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Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

Unseen Academicals (2009)

by Terry Pratchett

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3,7661331,384 (3.93)195
Title:Unseen Academicals
Authors:Terry Pratchett
Info:Harper (2009), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 400 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Tags:fantasy, satire, discworld

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Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett (2009)

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English (130)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (133)
Showing 1-5 of 130 (next | show all)
Some good bits, some tedious bits, and a slightly limp ending. Still, the good bits were pretty good, and the tedious bits were not too long, and I didn't actually dislike the ending. ( )
  gwernin | Nov 22, 2015 |
I would say with confidence that I have read more of Terry Pratchett's oeuvre than of any other author, which is probably why I've grown to have mixed feelings on the Discworld. At his best, Pratchett can be very funny but I find that too often I wanted to skip ahead a page or so ahead to get to "the interesting bit" that was surely only a page or so away.

"Unseen Academicals" has a promising set-up; the start of an organised soccer competition in Ankh-Morpork, with our friend the Librarian as goalkeeper. And while there are a few laughs, it gets lost in what could be called a mawkish subplot. ( )
  MiaCulpa | Oct 21, 2015 |
Unseen Academicals is the thirty-seventh book in the Discworld series, and not one I’d recommend starting with. While Unseen Academicals does stand alone, it contains a plethora of references to other books in the series, possibly the most self referential of any Discworld novels. Thus, I would suggest starting with Guards! Guards!, The Wee Free Men, Monstrous Regiment, or Going Postal instead.

On the surface, Unseen Academicals is about sports. Ponder Stibbons, the new Master of Tradition of the Unseen University, has discovered that over eighty percent of the university’s food budget is covered by a bequest that stipulates they put forth a football (or soccer, if you’re American) team at least once every twenty years. Time is run out, and for the sake of the cheese cart, the wizards must play football.

What Unseen University is really about is community. Being in the midst of a community can be a wonderful thing as you can feel supported and like you belong. But being in a community can also hold you back when you worry about how others will perceive you. You end up placing limits on yourself about what is “sensible” and never think about what it is you actually want. And it’s so easy for a community to turn on someone they perceive as different.

‘”First, never, ever apologize for anything that doesn’t need apologizing for,” said Glenda. “And especially never apologize for just being yourself.”‘

Unseen Academicals of course includes the faculty of the Unseen University, who should now be familiar from countless other Discworld books from Moving Pictures on. However, the majority of Unseen Academicals is focused around four new characters who all work in the servants quarters of the university. Glenda and Juliet are both cooks in the Night Kitchen while Trev and Mister Nutt deal with the university’s endless demand for candles. Other reviews have pointed out that these characters fall into general types you see in other Discworld novels. While I think that’s true to a certain extent, I believe that all four are distinctive and that if they can be considered a “type” they are the best of that type Discworld has to offer.

Glenda is a sensible young woman who compulsively sorts out other people’s problems. In the back of her mind, she remembers her mother, who was so consumed with hard work and other people’s affairs that she had no time left for herself. Mister Nutt is a highly intelligent and educated goblin who is obsessed with finding worth. Trev is the orphaned son of the football’s biggest legend. Juliet is beautiful and maybe not as stupid as she appears. It’s hinted that she could grow and do a lot more if Glenda let her make her own decisions. I love all four of them and their friendships with each other. Glenda Sugarbean is a particular favorite of mine, and I love her growth through the novel. It’s a pity you don’t see more about her in the fandom.

“A lot hinges on the fact that, in most circumstances, people are not allowed to hit you with a mallet. They put up all kinds of visible and invisible signs that say ‘Do not do this’ in the hope that it’ll work, but if it doesn’t, then they shrug, because there is, really, no mallet at all.”

The pacing is slower than many of the other Discworld novels. I also think the ending was weak, although that could because the climax was a football game and I have little interest in sports. I actually liked Unseen Academicals better than previously after this reread. There was a lot about it that I’d never noticed before.

While Unseen Academicals is not the best Discworld novel, it’s far from the worst. I’d say it’s in the better half of the series. Still, given the number of reoccurring characters who make appearances and sly references to other novels, I wouldn’t recommend reading it without experience in Discworld. However, if you’re familiar with the series, I’d encourage you to pick up Unseen Academicals.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page. ( )
  pwaites | Aug 13, 2015 |
Once more Terry Pratchett examines aspects of our society through his fantasy series set in Disk World: a disk shaped world supported by four elephants standing atop a gigantic turtle swimming through outer space. Mr. Pratchett lampoons and examines football (soccer) and crowd psychology; the fashion world; and the value of cooks. He also parodies Romeo and Juliet while he's at it.

This audio dramatization was well executed by the reader Stephen Briggs, who ably portrayed the dozens of characters and the multiple species of Disk world (human, dwarf, orc, troll, and vampire). You know the reader is good when you can tell which character is portrayed by the voice used.

I highly recommend this audiobook, if you have a sense of humor. ( )
  jjvors | Jul 28, 2015 |
I was not a huge fan of this book. On the face of it, it should have been a great fit for me - I love watching football, I love Ankh-Morpork, and I love a good love story. But I was went into this book with trepidation as I'd heard "less-than-good" things about the story from sources that I trust. And sadly, those opinions were - in my opinion - well founded. This was one of the weakest Discworld titles I've read to date.

The story, in brief, follows the attempts of Lord Vetenari, he of the dog-bothering, to clean up the game of football and, to that end, the wizards, who have their own vested interests in the matter, are roped into putting a team together. While all this is going on, an unlikely love story develops between one nice-but-dim couple and one equally-nice-but-less-dim couple "downstairs" in the university, as it were.

The first problem this book has is pacing. It take about two-hundred pages (out of over five-hundred) for any of the different plot strands to begin to advance. You know from the outset that there's going to be difficulty getting a team of wizards to "play ball", that there's going to be opposition from the kind of people who think a kick about means you literally kick the opposing team about the pitch. You know that there's something a bit weird going on with Nutt, that Glenda is going to rise above what she sees as her station and cast off her downtrodden way of thinking, and that Juliet is going to prove to have a bit more about her than meets the eye - though not too much more. I don't mind a predictable plot, where Terry Pratchett's concerned. However, much like the forwards for Unseen Academicals, it all feels a bit flabby. There's plenty of dithering on the way there, and at such a lengthy page count (is this one of the longest Discworld novels?), it really shows. While it's always fun to spend time on the Disc, it doesn't really work when almost none of the usual magic and sparkle is there.

The second problem is the writing. It doesn't feel as tight and precise as it has in previous Discworld novels. There are run on sentences and paragraphs all over the place, and I noted what felt like far less clever wordplay than I'm used to in one of Pratchett's novels. I'm used to feeling lost in the middle of at least five jokes I haven't picked up on yet, but here, it often felt like the joke was either obvious, or that it wasn't there to get in the first place. Also, there are quite a few "oo-er-missus" jokes about gay men and balls/sex/general campness and while it doesn't come off to me as homophobic in the slightest - bearing in mind that I'm straight so please take what I say with a pinch of salt - it's just a bit tired and unfunny in general. It's like in The Last Continent where he makes several jokes about sex and the jokes are all literally "HAHAHA ISN'T SEX FUNNY?"

Finally, the characters. For me, and this is really a personal thing, none of the characters really shone. They're all areas which Pratchett's covered before - the buxom forthright girl with an understanding of the commonfolk, the special person who doesn't know he's special, the stupid pretty girl who isn't really so stupid, and the complete bleeding psychopath - but that he's done better and in more interesting circumstances. I liked Glenda and Nutt a lot, but I didn't love them.

It's an okay book, really. There's about 350 pages of decent material here. But I found my attention wandering a lot of the time, and, as it was largely obvious where the plot was going, I couldn't really get invested in much else about the book. Even the worst Terry Pratchett doesn't deserve to be lumped in with anything really terrible, and I still like it more than Monstrous Regiment, but I really can't give Unseen Academicals anything more than five out of ten. ( )
1 vote thebookmagpie | Jul 14, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 130 (next | show all)
That professors are impractical, though, is rather old information. It's said that Einstein couldn't remember where he parked his car, but isn't it more important that he came up with the special theory of relativity? The stylistic razzle-dazzle notwithstanding, rehashing a cliche gets tiresome because whether it's a game or a novel, fans want to be surprised.
I wouldn't call this the best Discworld novel ever. But it's in the top five.
added by lampbane | editBoing Boing, Cory Doctorow (Nov 11, 2009)
The secret of Terry Pratchett's comic fantasy isn't so much the wackiness of the fantasy as the reliability of the comedy. The very least you get in any of these 400 pages is amiable, agreeable chuntering, and there is an instructively regular provision of terrific lines.
added by Shortride | editThe Guardian, Harry Ritchie (Oct 24, 2009)
This is the 37th in a body of work so vast that it has spawned its own concordance, yet the quality remains as high as ever and the laughs as plentiful.
Though the book suffers from a few awkward moments (Pratchett’s attempts to discuss racism through the strained relationships of dwarves, humans and goblins fall particularly flat), the prose crackles with wit and charm, and the sendups of league football, academic posturing, Romeo and Juliet and cheesy sports dramas are razor sharp and hilarious but never cruel. At its heart, this is an intelligent, cheeky love letter to football, its fans and the unifying power of sports.
added by Shortride | editPublishers Weekly (Aug 31, 2009)

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pratchett, Terryprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Briggs, StephenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ittekot, VenugopalanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kidby, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McKowen, ScottCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ring, JonathanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is dedicated to Rob Wilkins, who typed most of it and had the good sense to laugh occasionally.

And to Colin Smythe for his encouragement.

The chant of the goddess Pedestriana is a parody of the wonderful poem 'Brahma' by Ralph Waldo Emerson, but of course you knew that anyway.
First words
It was midnight in Ankh-Morpork's Royal Art Museum.*
It is a well-known fact in any organization that, if you want a job done, you should give it to someone who is already very busy. It has been the cause of a number of homicides, and in one case the death of a senior director from having his head shut repeatedly in quite a small filing cabinet.
"If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior." (Veterinari)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Football has come to the ancient city of Ankh-Morpork. And now the wizards of Unseen University must win a football match, without using magic, so they're in the mood for trying everything else.

The prospect of the Big Match draws in a street urchin with a wonderful talent for kicking a tin can, a maker of jolly good pies, a dim but beautiful young woman, who might just turn out to be the greatest fashion model there has ever been, and the mysterious Mr Nutt (and no one knows anything much about Mr Nutt, not even Mr Nutt, which worries him, too). As the match approaches, four lives are entangled and changed for ever.

Because the thing about football – the important thing about football - is that it is not just about football.

Here we go! Here we go! Here we go!
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061161705, Hardcover)

The wizards at Ankh-Morpork's Unseen University are renowned for many things—wisdom, magic, and their love of teatime—but athletics is most assuredly not on the list. And so when Lord Ventinari, the city's benevolent tyrant, strongly suggests to Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully that the university revive an erstwhile tradition and once again put forth a football team composed of faculty, students, and staff, the wizards of UU find themselves in a quandary. To begin with, they have to figure out just what it is that makes this sport—soccer with a bit of rugby thrown in—so popular with Ankh-Morporkians of all ages and social strata. Then they have to learn how to play it. Oh, and on top of that, they must win a football match without using magic.

Meanwhile, Trev (a handsome street urchin and a right good kicker) falls hard for kitchen maid Juliet (beautiful, dim, and perhaps the greatest fashion model there ever was), and Juliet's best pal, UU night cook Glenda (homely, sensible, and a baker of jolly good pies) befriends the mysterious Mr. Nutt (about whom no one knows very much, including Mr. Nutt, which is worrisome . . .). As the big match approaches, these four lives are entangled and changed forever. Because the thing about football—the most important thing about football­—is that it is never just about football.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:26 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

The wizards of Unseen University in the ancient city of Ankh-Morpork must win a football match, without using magic, so they're in the mood for trying everything else. As the match approaches, four lives are entangled and changed forever.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

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