Reviews: Unseen Academicals
Wow! You shyly apologise at some point that as Americans discussing a very British book, you might have lost a few cultural nuances.... you've done pretty well for me and even raised a few points I'd never reaslly considered before! But reference •Sophisticated as Hell: Asked what makes a good football trainer, Nutt gives a long answer that takes in psychology, metaphysics and quantum physics, concluding with: It is my job to reduce this metaphysical overhead, as it were, and to give my lads some acceptable paradigm, such as, it might be, whack it right down the middle, my son, and at least if the goalie stops it you will have given him a hot handful he won't forget in a hurry.
A Good Read.
Unseen Academicals was an overall good book. The characters that we already knew got more development. Ponder, Ridcully, and even the former Dean Henry all showed their personalities. Their interactions with each other and the newer characters in the story were fantastic. The newcomers were all very welcome sights. Glenda, Nutt, Trev, and Juliet were all entertaining in their own ways, and sometimes even endearing. And as always with Pratchett, this book had a nice ending that wrapped up all the loose ends rather neatly. There were a few things that got repetitive (like saying the other Nobbs had "no relation"), but it didn't detract from the story at large. While it's not Pterry's best by far, it's still worth the read.
One of My All-Time Favorites
Obviously what comes across as a Mary Sue can vary hugely from person to person. I absolutely adore Mr. Nutt, Glenda, and all the others. Even Trevor Likely, who I started out thinking I would hate, became very likable by the end. One of the things I love about Terry Pratchett is his ability to write unconventional romances, and he brings that out in full force in Unseen Academicals for his unique twist on the Romeo and Juliet story and even more for the relationship between Glenda and Nutt. Terry Pratchett's brilliant writing is there, and I appreciate the references to previous books, such as the reappearances of Rincewind and Mightily Oats, but for me what makes this book are the characters, who I find unique, sympathetic, and very human. Perhaps it's not everyone's cup of tea, but Unseen Academicals is right up there with The Truth, Going Postal, Night Watch, and Monstrous Regiment for my favorite of Terry Pratchett's books.
Not Worth It
I want to like this book. I really do. But I can't. I dislike Nutt (implausibly perfect and not-that-amusing twerp that he is) and Glenda (who should be interesting, and yet manages to fall flat in spite of it, possibly by everyone going on about how amazing her cooking is), Vetinari's character seems wildly inconsistent with previous portrayals, and while Pratchett's endings can usually be a little trite, this one is flat out teeth-grinding (I'm referring to the golden lady). The book seems almost self-conscious, nudging us with references to other books and leaning up against us going "Isn't that FUNNY?" And it isn't. Or at least, it isn't funny enough. People who take football more seriously than I do may find the book good. I can't say I do.
Pratchett shoots... and misses.
Unseen Academicals continues the Discworld tradition of taking a real life phhenomenon and applying Disc logic to it. On paper it does sound like a good idea, football being something very quintessentailly british, and the culture around it being more than enough material for satire. Similarly, the idea of seeing what goes on behind the scenes at the university; the kitchens and such. Unfortunately, it falls short. The new characters are flat, and too flawless. The book spends too much time pondering about the nature of football, and repeating the running gags ("Skull ring", Bedlow Nobbs (No Relation), *Gloing*, Mr. Nutt's speech pattern, "doesn't chafe" etc.). In my view, there's also Character Derailment for Lord Vetinari, who seems to be laughing uncharstically much in the book (usually, he just gives a hidden smirk at Vimes' Refuge In Audacity). Also, the narration is too repetitive, and too muddles with dialect. The book is not without merit, of course. Ponders as the faculty busybody and the magic of the gym whistle are the up points of the book.
Not his best, but a fun read regardless
Let's not mince words: this is a very enjoyable book. Despite the seemingly dull premise (Wizards playing football? Are you mad?), the plot is entertaining and surprisingly deep, though the book starts out a little slowly and it takes thirty or forty pages to really get going. It's less about the football itself and more about the people whose lives are affected by the game. Most of the focus is on new characters (my favourite of these being Nutt), but many Discworld regulars make an appearance as well. Pterry's writing is also just as sharp as ever, utilizing his trademark sense of playfulness and love of wordplay. As always, any scenes involving the Unseen University staff will steal the show, particularly when the wizards argue. This installment notably has a few more running gags than the average Discworld story, but whether this is a good or bad thing really depends on your personal tolerance for that sort of thing (the first review on this site clearly doesn't think much of them). I found them funny, at any rate. The best part about this volume, however, is the sheer amount of references to earlier Discworld stories within in. Pratchett normally isn't overly bothered with continuity, so all the little references become immensely satisfying for longtime Discworld fans, such as myself. But the book is not perfect. I can't remember there being any truly laugh-out-loud moments in it, which is a shame. Granted, Pratchett's humour is usually more thought-provoking or small-chuckle-worthy than laugh-out-loud funny, but still, there's usually at least one such joke in all of his books, in my opinion, so the lack of one in this volume is certainly a drawback. Another thing is that the normally reserved and stoic Lord Vetinari is seen laughing a few times in this book. This is at odds with his previous characterization, which wouldn't bother me as much if he weren't my favourite character in all of fiction. That said, though, that is the only actual derailment that I have noticed with any of the characters in here, and it's a fairly minor one at that. So, all in all, this is a good book, but certainly not Terry Pratchett's best. It shouldn't disappoint fans, unless they are expecting it to outdo the earlier volumes. Definitely worth reading.