Unseen Academicals

Unseen AcademicalsI have been far too long away from the Discworld.

37 books, a couple of maps, some associated compendium type pieces, etc etc… and never a dull moment.  Well, I can’t entirely remember – some of the books may have been dull.  I read a lot of the older ones when I was a kid (2001-ish) and some of them have completely flown my mind while others still remain.  Regardless, Pratchett is probably the most popular British author ever.  England’s “Great Read” placed something like 15 of his books on the list.  Dickens was number two with only like eight or something.  Pratchett ranked higher than Dickens, than Rowling, than Fleming, than any of the Bronte girls… so he’s important, alright?  Oh and those stats?  Only about the Discworld books.  There are others.

This is the 37th Discworld book and (again, going off of slightly shoddy memory) it may be the most BRITISH of all of them.  Certainly Ankh-Morpork is London, Psuedopolis America, etc etc etc.  This has never really been a question.  But Americans have been able to pick up the books without feeling like they were out of the joke or that they needed some other little piece of knowledge to “get it” completely.  Not so with this one, I think.  Because this book is about football.  Not American football…. real football.  (eff off, American friends who make fun of my Anglophilia).  It’s about the rise of football in Ankh-Morpork, about the football clubs, about the crowds, about the game itself and the magic that can come from it.  It is also a story of four friends – well, two groups of two friends.  And about the Unseen University faculty.  And about the Patrician… but isn’t everything about the Patrician?

This was one of the better novels, plain and simple.  One of the best, I’d even say.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Moist von Lipwig books (Going Postal and Making Money, both relatively recent) but Monstrous Regiment was something of a misfire and there’s been an awful lot of time spent with the City Watch.  Not that I mind – Sam Vimes is one of my favourite all-time Discworld characters.  Its just nice to have a change and go to the always-reliably-BATSHIT wizards.  Rincewind pops up, as does the Luggage.  No sign of the Bursar, interestingly.  Death puts in an appearance, as does Vimes.  Nobby is mentioned in a hilarious aside.  C-M-O-T Dibbler appears, as he is wont to do.  No sign of the witches, sadly – though I hope Granny Weatherwax gets out of the young adult novels (good as they may be) and has another adventure of her own soon.

I read one of the reviews of this book that mentioned how Pratchett, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about two years ago though he’d sort of known for five or six years, is becoming even funnier, even drier, even smarter in his writing as he battles to sustain his mind.  This book is definitely a testament to that hypothesis: it made me laugh – not a chuckle, a LAUGH – out loud more than a handful of times.  It showed development in characters like the Patrician (him, still drunk the night after the big banquet in the book, doing the crossword and talking to Drumknott is one of those scenes that will NEVER be forgotten) and Ponder Stibbons.  Nutt, the main character (if there could be a singular main character, that is…), introduced orcs to the Disc universe.  Trev Likely and Jools are a cute couple, though likely to go the way of most secondary characters in my memory.

Its hard to talk about Discworld books via typical terms like “plot” and “style” because, well, even though there is a plot, it isn’t always that important.  This one moves pretty quickly and the big game is quite an exciting one… but this takes a backseat to just hanging out on the Disc.  This is where style comes in… but you can’t really describe Terry Pratchett’s style.  It is one often imitated but never successfully copied.  His writing is for smart people, no doubt, but its also for those slightly off their rockers.  Those who don’t find this funny (and there are plenty) are too normal for me.

Oh and the edition I read.  Deserves a shoutout, it does.  My sister got it for me for Christmas, from Waterstones (ahhhh, London).  Slipcase limited edition, with orange pages (perhaps like the Librarian!) and wrapped around the front of it was a handwritten Pratchett quote.  Told me to discover the force it takes to twist off a human head.  Was a bit confused at first, but then I realized what that meant as I read into the book and the question of Nutt’s orcishness was posed as “will he twist off people’s heads?”  the cover art is MUCH better than the US version (see above, once I figure out how to put some pictures in here) AND it is copy number 281 of 3000.  Pretty cool.

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