Monday, October 12, 2009

Review of Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett (Doubleday, 2009)

Finally got to Columbus late last night (5am Irish time). The next three days are fairly hectic including breakfast meetings, workshops, and evening meals out, so my posts are probably going to be quite short, including this one.

Though seemingly unrelated, two events have occurred in the city of Ankh-Morpork – an ancient football trophy is discovered in the Royal Art Museum and Mr Nutt who seemingly has no past, nor any memory of it, has started to work in the Unseen University as a candle dribbler. Both though are destined to come into each other’s orbit as football, modernism, class, racism and celebrity are parodied through the lens of Terry Pratchett’s satirical eye. Trying to summarise a Pratchett book is never easy. There is often no main plot as such, but rather a clutch of subplots that interweave in and out of each other binding to create a whole and tightening to a climax.

Unseen Academicals (the name of the University football team) basically revolves around the night time staff of the university - the mysterious Mr Nutt, Trev Likely (Nutt’s colleague and son of football legend Dave Likely), Glenda (the level headed, cook extraordinaire) and Juliet (Glenda’s airhead assistant blessed with glamourous good looks) – as they each come of age. It involves Dwarf fashion, street gangs and hooliganism, inter-university and club rivalry, and tyrannical and inter-racial politics. While Pratchett’s books are light and comic, they are multi-layered, inter-textual (think Romeo and Juliet via Posh and Becks), and always explore and make deeper philosophical points and Unseen Academicals is no different. As with all of Pratchett’s books the characterisation is excellent and the story skilfully plotted.

I thoroughly enjoyed the read. The first half of the book was excellent, although the second half tailed off a little. Whilst not quite up there with his very best books, it’s certainly high quality fare.

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