I was a little bit apprehensive about the idea of Unseen Academicals. I couldn't see how even a writer as gifted as Terry Pratchett could make football something true to the spirit of Discworld. Happily, the book manages to meld the strange worlds together in an energising and entertaining whole. I wasn't sure I was going to like it when it arrived, but as usualy Terry Pratchett delivers something much more than we have any right to expect.
Some parts of the book are an unusual departure in terms of the theme of the book - not so much inconsistent but as part of a continual evolution of the character of Ankh-Morpork and its various inhabitants. More so than any other Discworld book, I got the feeling from this novel that things are genuinely changing in the world. People are moving on and growing up, sometimes with surprising results. It genuinely feels like the book moves the continuing story of the Discworld on a few years.
I don't want to say too much about the plot itself, but it manages to avoid that which I had feared - the 'gimmick of the episode' style thing so common to the later stages of popular franchises. It's never the case that the football element is crowbarred in - it emerges rather nicely from the usual serendipitious circumstances that we come to expect. That's especially welcome, because not being a fan of football myself, the whole theme of the book is somewhat alien to me. However, really it's not about football - it's about the people, the mythology, and the spirit of the game. In the same way that the West Wing is not a show about politics, and House is not a show about medicine, this isn't a book about football. Football is just the vehicle used to deliver some important lessons about the nature of community and belonging.
It's a wonderful book, and a very worthy addition to the Discworld canon. Thanks, Terry!