Daily Archives: October 23, 2009

Review: Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

Unseen Academicals (Discworld, #32)My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Terry Pratchett is back!  I’m a huge fan of his Discworld books.   Going into one these books, I can be sure that it will be funny, quirky, and it will make me think.

This time, we revisit the Unseen University.  I always enjoy the glimpses we get of the dysfunctional world of the wizards, and this book was no exception.

As in our world,the best way to get something done is to give the job to someone that is very busy. Somehow, Ponder Stibbons has ended up with pretty much every position in the university that actually requires work. After being dubbed Master of Traditions, Ponder discovers a tradition that has been neglected for many years. This tradition is important because there is money attached to it, and  if it isn’t revived, the kitchen budget will be cut.

The tradition? A football team. A sport that was at one point organized, and has now devolved into a form of mass rioting. The isolated, out of shape wizards are now going to participate– without the help of magic.

Lord Vetinari (ruler of Ankh-Morpork and one of my favorite characters of the series) is rumored to be ready to crack down on the sport, taking it off the street. Instead, he requests the wizards step in and bring it up to date.

As usual, this major plot line is simply a framework. Sure, there are thoughts about the role of sports in society. More than that, there are reflections on prejudice and being different, about making assumptions about people. There is speculation on free will vs. predestination. There is a love story. There are deep secrets and big adventures.

All of this is wrapped in the usual unique characters and off kilter view that characterizes the Discworld books.

Unseen Academicals isn’t one of my favorite Discworld books.  Maybe it’s just that I didn’t feel the pull of the sports aspect, I’m not sure.

It’s still very good, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a place to start.  Going Postal is my favorite recent book, and would make a good introduction to the series.  The books do not need to be read in order, although there are sets within the series that would best be read as published.  I’d actually strongly recommend against starting with book 1 or 2, which I find the weakest of the series.


Posted by on October 23, 2009 in books, reviews


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