29/04/2010

Unseen Academicals (by Terry Pratchett)

I've enjoyed reading books by Terry Pratchett for many years; usually we've acquired each of his new works in hardback form soon after publication. However, part of the enjoyment was reading the books aloud to my teenage sons. Now that they've both left home, I wasn't sure that there was any point buying more than we had already.

However my younger son had been given 'Unseen Academicals', and recommended it. So when we stayed with him recently, I borrowed it - and very much enjoyed it.

It's 37th in the Discworld series. It's a story about the wizards at Unseen University and the introduction of 'foot-the-ball' into Ankh-Morpork. Or rather, the re-introduction of a relatively civilized game of football, based on discoveries in ancient documents, to replace the rough and rather dangerous current version being played regularly on the streets.

As is common in Pratchett's writing, however, there are many plotlines which seem, at first, unrelated. So it's also about an unusual, likeable and highly intelligent goblin called Nutt, who clearly has some dark secret. He works as a candle-dribbler in the vaults of Unseen University. If you don't know what a candle dribbler is, then you'll have to read the book to find out.

Oh, and it's about the fashion industry, too. At least... fashion as perceived by the dwarfs. Bearing in mind that traditional Discworld dwarfs are all male, with beards, and that until recently it was quite shameful for female ones to admit their gender, it's quite a dramatic move to consider chainmail that might appeal to the feminine side of the dwarfish race.

Indeed, more than anything, this book is about change in the Discworld. Rather than being stuck in the Middle Ages, as seemed to be the case in some of the earlier books, Unseen Academicals shows forward-thinking and progressiveness amongst the varied population.

I chuckled aloud once or twice while reading it - most unusual for me when not reading aloud - and found myself feeling quite involved with several of the characters. Definitely one of the better of the recent Discworld series, and one which I definitely would like to have for my own shelves at some point. I'm delighted to see that the paperback version will be released in a month.

Highly recommended.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 29th April 2010

1 comment:

music-lover said...

I am a HUGE Terry Pratchett fan! I picked one up in my school library 2 years ago and have been addicted ever since. I own this book and agree with this review completely! Are you going to review I Shall Wear Midnight? Hope you do!