in Melbourne but is currently flouncing around in Perth for a week for the Inaugural 2018 KSP - Varuna Foundation Fellowship. She will be at Melbourne's Continuum and online running a Writers' Bloc course in the coming weeks.

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