Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
I admit it was with some trepidation I picked this off the shelf in my local bookstore. I have been waiting for it for a long time, and in such cases there is always the worry that the book will not reach the inflated standard my brain has concocted -- in this case a distilled serum of all previous Discworld books (although, to be fair, if it had turned out to be simply a distilled serum of all previous Discworld books, I would have been terribly disappointed).
I worried some more when I noticed the back proclaimed that`The thing about football -- the important thing about football -- is that it is not just about football.'
I really dislike football. And somehow I had managed to miss the fact that football played any part in this book. I had terrible visions of Moving Pictures
with football substituted for film. I know. The lack of faith is disturbing. I am happy to say I was mistaken. It is tempting to do the trite thing and say something along the lines of "The important thing about Unseen Academicals
is, despite the cover and the blurb, that it is really not just about football." (Of course, I wouldn't do that; I am just saying you could…)
It is one of the better Wizards-books, if not the best.
It is Pratchett as I love him. Wizards galore. Chasing the Megapode. Football on the side, yes, but it was football with Wizards
(more importantly, Pratchett's Wizards
), which makes all the difference in the world. And, if I may draw a comparison to Moving Pictures
again, I always found that the problem with that book was that the main characters of the Hollywood storyline were sadly two-dimensional. Here, that is not the case. Perhaps because there is more to their story than football -- their characters are not dependent on it. Perhaps pies just make for better writing. Mr Nutt is one of my favourite single-book characters. Closely followed by a number of the rest of the cast. They even rival the regulars.
Vetinari. I have been worried about him. He was growing more amazing with each passing book, and it seemed he would have to hit the ceiling at some point -- I was worried it would kill him. I found that this book changed tack a little: Vetinari is not as inscrutable as he usually is. I enjoyed this, though. I find I want to go back and read other books over, just to check … something. I am not sure what. And he played very well off both Glenda and Lady Margolotta.
Rincewind, Ponder Stibbons (brilliant), the Librarian, Ridcully, the Dean -- all present and accounted for. As is Sam Vimes, although I could have survived seeing more of him (even if Vimes is always better in a Vimes-centered book, and this was not one of those). The same goes for Vetinari (and Death, for that matter), of course -- but then I would really be happier if Pratchett's books were all never-ending and about one of them or the other.
I won't go into the story itself. You will have to read it (there is no way a summary can do justice to a Pratchett book -- it inevitably completely fails to hit the crucial point). Like in a lot of his books, there is not really any attempt to hide the moral(s) of the story; but, considering the moral(s), there does not appear to be any way of objecting to that. It stops short of becoming cloying, and being delivered in the Pratchettian (?) manner, I don't see how anyone could complain. (Someone probably will, though, knowing people.)
Now. Pratchett is ill. It seems tactless to bring it up, really. But he is. This it the first Discworld novel since I found out. I was worried. Very. Which is why I mention it. In order to say that mentioning Alzheimers seems entirely unnecessary (except the obligatory "please give heaps of money to research so that we do not
lose this brilliant mind"
). I was half expecting to see signs of a falling off. If nothing else, a new rhythm of writing should have had an impact. I found nothing. Just bubbly wit and damned good characters.
I laughed out loud quite often, felt warm and cuddly inside rather frequently, constantly attempted to read snatches aloud to my long-suffering boyfriend, watched in horror as the pages grew fewer, and yet when it was all over I felt quite satisfied. Apart from my ever-present urge to read more on Vetinari.